The New England Patriots are two weeks out from training camp and their first preseason game has yet to be played, making it the perfect time for my too-early roster projection of 53. players. Did I think more with my heart than with my head here? Most likely. Will this surprise you? We probably will.
But I decided to have fun with it and make it as realistic as possible. So let’s go.
In (2): Mac Jones, Bailey Zappe
Out (1): Brian Hoyer
I think the rookie has already passed Brian Hoyer, and more spots are needed. I would be shocked if Hoyer doesn’t end up on the practice squad because he’s there to help Mac Jones. That’s what he’s going to do this season, whether it’s in the 53-man squad or in the emergency squad.
In (4): Damien Harris, Rhamondre Stevenson, Ty Montgomery, Pierre Strong
Puppy (1): James White
Out (2): JJ Taylor, Kevin Harris
No real surprises here, but I think JJ Taylor is running out of time. He doesn’t bring the explosiveness of guys like Darren Sproles, and so I don’t think he makes the team on a player like Ty Montgomery (who’s already been a lot more involved). Rookie Kevin Harris is likely on Damien Harris’ path to getting a redshirt this year, possibly on the practice squad.
In (6): Nelson Agholor, Kendrick Bourne, Jakobi Meyers, Devante Parker, Tyquan Thornton, Tre Nixon
Out (3): Josh Hammond, Lil’Jordan Humphrey, Kristian Wilkerson
If you’ve listened to me or read me for the past two years, you knew Tre Nixon was going to be on this list. I actually think he has a realistic chance of making the team this year. He’s had an amazing spring and he’s been solid in training so far. Nelson Agholor is also staying as they are not getting anything back for him and his contract in the trade market. If they pay him anyway, he might as well make the team.
In (3): Hunter Henry, Jonnu Smith, Dalton Keene
Out (2): Devin Asiasi, Matt Sokol
Dalton Keene hasn’t been able to stay healthy, but, if he can, I think he can be the tight end/fullback/fullback this offense is looking for, or at least spell Jonnu Smith’s ‘he is asked to do this. Former third-round draft pick Devin Asiasi continues to be quiet, and I think his time in New England might actually end sooner rather than later.
In (8): Trent Brown, Cole Strange, David Andrews, Michael Onwenu, Isaiah Wynn, Justin Herron, James Ferentz, Drew Desjarlais
PUPPIES (2): Chasen Hines, Andrew Stueber
Out (6): Yodny Cadjus, Yasir Durant, Arlington Hambright, Bill Murray, Kody Russey, William Sherman
We know what the starters will look like, but I think three saves makes sense. James Ferentz has the ability to play guard and center, Justin Herron is your swing tackle, and Drew Desjarlais was good enough in camp for me to put the CFL star on this list over someone like Arlington Hambright or William Sherman. I think Chasen Hines and Andrew Stueber could eventually overtake Desjarlais here, but it looks like they’ll both start the season on the physically unable to perform list.
In (6): Christian Barmore, Devon Godchaux, Deatrich Wise Jr., Lawrence Guy, Henry Anderson, LaBryan Ray
Out (4): Carl Davis, Daniel Ekuale, Jeremiah Pharms Jr., Sam Roberts
Carl Davis, Daniel Ekuale and Sam Roberts are all absent from the 53-man squad, but I think at least one of them – Roberts – will find his way into the practice squad. Davis and Ekuale, meanwhile, could be expendable due to play by Henry Anderson and undrafted rookie free agent LaBryan Ray. The latter is a fascinating player: talent was never the issue with him, health was. If he can stay healthy, which he has so far, he might be able to break the rotation by the end of the year.
In (7): Matthew Judon, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Raekwon McMillan, Mack Wilson Sr., Anfernee Jennings, Ronnie Perkins, Cameron McGrone
Out (5): Josh Uche, Harvey Langi, DaMarcus Mitchell, Jahlani Tavai, Nate Wieland
That’s not a typo: Josh Uche is not on my list. He was quiet in camp and saw a lot of rehearsals with the second strings. I think at this point a change of scenery might be the best thing for him and the team. Cameron McGrone hasn’t done much at camp either, but with all the hype surrounding him this year, I’ve decided to keep him on the roster, assuming he’s healthy. It looked like Jahlani Tavai was down hard with a non-contact injury on Thursday, so there’s a chance he’ll stay in New England but go to injured reserve; this is all just speculation at the moment.
In (7): Jalen Mills, Terrance Mitchell, Jonathan Jones, Marcus Jones, Jack Jones, Malcolm Butler, Myles Bryant
Out (2): Shaun Wade, Joejuan Williams
This is a deep unit, with a ton of speed and athleticism across the board. Although there is no real No.1, all the players seem to belong in the team and should be able to contribute this year. Jalen Mills has been the Patriots’ best cornerback in camp, but Malcolm Butler has also gained momentum and could be set for a rebound year.
In (5): Devin McCourty, Adrian Phillips, Kyle Dugger, Jabrill Peppers, Joshuah Bledsoe
Out (2): Jalen Elliott, Brad Hawkins
This is perhaps the most talented group in New England from top to bottom. I see the Patriots playing a good chunk of their projected 53-man five guys this season, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see more of them on the field at once.
In (5): Nick Folk, Jake Bailey, Joe Cardona, Matthew Slater, Justin Bethel
Out (4): Cody Davis, Brenden Schooler, Tristan Vizcaino, Jake Julien
Cody Davis might be a bit of a surprise, but other than that, the roster looks as expected. UDFA Brenden Schooler came close to making this list, but the fact that he will play exclusively in the kicking game should allow the Patriots to sneak him into the practice squad.
So here is. Is it going to be perfect? Obviously not, but I was able to keep the guys I really wanted, and also make what I think is a somewhat realistic initial roster of 53 men representing Bill Belichick’s annual surprise move. It’s a win, as far as I’m concerned.