The New England Patriots’ 53-man roster still needs to be tweaked before the start of the season, even after countless moves to whittle it from 90 players.
The Patriots have an overabundance of defensive tackles and safeties, and they lack any significant depth at linebacker after this weekend’s moves. New England is running out of time to fill out the roster before Sunday’s season opener against the Miami Dolphins.
On paper, the Patriots still look much better than they did in 2013, when they went 12-4 and made it to the AFC Championship Game. New England looks primed for another AFC East title and, if it can stay healthy, possibly a fourth Super Bowl ring.
Check out how the Patriots’ roster looks five days away from the season opener:
Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo
The Patriots are rolling with two quarterbacks, as usual. Garoppolo earned the No. 2 QB role after a strong preseason.
Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, James White, Brandon Bolden
The Patriots have great depth behind Vereen on third down in White and Bolden, but if Ridley’s fumbling issues creep up, they don’t have a LeGarrette Blount-type back to bail them out on early downs. White had trouble breaking tackles in the preseason, and Vereen is unlikely to hold up for 20 carries per game.
James Develin (FB/TE)
Brady called Develin the best fullback in the NFL. Brady might have overstated Develin’s skills, but the fullback adds a physical, versatile presence to the offense.
Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Aaron Dobson, Brandon LaFell, Kenbrell Thompkins, Matthew Slater (WR/ST)
The Patriots look much better at wide receiver than they did in 2013. Dobson, LaFell and Thompkins will continue to fight for snaps at the “X” receiver role, while Amendola and Edelman are locked in as the starting slot and “Z” receivers, respectively. Dobson has the most upside as a starter, but after missing most of training camp and the preseason, the second-year pro could be a little behind in earning Brady’s trust.
Rob Gronkowski, Tim Wright, Michael Hoomanawanui
Remember when Steve Maneri was the only healthy tight end on the Patriots’ roster? Seems like a long time ago, huh? Gronkowski’s health and the addition of Wright boosted the team’s depth. The Patriots won’t return full time to a two-tight end offense, but Wright adds some more texture.
Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer, Marcus Cannon (OT/OG), Cameron Fleming
It appears Solder, Vollmer and Cannon all will start on the Patriots’ offensive line. We’ll find out Sunday whether Vollmer or Cannon moves to guard.
Dan Connolly (OG/OC), Josh Kline, Jordan Devey (OG/OT)
Kline and Devey are unproven, but the Patriots appear to like their upside. Connolly likely will start at either guard or center.
Ryan Wendell, Bryan Stork
Stork could be the starting center by the end of the season, but for now, he’ll sit behind Wendell or Connolly.
Chandler Jones (DE/OLB, Rob Ninkovich (DE/LB), Michael Buchanan (DE/OLB)
Jones has the ability to play almost anywhere in a front seven, from outside linebacker in a three-man front to defensive tackle in sub packages (nickel and dime). Ninkovich can play linebacker in a 3-4 or 4-3 and defensive end in a four-man front. Buchanan is best when he’s able to rush off the edge. If the Patriots run a 3-4, Jones could bump either Dont’a Hightower or Chris Jones off the starting “regular” defense, depending on whether he plays outside linebacker or at five-technique defensive end.
INTERIOR PASS RUSHER
Dominique Easley (DT/DE), Zach Moore (DT/DE)
Easley will be eased into the defense in passing situations as his knee continues to recover from ACL surgery. Moore can play defensive end in a 4-3 or 3-4 and defensive tackle in sub packages.
Vince Wilfork (DT/DE), Sealver Siliga, Chris Jones (DT/DE), Joe Vellano (DT/DE), Kelcy Quarles (DT/DE), Bruce Gaston (DT/DE)
The Patriots are stacked at defensive tackle. They likely claimed Quarles and Gaston because Siliga, Jones and Easley are recovering from injuries. If all three players can return, Quarles and Gaston could be on the way off the roster or onto the practice squad, if they clear waivers.
Jerod Mayo, Jamie Collins, Dont’a Hightower, Darius Fleming (OLB)
The Patriots are running very low on linebackers. Ninkovich could step in if one of the starters — Mayo, Collins or Hightower — goes down with an injury. The Patriots likely will look to add to this position before Sunday since Fleming doesn’t have experience as an inside linebacker. Fleming was a pass rusher at Notre Dame.
Darrelle Revis, Alfonzo Dennard (CB/S), Kyle Arrington (CB/S), Logan Ryan (CB/S), Malcolm Butler
It’s still unknown who will start at cornerback while Brandon Browner serves a four-game suspension. Butler started in all four preseason games, and Dennard played across from Aqib Talib on the first-team defense last season.
Devin McCourty, Duron Harmon, Patrick Chung, Tavon Wilson, Nate Ebner, Don Jones
It’s also unknown who will start at safety next to McCourty. It could be Harmon, Chung, Wilson, Dennard, Arrington or Ryan. The Patriots will have an improved secondary this season regardless of who starts at cornerback or safety because of Revis. Harmon should have the inside track after a promising rookie year and impressive preseason.
K Stephen Gostkowski, P Ryan Allen
The Patriots lack a long snapper, so they’ll have to make a roster move before Sunday — unless head coach Bill Belichick decides to force Ninkovich into double duty as a pass rusher/long snapper. Long snapper Charley Hughlett currently is signed to the practice squad.
DE Jake Bequette, QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson, WR Josh Boyce, LB Ja’Gared Davis, S Kanorris Davis, RB Jonas Gray, LS Charley Hughlett, OG Chris Martin, LB Deontae Skinner, CB Daxton Swanson
It was surprising to see the Patriots sign Bethel-Thompson while rookie QBs Connor Shaw and Jeff Mathews were available to groom on the practice squad. The Patriots were lucky to slip former third-round (Bequette) and fourth-round (Boyce) draft picks through waivers and onto the practice squad.
CB Brandon Browner, WR Bryan Tyms
Browner and Tyms are suspended for four games to start the season. They can reenter the Patriots’ facility Tuesday, Sept. 30.