FOXBORO, Mass. — Throughout training camp and the preseason, we've released a series of roster predictions, depth charts and positional breakdowns. After sorting through the Patriots' overall body of work, we've determined there are 39 players who are absolutely locked into a roster spot.
The Patriots have to cut their roster to 53 players by Saturday, and there are 14 jobs up for grabs between now and then. Of course, a number of players have an inside track at those positions, but they'll still need a good showing during two days of practice, one walkthrough and one last preseason game against the Giants.
Below are the 39 players that we'd basically bet our lives will make the Patriots' initial 53-man roster. (Players who have the slightest chance of getting cut will not appear on the list.) This week, we'll take a closer look at the best position battles as cut-down day looms.
Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer
Analysis: It was these two from day one.
Running Backs (2)
Kevin Faulk, Sammy Morris
Analysis: This is the toughest position to predict, and both locks fill multiple roles. Fred Taylor is a good bet to make it, but he's not a 100 percent certainty. As for Laurence Maroney and BenJarvus Green-Ellis, well, it's too close to call.
Wide Receivers (4)
Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Julian Edelman, Brandon Tate
Analysis: We've thought all along that rookie Taylor Price and 2009 special teams captain Sam Aiken would make the team, but again, they're not rock-solid locks. If Bill Belichick only chooses to keep five wide receivers, does he favor the future over the present?
Tight Ends (3)
Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Alge Crumpler
Analysis: This has been a very impressive trio. The rookies have developed quicker than anticipated, and Crumpler has added more to the receiving game than expected. This should be one of the most well-rounded positions on the roster.
Offensive Linemen (7)
Matt Light, Dan Koppen, Stephen Neal, Sebastian Vollmer, Dan Connolly, Mark LeVoir, Ryan Wendell
Analysis: This might be a little presumptuous to include LeVoir and Wendell, but their spots still seem secure based on their position on the depth chart. Depth on the offensive line is a real issue, though.
Defensive Linemen (5)
Vince Wilfork, Gerard Warren, Mike Wright, Myron Pryor, Ron Brace
Analysis: Brace has had a substantial rise, considering his short time at camp. Damione Lewis also has a pretty good shot to make the club, but there might be some competition for the remaining spots with Brandon Deaderick and Kyle Love.
Jerod Mayo, Tully Banta-Cain, Gary Guyton, Brandon Spikes, Derrick Burgess, Jermaine Cunningham
Analysis: There's a lot of uncertainty over the last handful of spots here, with Tyrone McKenzie, Rob Ninkovich, Marques Murrell, Eric Alexander, Pierre Woods, and Thomas Williams all jockeying for a roster spot. That’s six guys competing for between two and four positions.
Leigh Bodden, Darius Butler, Devin McCourty
Analysis: Thursday's game against the Rams has to be considered an aberration, because the entire group of cornerbacks had a brutal night. Terrence Wheatley, Jonathan Wilhite and Kyle Arrington will all likely make the roster, but they aren’t mortal locks.
Brandon Meriweather, Patrick Chung, Brandon McGowan, James Sanders
Analysis: Sanders hasn’t been the best camp, but he'd be a better option than undrafted rookie Sergio Brown, who would be a good practice-squad candidate.
Kicker Stephen Gostkowski, punter Zoltan Mesko, long snapper Jake Ingram
Analysis: Steady right on down the line.