Patriots

Patriots roster projection: Will Lamar Miller and Jakobi Meyers make the team?

These are the 53 players we think will make the team.

Wide receiver Gunner Olszewski makes the team in this version of our roster projection. AP

COMMENTARY

With more than a week of training camp in the books for the Patriots, clues are beginning to emerge with regards to the 53-man roster. While head coach Bill Belichick has stressed to the media that the team is still getting its conditioning squared away, rather than focusing on player evaluation after one week, we can still glean some observations as to who will and won’t be on the team’s first 53-man roster to start the regular season.

Here’s our current best guess on how the 53-man roster shakes out.

Offense (26):

Quarterback (3)

  • Roster: Cam Newton, Jarrett Stidham, Brian Hoyer
  • Cut: Brian Lewerke
  • Notes: 
    • With news of Jarrett Stidham suffering a lower body injury last week coupled with the short training camp this summer, the Patriots quarterback competition could be over before it even got the chance to get off the ground. Stidham has been limited in practice, and his struggles on Wednesday and Thursday, throwing four picks total, would seem to indicate he is less than 100 percent, which won’t help him beat out Newton for the starting role at QB.
    • It’s not like Newton has seized the reins at the position either, however. But one of Newton’s greatest assets, his running ability, is something that is hard to evaluate in a controlled environment like training camp, where plays are scripted, and the pass rush is tame. With Stidham limited now, Newton will get more reps, which should help allow him to pick up the playbook faster, and help him gain separation from Stidham and Hoyer in the quarterback competition.

Running back (4)

  • Roster: James White, Sony Michel, Damien Harris, Rex Burkhead
  • PUP: Lamar Miller
  • Cut: J.J. Taylor
  • Notes:
    • With Sony Michel coming off the PUP list on Wednesday, that leaves Lamar Miller as the lone running back on the PUP list for New England. If Michel shows he’s fully healthy by Week 1, it’s possible that the team may look to release Miller with an injury settlement. With Damien Harris one of the team’s top performers so far this summer, and Michel getting back on the field, there may not be room for Miller on this roster. When asked about Miller last week, Patriots running backs coach Ivan Fears said he was very hopeful” but cautioned, “when we get him, we’ll get him.”
    • Harris has received praise for his performance already after a week and a half of training camp. If that continues, expect to see more of him in his sophomore season with New England. Harris is quickly gaining momentum as the team’s starting running back, and has looked good in both the running and passing game in training camp. Even if Michel is good to go by Week 1, Harris may still beat out Michel.
    • Rex Burkhead may be the most complete running back of this group, but durability concerns throughout his career make it hard to peg him as the team’s workhorse back. He will undoubtedly play a significant role in this offense in 2020, as long as he can stay on the field.
    • If Miller can’t get healthy in time for Week 1, that could leave the door open for undrafted rookie free agent J.J. Taylor to make the team out of training camp. Taylor, at 5-feet-6-inches, 185 pounds, lacks size, but has impressive open-field skills and can make defenders miss with regularity. “Little Dion, that’s what he is,” said Fears, comparing Taylor to former Patriots running back Dion Lewis. “He’s got some great hurdles to overcome, and the kid battles his butt off to try to get that done. We’re very pleased with what we’ve seen from him, we really are. We’ll see how far he can carry it.”

Wide Receiver (6)

