FOXBORO, Mass. — The Patriots have completed four preseason games and nearly 40 practices since the start of training camp, and the coaching staff has to make those last-minute assessments to determine which 53 players they're ready to take into the regular season.
Final roster cuts must be turned into the league office by 4 p.m. on Saturday. Let's try to get a jump on that with the latest installment of NESN.com's roster predictions.
Defensive Linemen (7)
Vince Wilfork, Mike Wright, Gerard Warren, Damione Lewis, Myron Pryor, Brandon Deaderick, Ron Brace
Note: Deaderick, who didn’t dress Thursday against New York, fits a more pressing need at end than defensive tackle Kyle Love, who is the odd man out. Love is a good fit for the practice squad if no other team claims him off waivers.
Jerod Mayo, Tully Banta-Cain, Brandon Spikes, Gary Guyton, Tyrone McKenzie, Jermaine Cunningham, Derrick Burgess, Rob Ninkovich, Pierre Woods
Note: Woods replaced Marques Murrell for this installment. Murrell had a good start to the preseason, but it doesn’t look like he's done enough in recent weeks to steal a job from Woods, who has been around New England since 2006.
Darius Butler, Jonathan Wilhite, Devin McCourty, Kyle Arrington, Terrence Wheatley
Note: Butler and McCourty have the talent to play in this league, but their youth will yield inconsistency. Most important for them will be making sure the lows aren’t too low.
Brandon Meriweather, James Sanders, Patrick Chung, Brandon McGowan, Sergio Brown
Note: Brown has climbed all the way up from the bottom of the bubble. He's valuable on special teams, which is important for a player at that point of the depth chart. And he's been a good hitter on defense.
Offensive Line (10)
Matt Light, Dan Koppen, Stephen Neal, Sebastian Vollmer, Dan Connolly, Mark LeVoir, Ted Larsen, Ryan Wendell, George Bussey, Quinn Ojinnaka*
Note: Curious to see how the first unit is able to handle its first 60 minutes of real action. The starters have had their moments in the preseason — both good and bad — but they've got to stay healthy because the backups have been abysmal.
*Ojinnaka won't count against the 53-man roster limit during Week 1 because of his one-game, league-mandated suspension.
Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer
Note: Hoyer is a real tough kid. You'd think the backup linemen would have tried a little harder to keep him upright.
Wide Receivers (6)
Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Julian Edelman, Sam Aiken, Brandon Tate, Taylor Price
Note: Edelman's undisclosed injury is definitely a concern. He hasn’t been spotted since the Atlanta game. And if you're not around the practice field, you're not exactly close to returning.
Running backs (4)
Fred Taylor, Sammy Morris, Kevin Faulk, BenJarvus Green-Ellis
Note: This, obviously, is a very difficult group to project.
Tight ends (3)
Rob Gronkowski, Alge Crumpler, Aaron Hernandez
Note: Hernandez's knee injury shouldn’t be much of a concern. Despite not participating in the last two weeks of practice, he's been on the sideline watching and rehabbing.
Note: Gostkowski made all three field-goal attempts and 14 extra-point tries in the preseason.
Note: Mesko averaged 43.8 yards Thursday, and two of his four punts landed inside the 20-yard line. He also, effortlessly, flung Mario Manningham out of bounds after Manningham dared to return one of Mesko's punts just a bit too far.
Long Snapper (1)
Note: No news is good news, which is especially true for a long snapper.
On the Bubble (8)
Linebacker Eric Alexander, defensive lineman Kyle Love, running back Laurence Maroney, linebacker Marques Murrell, offensive lineman Rich Ohrnberger, wide receiver Matthew Slater, offensive lineman Thomas Welch, linebacker Thomas Williams
A Little Further Away (4)
Linebacker Dane Fletcher, offensive lineman Eric Ghiaciuc, wide receiver Darnell Jenkins, defensive back DeAngelo Willingham
Long Shots (8)
Tight end Carson Butler, running back Thomas Clayton, wide receiver Buddy Farnham, tight end Rob Myers, wide receiver Rod Owens, quarterback Zac Robinson, running back Chris Taylor, safety Ross Ventrone
Left guard Logan Mankins
Projected to Miss Due to Injury (PUP or IR)
Offensive lineman Nick Kaczur