Rob Gronkowski Taking Over as Patriots’ No. 1 Tight End Target


Rob Gronkowski Taking Over as Patriots' No. 1 Tight End Target FOXBORO, Mass. — With youth comes change, and that’s been a recent story with the Patriots' roster. They've used a lot of different pieces in the search for capable starters across the board, and that has made this summer an intriguing one in New England.

We've done our best to monitor each position during the Patriots' 25 training camp practices, and since camp has officially broken in Foxboro, it's time to put together something that might hopefully represent a depth chart. Keep in mind the Patriots use a variety of sub packages, and their rotations always adapt to the system they're trying to conquer.

Also, it's a little too early to break down the sides on defense — right defensive end from left defensive end, and so on — so we'll note everything we've seen by each player.

Without further ado, here's what's shaking throughout the depth chart. And yes, we've included every single player on the roster as of Monday afternoon.

1. Tom Brady: No-brainer
2. Brian Hoyer: Having a real nice camp
3. Zac Robinson: Practice squad at best

Running Backs
1. Sammy Morris: Strong back, but you know how this position goes in New England
2. Laurence Maroney: Good preseason debut
3. Kevin Faulk: As reliable of a third-down back and pass-blocker as there is
4. Fred Taylor: Waiting to see his first real reps in preseason before dropping him
5. BenJarvus Green-Ellis: His fate plays off Taylor's

Tight Ends
1. Rob Gronkowski: Most complete tight end they've got
2a. Alge Crumpler: Very good blocker, surprisingly nice hands
2b. Aaron Hernandez: He gets a ton of reps in two-tight end sets, as well as the spread offense.

Outside Wide Receivers
1. Randy Moss: Huge year coming
2. Brandon Tate: Surprisingly fast emergence
3. Taylor Price: The rookie is sliding a bit
4. Sam Aiken: Always practices well
5. Matthew Slater: Was performing very well before suffering calf injury
6. Darnell Jenkins: Highlight-reel play against Saints showed his ability
7. Rod Owens: In New England for depth

Slot Receivers
1. Wes Welker: The best in the business
2. Julian Edelman: He'll get reps all over the field, too
3. Buddy Farnham: Gets swallowed up in press coverage

Left Tackle
1. Matt Light: Been there for a decade
2. Sebastian Vollmer: Would instantly slide over if Light went down
3. George Bussey: Recent emergence hindered by unknown injury
4. Mark LeVoir: Getting action on both sides

Left Guard
1. Dan Connolly: This is his priority position from here on out
2. Ryan Wendell: Made an early charge, but tapered off
3. Eric Ghiaciuc: Gets his chances with the ones
4. Ted Larsen: Hasn’t gotten a shot with the first team
5. Rich Ohrnberger: Trying to make the roster
6. Brian Simmons: Rookie from Oklahoma was signed Sunday
Injured: Nick Kaczur: He'll get a chance to start if his back holds up

1. Dan Koppen: In charge of the line
2. Dan Connolly: He's versatile
3. Ryan Wendell: Similar cast on the inside
4. Rich Ohrnberger: Made the guard-to-center transition from college to NFL
5. Ted Larsen: Played center at North Carolina State

Right Guard
1. Stephen Neal: Very good run blocker
2. Dan Connolly: Right down the line
3. Ryan Wendell: Bill Belichick wants his inside guys to know all three positions

Right Tackle
1. Sebastian Vollmer: He's good at his job
2. Mark LeVoir: Had a brutal night against the Saints
3. Thomas Welch: Just another 6-foot-7, 310-pounder on the right side

Defensive Tackle
1. Vince Wilfork: One of the best in the league
2. Myron Pryor: Getting a lot of work in camp
3. Mike Wright: He still moves inside in some formations, most often when Wilfork swings to end
4. Kyle Love: Not a bad summer for the undrafted rookie
5. Kade Weston: Hard to find him

Defensive End
1. Mike Wright: With Ty Warren out, the difference between the left and right side has been a little more ambiguous. Each end is earning his reps across the line
2. Gerard Warren: Belichick loves his professionalism
3. Damione Lewis: Hasn’t practiced since suffering unknown injury in Saints game. Looks like top backup at this point
4. Darryl Richard: Hasn’t stuck out
5. Brandon Deaderick: Still looking for a marquee highlight
6. Ron Brace: Looks like he'll get his early work at end

Inside Linebacker
1. Jerod Mayo: A no-doubter
2. Brandon Spikes: Could Wally Pipp Gary Guyton
3. Gary Guyton: A favorite of Belichick and Mayo, but Spikes has killed it
4. Tyrone McKenzie: Slid back a bit in the last week but still a promising player
5. Eric Alexander: He's made a late push to snag a roster spot
6. Thomas Williams: Kind of up and down, but versatile and definitely hardworking
7. Dane Fletcher: Ideal for the practice squad. Good instincts but will need some years to develop

Outside Linebacker
1. Tully Banta-Cain: He's the starter on the right side, but the sides are still unclear down the depth chart
2. Marques Murrell: Come on strong in the last week on the left side
3. Jermaine Cunningham: Left side primarily. Tough to get a good read with limited contact at practice. Recent injury hasn’t helped, either
4. Derrick Burgess: He's got a ton of ground to make up
5. Rob Ninkovich: Good player and the official backup long snapper
6. Pierre Woods: Hasn’t made a lot of noise yet

1. Leigh Bodden: Starter on the right side. Recent knee injury isn’t cause for much concern
2. Darius Butler: Starter on the left side but has also seen plenty of work in the slot. He moves to the right when Bodden is out
3. Devin McCourty: Has played the left side when Butler shifts over. A physical player who will earn some starts this season
4. Terrence Wheatley: Have to like the improvements made by Wheatley. Flying up depth chart
5. Jonathan Wilhite: It's been a slow camp so far
6. Kyle Arrington: Big value on kick and punt coverage
7. Terrence Johnson: He hasn’t practiced in two weeks

1. Brandon Meriweather: Obvious starter
2. Patrick Chung: So fast and has great closing speed
3. James Sanders: Having somewhat of a tough camp
4. Brandon McGowan: He's getting a lot of time as the big-nickel safety
5. Sergio Brown: Big hit helped cause a late interception against the Saints
6. DeAngelo Willingham: Late addition hasn’t had much of a chance
7. Bret Lockett: Hasn’t practiced since Day 1
Injured: Josh Barrett: Belichick said he'll undergo surgery. Unlikely he'll ever appear this season

1. Stephen Gostkowski: Good camp

1. Zoltan Mesko: Overall, it's been good, but he needs to improve his directional kicking

Long Snapper
1. Jake Ingram: Solid camp. Recent chances from Rob Ninkovich are for emergency situations only

Kick Returner
1. Brandon Tate: A lot of flash and potential
2. Devin McCourty: Really shined in preseason opener
3. Julian Edelman: Shake and bake

Punt Returner
1. Wes Welker: He's the starter in an ideal world, but time will tell if the Patriots prefer to save him
2. Julian Edelman: So much potential at this position
3. Taylor Price: Looked OK against the Saints

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