FOXBORO, Mass. — As always, there are some changes to this week's roster predictions, which is the third of the series, but this set has added a new category to project which players might start the regular season on the physically unable to perform list. It's given me a little more freedom to do some new things with the list, and it should paint a better picture of each player's standing in regard to the roster bubble.
The upcoming week will be very important for players at the bottom of the roster. The starters should earn a heavier amount of practice reps as they prepare for the third preseason game, meaning the fringe players have to make their impressions with limited chances. All teams must cut their rosters to 80 players by Aug. 30, which is just three days after the Patriots visit Detroit. Reality might be starting to set in for some of them.
Check back every Friday to see a new edition of the Patriots roster prediction.
Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett
Note: Mallett wasn't as sharp in his second preseason game, which was probably a good lesson for him.
Running Backs (5)
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Sammy Morris, Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, Danny Woodhead
Projected to PUP List: Kevin Faulk
Note: Until Faulk practices, I'll predict the Patriots will use the efficient route and save his roster spot by keeping him on PUP. If Vereen returns from a hamstring injury and shows some effectiveness, I might be inclined to remove Morris from the roster because there are tighter positional battles elsewhere.
Wide Receivers (7)
Deion Branch, Julian Edelman, Chad Ochocinco, Taylor Price, Brandon Tate, Wes Welker, Matthew Slater
Note: Slater is having a very good month, and I'd be surprised if they parted ways with him. The injuries to Price, Tate and Edelman have made this a more difficult position to forecast. Watch out for Jeremy Ross, who just had his best week of camp, though he'll need two better ones to crack the roster.
Tight Ends (3)
Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Lee Smith
Note: Smith has a very slight edge on Will Yeatman, who has been more visible in camp than the fifth-round pick. Smith is a more solid player at this point, though.
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: This group has really come into focus over the last two weeks, but Wendell's unknown injury is a concern. If it's serious, the Patriots could go in two directions — the dangerous route of only carrying one backup interior lineman (Ohrnberger), or carrying Thomas Austin.
Defensive Linemen (7)
Mark Anderson, Andre Carter, Albert Haynesworth, Kyle Love, Myron Pryor, Vince Wilfork, Mike Wright
Projected to PUP List: Ron Brace, Brandon Deaderick, Shaun Ellis
Note: The Patriots could stash Ellis on PUP until some point midseason with the notion that someone on the line will get injured in the meantime, and he'll be able to step in and replace them as a fresh body. Pryor took his spot this week, and my decision came between him and Gerard Warren. I went with Pryor because he might be better at knifing through the line, and it's clear the Patriots will use that approach more this season. Wright is another question mark with an undisclosed injury, and I've got to wonder if injured reserve is a possibility for him to keep Warren or another player.
Jermaine Cunningham, Dane Fletcher, Gary Guyton, Jerod Mayo, Rob Ninkovich, Brandon Spikes, Tracy White
Note: White is the only bubble player in this group. He could be expendable if the Patriots think they can get comparable special teams value from someone like Ninkovich, Fletcher or Guyton.
Kyle Arrington, Leigh Bodden, Darius Butler, Ras-I Dowling, Devin McCourty
Note: McCourty, Bodden and Arrington have all played well so far, and if Dowling can add something to the defense, the Patriots might be inclined to replace Butler with Malcolm Williams, who has more value on special teams.
Sergio Brown, Patrick Chung, Brandon Meriweather, James Sanders
Note: If Sanders can return from his hamstring injury, the safety position won't be nearly as thin as it's been in the last two preseason games. He brings a comforting level of reliability to the defensive backfield.
Kicker Stephen Gostkowski, long snapper Matt Katula, punter Zoltan Mesko
Note: Gostkowski has made all three of his preseason field-goal attempts, and they've all been at least 40 yards. The leg strength is definitely there.
On the Bubble (11)
Offensive lineman Thomas Austin, outside linebacker/defensive end Markell Carter, defensive lineman Landon Cohen, linebacker Niko Koutouvides, safety Bret Lockett, defensive end Eric Moore, defensive lineman Darryl Richard, defensive lineman Gerard Warren, cornerback Jonathan Wilhite, cornerback Malcolm Williams, tight end Will Yeatman
Note: All 11 of these players have a legitimate chance to make the team. Koutouvides could challenge Tracy White for that special teams role.
A Little Further Away (8)
Safety Josh Barrett, wide receiver Darnell Jenkins, kicker Chris Koepplin, defensive lineman Aaron Lavarias, linebacker Marques Murrell, wide receiver Jeremy Ross, linebacker Jeff Tarpinian, defensive lineman Kade Weston
Note: Jenkins, Murrell and Tarpinian have all slipped down a category this week, while Ross has been promoted with his best week of work.
Long Shots (11)
Wide receiver Tyree Barnes, tight end Carson Butler, offensive lineman Jonathan Compas, wide receiver Buddy Farnham, running back Eric Kettani, running back Richard Medlin, defensive end Clay Nurse, offensive lineman Zach Roth, defensive end Alex Silvestro, offensive lineman Mark Wetterer, offensive lineman Corey Woods
Note: I'm not sure about Roth's potential just yet because he's had a very limited amount, but he can deliver some punishing hits in drills.