PROJECTING THE PATRIOTS ROSTER

Well, it looks like we’re actually going to get baseball, basketball, and hockey back by the end of next month. Right when those seasons are ramping up to re-start, we’ll also (knock on wood), be entering into NFL training camp season. We’re just a hair over 11 weeks until the Texans get destroyed by the Chiefs on Thursday night football.

In that honor, and since I’ve been meaning to post this for like 3 weeks, and in that time it seems like everyone else is posting their versions, we’re gonna go ahead and take a look at what the New England Patriots roster will look like when the season kicks off.

Disclaimer. This will not be correct. Guys will get legitimately hurt. Guys will be signed. Some rookies will end up on IR with the Foxborough flu. Its just how it goes. That all being said, being wrong has never stopped us before.

Belichick dog

This projection is a testament to the drafting prowess of Nike. You know, Bill Belichick’s dog. We’ve got 5 undrafted rookie free agents making the squad. Yup, you heard that right, 5.

You’ll notice some names you expected to see missing. As of right now the Patriots have next to no cap space with which to work. Certainly extending, or trading Joe Thuney would open up space. And we’ll know more on that front come July 15th. But for the moment, we’re going to assume that Thuney will play the 20202 season at his franchise tag figure.

Cutting from the Patriots’ salary cap middle class, the guys making in the $2-$4 million dollar range, in favor of some of these undrafted rookie free agents, would certainly clear some space with which to operate with during the season.

So lets run down who you can expect to see as the Patriots, for the first time in 2 decades, don’t feel like a mortal lock to make the playoffs. Let alone the conference championship.

Jarret Stidham

QUARTERBACKS (2)

  • Jarrett Stidham
  • Brian Hoyer

The team, as of right now, will enter camp with 4 signal callers on the 90 man camp roster. Stidham SHOULD hang on and claim the starting gig, with Hoyer serving as the faithful mentor for the second year pro. Undrafted rookies J’Mar Smith and Brian Lewerke will battle it out to see if they can force the team to keep 3 QBs. Ultimately I expect that Smith ends up on the practice squad.

Sony Michel 4

RUNNING BACKS (6)

  • Sony Michel
  • James White
  • Damien Harris
  • Brandon Bolden
  • JJ Taylor
  • Dan Vitale

The “hot take” here is the cutting of Rex Burkhead in favor of JJ Taylor. There has been some posturing that Harris had an unintentional redshirt year as he was being groomed to replace White. I’m not buying that. Harris has some nifty skills, but he’s not White. .. But I think Taylor could be. Harris is poised to replace Burkhead. He’ll be in a very valuable position, spelling the workhorse back that the Patriots need Michel to be. With Andrews back, and Brady gone, you SHOULD see a return to the offense that took the Patriots to SuperBowl victory over the Rams. A key part of that will be the use of fullback Dan Vitale. With James Develin retired, Vitale will be heavily counted on this year. Honestly once I decided Taylor would make the team, it came down to Burkhead or Bolden. Both provide special team value, but letting Burkhead goes results in more cap savings.

Devin Asiasi

TIGHT ENDS (3)

  • Devin Asiasi
  • Dalton Keene
  • Ryan Izzo

It seems universally accepted that Asiasi and Keene are a given, and as 2020 third round selections they ought to be considered as such. The real question is do the Pats keep 3 tight ends? I think they do. I am not a fan of a position room having 2 rookies and nobody else. So then it becomes Matt LaCosse vs Ryan Izzo. And to me, that’s easy. Both Asiasi and Keene are expected to immediately be more adept as receivers than either returner. So really we’re talking about situational football abilities. For my money Izzo is the better in line blocker. Considering the Pats will likely go with a lot more fullback, 2 tight end formations and pound the ball inside, I’d go with the better blocker. I’d also point out, that while LaCosse isn’t overly expensive, he still makes more than Izzo.

N'Keal Harry 3

WIDE RECEIVERS (6)

  • Julian Edelman
  • N’Keal Harry
  • Mohamed Sanu
  • Jakobi Meyers
  • Jeff Thomas
  • Matthew Slater

I think there are some guys that are fighting for practice squad spots. And I expect one or two of the PS spots will ultimately be taken by wide receivers. But the battles to watch for in my eyes are the battles between a couple of spring free agent signings, going head to head with some recent undrafted free agents. Marqise Lee is a former second round pick of the Jaguars, and when healthy has flashed some nice upside. But he’s never really healthy. I expect he’ll be fighting last year’s camp darling, Jakobi Meyers. Meyers showed some real nice chemistry with Stidham last year. Knowing that, and knowing that Meyers is still developing as a receiver after starting his collegiate career as a quarterback, if the battle is even remotely close, the nod goes to Meyers. The other battle is between two quick, shifty, diminutive receivers in Damiere Byrd, signed after one year with Arizona following a few uneventful years in Carolina, and the undrafted rookie out of Miami, Jeff Thomas. Thomas has a bit of a checkered past, but if he can keep his nose clean, he can be a cheap, explosive chess piece for McDaniels to use.

