Patriots Depth Chart Reset: Sorting Out Starting Running Back Reps

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The New England Patriots’ initial roster battles were settled when Bill Belichick trimmed his team to 53 players this weekend.

Now it’s time to sort out the depth chart. The Patriots still could see movement at wide receiver, guard and cornerback during the season.

Here’s who we’re projecting to start in Week 1 against the Arizona Cardinals.

QUARTERBACK
Tom Brady (suspended)
Jimmy Garoppolo
Jacoby Brissett
See that banner on the Gillette Stadium lighthouse? Yeah, Brady’s still the starter when he returns in Week 5. But until then, it’s Jimmy’s team. Kind of.

RUNNING BACK
Dion Lewis (PUP)
LeGarrette Blount
Brandon Bolden
Blount will take over the early down role until (or if) Lewis returns from a knee surgery.

SUB BACK
Dion Lewis (PUP)
James White
Brandon Bolden

D.J. Foster
The sub-back role will go to White until Lewis recovers. Even when Lewis returns, Blount and White likely still will receive reps.

FULLBACK
James Develin
Clay Harbor
Harbor offers depth at this position and tight end, but Develin remains one of the best fullbacks in the NFL.

WIDE RECEIVER
Julian Edelman
Chris Hogan – Danny Amendola
Malcolm Mitchell
Matthew Slater
Edelman will be on the field for most offensive downs, while Hogan and Amendola likely will share the No. 2 role depending on the offensive set.

TIGHT END
Rob Gronkowski – Martellus Bennett
A.J. Derby
Clay Harbor
Derby proved to be a more dangerous weapon than Harbor during training camp and preseason.

OFFENSIVE TACKLE
Nate Solder – Marcus Cannon
Cameron Fleming
LaAdrian Waddle
Sebastian Vollmer (not expected to return off PUP)

Fleming came onto the field before Waddle on Thursday after Solder suffered an injury in the Patriots’ preseason finale.

GUARD
Joe Thuney
Jonathan Cooper

Shaq Mason
Tre Jackson (PUP)

Ted Karras
Thuney is the clear-cut starter at left guard. After reportedly trading Josh Kline to the Philadelphia Eagles, it appears the Patriots are confident Mason or Cooper will be healthy to start the season.

CENTER
David Andrews
Josh Kline
Ted Karras
Kline also will back up Andrews at center.

INTERIOR DEFENSIVE LINE
Malcom Brown – Alan Branch
Anthony Johnson
Vincent Valentine
Johnson will be used on third down in pass-rushing situations, while Valentine likely will rotate with both Brown and Branch.

PASS RUSH
Jabaal Sheard – Rob Ninkovich (suspended)
Chris Long
Trey Flowers
Shea McClellin

Ninkovich still projects to be a starter when he returns from a four-game suspension, but strong performances by Long and Flowers potentially could change that.

LINEBACKER
Dont’a Hightower – Jamie Collins
Barkevious Mingo – Shea McClellin
Jonathan Freeny
Elandon Roberts
Brandon King

Mingo proved he’s more linebacker than defensive end in his Patriots preseason debut. McClellin and Freeny also likely will receive reps as a third linebacker.

CORNERBACK
Malcolm Butler – Logan Ryan
Justin Coleman
Eric Rowe

Cyrus Jones
Jonathan Jones
Coleman was the Patriots’ third cornerback over Cyrus Jones in Week 4 of the preseason. Cyrus could move up the depth chart as the season progresses. Rowe provides size at an otherwise small-statured position.

SAFETY
Devin McCourty – Patrick Chung
Duron Harmon
Eric Rowe
Nate Ebner
Jordan Richards

Ebner received defensive playing time over Richards on Thursday. Richards struggled in man coverage throughout the summer. Rowe can fill in at both safety and cornerback.

SPECIAL TEAMS
Stephen Gostkowski – Ryan Allen – Joe Cardona

Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images

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