  • Roster: Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, Mohamed Sanu, Damiere Byrd, Gunner Olszewski, Matthew Slater (ST)
  • Cut: Devin Ross, Jakobi Meyers, Isaiah Zuber, Will Hastings, Jeff Thomas
  • Notes:
    • Once again, the Patriots wide receiving corps is already starting to show cracks, and the season hasn’t even started. N’Keal Harry returned Sunday after missing the last three practices for an unspecified reason, and Julian Edelman appears to be on a pitch count of sorts, having been limited in two practices last week. For those keeping track, that’s two of your top three wide receivers already battling injuries (assuming Harry is out with some sort of ailment) before the snaps start to count.
    • Coming into the summer, it was crucial that Harry find a way to stay on the practice field, after suffering a hamstring injury last summer that landed him on IR to start the season. Now, however, it appears to be deja vu all over again for the second-year wideout. If Harry can’t get right, that would open the door for Devin Ross, who has impressed so far, or Jakobi Meyers, to make the team. 
    • Gunner Olszewski looks to be the receiver that has made the biggest jump from his rookie year to his second year, out of him, Harry, and Meyers. Don’t take it from us though, take it from Bill Belichick. “Gunner has improved tremendously, both physically and from a football standpoint,” said Belichick. “He’s a smart kid, he works extremely hard. He’s tough, he’s just very, very competitive.”
    • Jeff Thomas was everyone’s dark horse pick to make the team and continue the Patriots’ 16-year streak of having an undrafted free agent make the initial 53. But after missing the start of training camp, and suiting up for the first time on Thursday, Thomas is already behind the eight-ball to start his professional career. With little time before the season starts, Thomas faces even longer odds now to make the roster. 

Tight End (3)

  • Roster: Ryan Izzo, Devin Asiasi, Dalton Keene
  • Cut: Jake Burt, Paul Quessenberry, Paul Butler
  • Notes:
    • Ryan Izzo may be the “veteran” of this group, with three years of NFL experience under his belt, but I wouldn’t say his spot on this roster is very firm. Jake Burt is a similar player to Izzo, younger, and has some pass-catching potential. If Burt can string together some solid practices, he could have a shot to supplant Izzo.
    • Quessenberry, a Navy veteran who hasn’t played football in six years, has been working as a fullback at times during practice. He could be a practice squad candidate.

Patriots tight end Devin Asiasi.

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Fullback (1)

  • Roster: Jakob Johnson
  • Notes:
    • Nothing to see here. Johnson has looked good to start training camp, and the team will certainly need him after James Develin’s retirement and Dan Vitale opting out of the 2020 season.

Offensive Tackle (4)

  • Roster: Isaiah Wynn, Jermaine Eluemunor, Yodny Cajuste, Justin Herron
  • Cut: Korey Cunningham
  • Notes:
    • Jermaine Eluemunor appears to have the inside track at the starting right tackle position, based on the amount of reps he has taken with the first team, and his performance. While Eluemunor has done well so far, so too has sixth-round draft pick Justin Herron, so the competition is still alive and well.
    • While Cajuste certainly has the profile of a starting NFL tackle, he has some work to do to jump Eluemunor or Herron. Cajuste also missed Friday’s practice, and it remains to be seen what his health status is.

Interior Offensive Line (5)

  • Roster: Joe Thuney, Shaq Mason, David Andrews, Hjalte Froholdt, Michael Onwenu
  • Cut: Ben Braden, Tyler Gauthier
  • Notes:
    • Michael Onwenu has had some strong reps in practice so far, and with Joe Thuney on the franchise tag, the team would be wise to keep the young offensive guard from Michigan in case Thuney leaves after this year.
    • After missing his rookie year with a shoulder injury, Froholdt looks much more comfortable in Year 2, and has started taking reps at center, where he could provide depth to David Andrews. The Danish native has a high ceiling, and plays with a lot of power, but needs to prove he can stay healthy first. 

Defense (24):

Defensive Tackle (4)

  • Roster: Lawrence Guy, Beau Allen, Adam Butler, Byron Cowart
  • Cut: Nick Thurman, Bill Murray, Xavier Williams, Michael Barnett
  • Notes:
    • Depth concerns have emerged at this position with Beau Allen having yet to step on the field with a rumored lower body injury. After signing Darius Kilgo at the beginning of the week, the team subsequently released Kilgo, and signed former Chiefs DT Xavier Williams to take his spot. If Allen can’t go to start the season, that would be a blow to a New England front seven that has enough questions as is.

Patriots defensive lineman Lawrence Guy.