Shaq Mason 3

OFFENSIVE LINEMAN (9)

  • Isaiah Wynn
  • Joe Thuney
  • David Andrews
  • Shaq Mason
  • Marcus Cannon
  • Yodny Cajuste
  • Justin Herron
  • Michael Onwenu
  • Dustin Woodard

Not a whole lot of experienced depth in this group. In fact of the 4 projected bench players, there is a grand total of zero snaps taken in the NFL. Z-E-R-O. That being said, the trades last summer for Eluemunor, Cunningham, and Bodine was just an exercise in wasting draft picks. Then to double down and extend a qualifying offer to Eluemunor still baffles me to this day. Ideally, I think they would have liked Cajuste to have spent 2019 as the back up swing tackle, at which point he’d be prepared to take over for Cannon now. Instead I suspect they’ll spend the year grooming Onwenu to replace Thuney, Cajuste to replace Cannon, Herron to become the swing tackle in 2020, and Woodard is insurance against Andrews who is coming off a missed season due to a serious medical issue. If Hjalte Froholdt can show he is capable of playing some center he would likely beat out Woodard.

Adam Butler 2

DEFENSIVE TACKLE (5)

  • Lawrence Guy
  • Adam Butler
  • Beau Allen
  • Byron Cowart
  • Bill Murray

I’m really not a fan of keeping interior defensive linemen. Guy is certainly proven capable of sliding out and setting the edge at end. But honestly keeping 5 was a combo of not trusting the team to retain free agents they sign. Its assumed that Beau Allen is a shoo in to make the squad based upon his resume. But so wasn’t Mike Pennel last season. I like the potential Cowart has flashed. Butler and Guy are both scheduled to be free agents after the season, and last and most important. When you can add Bill freaking Murray to the roster, you do it. I mean, the man caddied for the Dalai Lama.

Chase Winovich 2

FRONT SEVEN (8)

  • Dont’a Hightower
  • Chase Winovich
  • Ja’Whaun Bentley
  • Josh Uche
  • John Simon
  • Anfernee Jennings
  • Nick Coe
  • De’Jon Harris

So let me first say, that I’ve seen people move on from the terms of outside linebackers and defensive ends and calling them edge players. I’m going even further, especially with this Patriots team and calling them all front seven players. The ends, the outside backers, and the interior backers. This is because, honestly, with the Patriots, they all move around. To see Hightower in standing in the middle directing traffic is no more shocking than to see him on the edge with his hand in the dirt. Its presumed by many that Jennings is slotted for the edge, with Uche standing up. I’m honestly not sure it won’t be the other way around. The point being is that the team values versatility, and I’m not going to hamstring them when constructing the roster any more than I have to. Honestly the only reason I separated out the defensive tackles is because I will safely say I don’t expect to see Harris in the middle of the line, nor do I expect to see Bill Murray dropping back into coverage.

JC Jackson 2

DEFENSIVE BACKS (11)

  • Stephon Gilmore
  • J.C. Jackson
  • Jason McCourty
  • Jonathan Jones
  • Joejuan Williams
  • Devin McCourty
  • Patrick Chung
  • Adrian Phillips
  • Kyle Dugger
  • Terrence Brooks
  • Justin Bethel

Another case of grouping guys together. I didn’t separate out the corners from the safeties. There is a lot of versatility here. Devin started out as a corner before ending up as a stud safety. Jason McCourty has primarily been a corner, but dabbled at safety last preseason. With 2019 second rounder Joejuan Williams buried on the corner depth chart (through no fault of his own, the Patriots’ cornerback group is the best in the league), its expected that he’ll try to see the field as a safety. The safety group saw the trade of Duron Harmon and then added Dugger and Phillips via the draft and free agency. I felt Brooks was going to be a special team stud last year (and he was), but he also showed better than expected ability on defense and is a very nice depth piece to have. Bethel’s contributions come on special teams, and he edged out Brandon King for that last roster spot.

Jake Bailey 2

SPECIAL TEAMS (3)

  • Jake Bailey
  • Joe Cardona
  • Justin Rohrwesser

Let me first say this, as a sign of the times, I would not be AT ALL shocked if Rohrwesser didn’t make the cut. He had an explanation for his controversial tattoo. But April 2020 was a whole different world than June 2020. Aside from that, this is a stable group. Bailey and Cardona are as safe as can be. Slater being listed as a WR and Bethel as a DB really is only a formality, as both will make 99.999% of their impact on special teams.

 

  • Written by Jason Sullivan
  • Find us and follow on Twitter at @TopDucker or on Facebook at You’re Ducking Right

 

Comments

  1. I SOOO LIKE THE SOUND OF SPORTS STARING UP..MOSTLY FOOTBALL…NOT SURE THOUGH WITH VIRUS AND PEOPLE IN SEATS..??…BUT I AM SURE.SOMETHING WILL BE DONE..THANK YOU FOR THE INFORMATION..!!

    Like

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