FOXBORO, Mass. — The Patriots’ depth chart appears to be constantly changing this season.
One week, Dont’a Hightower will be receiving the bulk of the team’s nickel snaps and the next week, that’s Brandon Spikes‘ role. One week, LeGarrette Blount, Brandon Bolden and Stevan Ridley will be sharing snaps at running back, then the next week, Ridley looks back to being an every-down back.
Since the Patriots’ official depth chart is, uh, not so accurate, it’s worthwhile to compile a more-correct projected version. Jerod Mayo and Vince Wilfork‘s season-ending injuries change matters, as well.
Check out the updated projected depth chart below.
(Italics indicates injured.)
Quarterback: Tom Brady, Ryan Mallett
Brady has had his struggles this season, but I suppose he’s good enough to stay at the top of the depth chart.
Running back: Stevan Ridley, LeGarrette Blount, Brandon Bolden, Leon Washington
Ridley earned back his role as the every-down back in his return last week. Blount and Bolden will still get their carries, but this is Ridley’s backfield.
Third-down back: Bolden, Washington
While Shane Vereen is out, Bolden is the go-to third-down back. He’s had his fair share of drops, though. We may see Ridley play more on third down moving forward.
Fullback: James Develin, Michael Hoomanawanui
Develin continues to get a solid set of reps every game. He’s even started four games.
Wide receiver: Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman, Aaron Dobson, Kenbrell Thompkins, Austin Collie, Josh Boyce, Matthew Slater
With Amendola out, Edelman moves back to the top of the depth chart, even though Dobson and Thompkins led the receiving group in snaps in Week 6. Collie appeared to have passed Boyce on the depth chart in Week 6.
Slot receiver: Amendola, Edelman, Collie, Boyce
The Patriots have a solid corps of slot receivers. Amendola, Edelman and Collie are all injury prone, but at least one should be able to stay healthy at all times.
Tight end: Rob Gronkowski, Hoomanawanui, Matthew Mulligan, Develin
Gronkowski may be back this weekend, which could bump one of these players off the roster. If not, it at least slides them down the depth chart.
Left Tackle: Nate Solder, Marcus Cannon, Will Svitek
As Solder has moved to tight end the past few weeks, Cannon has come in to play left tackle. That slides Svitek further down the depth chart.
Right Tackle: Sebastian Vollmer, Cannon, Svitek
Cannon has taken the majority of his reps at right tackle through his career.
Guard: Logan Mankins, Dan Connolly, Cannon, Chris Barker, Svitek
Once again, Cannon is the main backup. He may be forced to play this weekend as Connolly recovers from a concussion. Connolly practiced on Thursday and Friday, though, so he could also get the starting nod.
Center: Ryan Wendell, Connolly, Barker
If Wendell went down, Connolly would probably slide over to center with Cannon playing right guard.
Defensive end: Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich, Michael Buchanan, Jake Bequette
Bequette was wearing a black practice player of the week jersey, but Buchanan has still been getting snaps over him all season. Bequette has been active for four games this season.
Defensive tackle: Tommy Kelly, Joe Vellano, Chris Jones, Marcus Forston, Andre Neblett
With Kelly out, Vellano and Jones have emerged as starters. Once Kelly comes back, it will be interesting to see who remains as a starter. Kelly can play the nose and under tackle positions, so it will be up to Bill Belichick to decide if he wants Vellano (a nose tackle) or Jones (an under tackle) to start. All three will still get snaps.
Third-down interior rusher: Jones, Buchanan
Jones has been the main third-down interior rusher, but Buchanan got some snaps there last Sunday.
Linebacker: Dont’a Hightower, Brandon Spikes, Jamie Collins, Dane Fletcher, Chris White, Steve Beauharnais
With no more Jerod Mayo, Hightower takes the top spot on the linebacker depth chart as the most balanced player left at the position. I will assume Collins is going to be the No. 3 linebacker, though Fletcher could get some reps, as well.
Cornerback: Aqib Talib, Alfonzo Dennard, Kyle Arrington, Logan Ryan, Marquice Cole
With Talib hurt, Dennard may have to move up to the No. 1 corner spot. Devin McCourty may have to move back down to cornerback this week. If not, Ryan will be the No. 3 player on the depth chart.
Safety: Devin McCourty, Steve Gregory, Duron Harmon, Tavon Wilson, Cole, Nate Ebner
Harmon remains the backup at safety. The rookie has been impressive in limited time.
Kicker: Stephen Gostkowski
Punter: Ryan Allen
Longsnapper: Danny Aiken
Kick returner: Washington, Blount, Slater, McCourty, Boyce
Punt returner: Edelman, Washington, Amendola, Thompkins, Boyce