Defensive Edge (5)

  • Roster: Chase Winovich, John Simon, Shilique Calhoun, Brandon Copeland, Deatrich Wise
  • Cut: Derek Rivers, Nick Coe, Rashod Berry, Tashawn Bower
  • Notes:
    • It feels like Deatrich Wise is on the roster bubble every year at this point. But with the team’s lack of depth at the defensive tackle spot, and Wise’s ability to kick inside, it feels more likely than not that Wise sticks around for another year.
    • We keep on waiting for Derek Rivers to justify New England drafting him in the third round back in 2017, but he just cannot stay on the field consistently. Rivers missed practice on Thursday and Friday. Any extended absence would mean Rivers has no shot at making the team. As is, he is going to have a hard time cracking the initial 53. 

Linebacker (4)

  • Roster: Ja’Whaun Bentley, Josh Uche, Anfernee Jennings, Cassh Maluia
  • PUP: Brandon King
  • Cut: Terez Hall, Scoota Harris
  • Notes:
    • The kids will need to step up big time on this unit in 2020, and so far they have. Uche, in particular, has looked at home in a Patriots jersey, and looks like he has picked up the defensive playbook already. Jennings missed the first few practices to start the week, but suited up on Thursday.
    • Cassh Maluia, the team’s seventh-round draft pick from Wyoming, has been one of the surprises of training camp so far. The athletic linebacker hasn’t looked out of place, and even intercepted Cam Newton on Wednesday. The team will need all the help it can get at linebacker this year, and Maluia turning heads in training camp would help the team greatly at the linebacker position in terms of depth. 
    • While we have Uche listed as linebacker here, expect him to line up all over the Patriots front seven. For a team that will likely struggle to generate a consistent pass rush this season, Uche will be a helpful chess piece for Jerod Mayo and Bill Belichick to move around the defense to cause headaches for opposing offenses. 

Cornerback (6)

  • Roster: Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, Jonathan Jones, Jason McCourty, Justin Bethel (ST), Joejuan Williams
  • Cut: Michael Jackson, D’Angelo Ross, Myles Bryant
  • Notes:
    • New England boasts the best cornerback duo in the NFL with Stephon Gilmore and J.C. Jackson, and the position group figures to be the strength of the defense in 2020, with no roster turnover from last year.
    • Joejuan Williams, a 2019 second-round draft pick, finds himself buried at the bottom of the depth chart again, with little chance to move up at this point in training camp. However, with Jason McCourty being 33 years old, Jonathan Jones being a nickel corner, and Justin Bethel being a special teams ace, the team may choose to keep Williams as depth for this season. In addition to his work at corner, Williams has also started seeing reps in practice at safety, a position he saw some work at late in the season in 2019. With his size and length, at 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, keeping Williams on the roster could help protect the team at both the cornerback and safety positions. 

Safety (5)

  • Roster: Devin McCourty, Kyle Dugger, Adrian Phillips, Terrence Brooks, Cody Davis
  • Notes:
  • New England’s top draft pick this year, second-round pick Kyle Dugger out of Divison II Lenoir-Rhyne has been one of the stars of training camp thus far. With Patrick Chung opting out of the season, expect Dugger to play a major role on defense this year. He certainly looks ready for that responsibility so far.
  • Cody Davis has drawn rave reviews for his special teams work thus far, with Matthew Slater saying he’s been impressed by Davis’s skill set and speed for a guy his size, at 6-foot-2, 203 pounds. With Nate Ebner no longer a Patriot, Davis looks poised to take over Ebner’s role on the Patriots in 2020. 

Special Teams (3):

  • Roster: K Justin Rohrwasser, P Jake Bailey, LS Joe Cardona
  • Cut: K Nick Folk
  • Notes:
    • With news coming down on Saturday that rookie kicker Justin Rohrwasser is battling an injury, and the Patriots signing free agent kicker Nick Folk, we have a burgeoning kicker battle on our hands at Patriots training camp. It’s hard to make a call after just a handful of practices of getting to see Folk kick, but this could be a coin-flip if Rohrwasser continues to struggle.

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