FOXBORO, Mass. — Get ready for a crazy week in New England, which not-so-conveniently kicked off with a hurricane. The Patriots will trim their roster to 80 players Tuesday, play the Giants on a short week Thursday and slice the personnel to 53 players Saturday.
With the twists and turns, we'll provide a stream of roster predictions to give you the best idea of the unfolding events and how they'll affect each of the players on the bubble. After Saturday's loss to the Lions, there's already been a slight change from Friday's roster prediction.
There will be two more roster prediction editions this week — one before the preseason finale and a last one Friday.
Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett
Note: Hoyer and Mallett have come back to earth since the preseason opener, but this group is firmly set.
Running Backs (4)
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, Danny Woodhead
Projected to PUP List: Kevin Faulk
Note: As I wrote Friday, Morris' proximity might doom him here. Since he lives in the Foxboro area, knows the offense and is respected in the locker room, Morris could be considered as a 54th member on the roster who could step right in and help out in the event of an injury. My gut feeling is that Ridley and Vereen will be ready for the regular season, based on what I've seen from both of them in the locker room.
Wide Receivers (6)
Deion Branch, Julian Edelman, Chad Ochocinco, Taylor Price, Wes Welker, Matthew Slater
Note: Brandon Tate was dropped in this edition. While Tate's first two kickoff returns against the Lions were pedestrian, Detroit's coverage was tremendous. However, Bill Belichick's decision to use Edelman and Darius Butler later in the game was a clear indication that he's looking for others to step up, and Belichick won't wait for Tate to find a rhythm. I wondered if Tate's hamstring might have been the reason, too, but he returned punts and played for the second-string offense in the second half, so his health didn't appear to be the issue.
Tight Ends (2)
Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez
Note: I got a lot of feedback Friday when I only included two tight ends in my prediction, and there is a legitimate gripe with this duo because Hernandez can be considered a wide receiver as much as a tight end. My feeling is the Patriots will try to add Will Yeatman and/or Lee Smith to the practice squad, and the team's third tight end might be on another roster right now, meaning the Patriots could claim someone to fill that role at some point in the next week. If that doesn't work out, the Pats could add Smith or Yeatman to the roster in time for the season opener, or they could simply carry two tight ends, and if there's an in-game injury, they know they'll have enough offensive weapons to survive the rest of those 60 minutes. It's also possible that Alge Crumpler could come into play later in the year when he's healthy.
Offensive Linemen (9)
Dan Connolly, Dan Koppen, Matt Light, Steve Maneri, Logan Mankins, Rich Ohrnberger, Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer, Ryan Wendell
Projected to PUP List: Marcus Cannon
Note: Connolly's ankle injury should definitely be a concern, especially after Ohrnberger got roughed up by Ndamukong Suh, though who can blame anyone for that? I know Solder has taken reps at right guard, but I can't imagine that's for anything more than an emergency situation. If Connolly's injury is serious and Wendell takes awhile longer to return to the field, I think Thomas Austin would get promoted to the 53-man roster.
Defensive Linemen (9)
Mark Anderson, Andre Carter, Shaun Ellis, Albert Haynesworth, Kyle Love, Eric Moore, Myron Pryor, Vince Wilfork, Mike Wright
Projected to PUP List: Ron Brace, Brandon Deaderick
Note: It's extremely difficult for me to cut Gerard Warren, but this position is such a tough one to forecast and it's so multilayered. I think the Patriots could get rid of Anderson or Moore if Jermaine Cunningham is healthy, which could get Warren on the team. And what's the deal with Wright's injury? If he's going to be out for an extended period, he could be placed on injured reserve in order for Warren to contribute right away. And there's also the decision between Warren and Love, which weighs the importance of young against old. Tough decision.
Jermaine Cunningham, Dane Fletcher, Gary Guyton, Jerod Mayo, Rob Ninkovich, Brandon Spikes, Tracy White
Note: Same group here. No changes.
Kyle Arrington, Leigh Bodden, Darius Butler, Ras-I Dowling, Devin McCourty
Note: None of these guys had a good night Saturday. Bodden and Dowling were left home in New England. Arrington and Butler (on a communication breakdown with Jerod Mayo and Patrick Chung) were beaten for touchdowns. And McCourty got beaten twice to the end zone on touchdown passes that were dropped.
Sergio Brown, Patrick Chung, James Ihedigbo, Brandon Meriweather, James Sanders
Note: Ihedigbo gets promoted to the 53-man roster in this edition. He'll help on special teams and lend depth to the defense.
Kicker Stephen Gostkowski, long snapper Matt Katula, punter Zoltan Mesko
Note: Gostkowski finally took a kickoff this preseason, proving that he'll be ready for duty in time for the regular-season opener in Miami.
On the Bubble (11)
Offensive lineman Thomas Austin, outside linebacker/defensive end Markell Carter, defensive lineman Landon Cohen, linebacker Niko Koutouvides, running back Sammy Morris, tight end Lee Smith, wide receiver Brandon Tate, defensive lineman Gerard Warren, cornerback Jonathan Wilhite, cornerback Malcolm Williams, tight end Will Yeatman
Note: Carter, Koutouvides, Morris, Tate, Wilhite and Williams all offer varying degrees of value on special teams, which could boost them onto the 53-man roster.
A Little Further Away (8)
Safety Josh Barrett, linebacker Ricky Brown, wide receiver Darnell Jenkins, tight end Garrett Mills, linebacker Marques Murrell, defensive lineman Darryl Richard, wide receiver Jeremy Ross, defensive lineman Kade Weston
Note: Richard dropped a level in this edition due to sheer numbers at the position. Even with a good start to the preseason, it's tough to compete with the level of talent they've got on the defensive line.
Long Shots (14)
Wide receiver Tyree Barnes, offensive lineman Mike Berry, tight end Carson Butler, offensive lineman Jonathan Compas, wide receiver Buddy Farnham, running back Eric Kettani, kicker Chris Koepplin, defensive lineman Aaron Lavarias, running back Richard Medlin, defensive end Clay Nurse, defensive end Alex Silvestro, linebacker Jeff Tarpinian, offensive lineman Mark Wetterer, offensive lineman Corey Woods
Note: After Stephen Gostkowski handled kickoffs Saturday, Koepplin doesn't have much use on a roster with an All-Pro kicker.