After the Patriots’ 2013 preseason debut, the depth chart is looking clearer — but only a little.
Out of 16 total reps from Tom Brady and the first-team offense, Danny Amendola and Jake Ballard led all other skill-position players with 12 snaps apiece. Zach Sudfeld had nine, Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson had eight, Stevan Ridley and Josh Boyce had six, Michael Hoomanawanui had five, Shane Vereen and LeGarrette Blount had four, Daniel Fells had three and Brandon Bolden had two.
The first-team offense tore up the Eagles’ first-team defense in the first quarter, driving for 80 yards with an emphasis on the run game and then 81 yards while Brady completed 7-of-8 passing attempts. The defense did their part, as well, outside of Aqib Talib allowing a 47-yard touchdown to DeSean Jackson.
While the depth chart can and will change before the Patriots take on Buffalo on Sept. 8 in Week 1, here’s how first, second and third string looks after Friday night’s matchup against the Eagles:
Quarterback: Tom Brady, Ryan Mallett, Tim Tebow
We’ll start out with the obvious. Brady obviously sits on top, followed by Mallett and Tebow. This likely won’t change any time soon after watching the third-stringer’s performance on Friday night.
Running Back: Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, LeGarrette Blount, Brandon Bolden, George Winn
Prior to Friday night’s game, Bolden would have been placed above Blount. But Blount’s performance, along with his snap count with the first-team offense puts Blount ahead on the depth chart. It likely helps Blount that Bolden has been banged up during training camp. Blount and Bolden are likely battling for one roster spot.
Third-Down Back: Shane Vereen, Leon Washington
Vereen would likely be the first man up if Ridley has to miss time, but he’s No. 1 on the depth chart in the Kevin Faulk, Danny Woodhead third-down role. Vereen and Washington have both taken snaps split out during training camp. Vereen caught a 13-yard touchdown from Brady on Friday night lined up at wide receiver.
Fullback: Michael Hoomanawanui, James Develin, Ben Bartholomew
Hoomanawanui took a slightly surprising number of snaps at fullback against the Eagles. Hooman lined up all over the field at fullback, inline and in the flex. His versatility will likely ensure him a spot on the roster and the Patriots try new things on offense with some new faces around. Develin sat out on Friday night, but he was receiving reps before Bartholomew in practice.
Wide Receiver: Danny Amendola, Kenbrell Thompkins, Aaron Dobson, Josh Boyce, Julian Edelman, Michael Jenkins, Kamar Aiken, Matthew Slater, Quentin Sims, Johnathan Haggerty
Dobson and Amendola were the first players out on the field on Friday night to line up at wide receiver, but Thompkins was close behind and didn’t play as heavily with the second- and third-team units. Thompkins has also been the better player since the beginning of spring practices.
Edelman was surprisingly buried on the depth chart Friday. He didn’t play any snaps with Brady, likely because he missed so much time with injuries. The fact that he has experience with Brady may have been part of that decision as well.
Since so many of the players at receiver can play the “X,” “Z” and slot, I decided not to split up the wide receiver depth chart into different positions.
Inline Tight End: Jake Ballard, Daniel Fells
Ballard only played with the first-team unit on Friday night. He, Amendola, Nate Solder, Logan Mankins, Ryan Wendell and Sebastian Vollmer did not come back onto the field after Brady went to the sideline.
Fells took most of the remainder of the snaps at inline tight end, though Hoomanawanui and Sudfeld both got some reps, as well.
Flex Tight End: Zach Sudfeld, Michael Hoomanawanui, James Develin, Brandon Ford
Sudfeld was out with the starters at the flex spot. The undrafted rookie did some of the same things Aaron Hernandez did last year, lining up out wide and coming in motion. Sudfeld may not be quite as dangerous as Hernandez after the catch, but he already looks like a superior blocker.
Tackle: Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer, Will Svitek, Marcus Cannon, Markus Zusevics, R.J. Mattes, Brice Schwab
Svitek showed his skills out at guard with the first team on Friday, then switched over to tackle, his natural position, when Mallett came out. Svitek looked good in both roles, which should help him earn a roster spot. Mattes and Schwab were the other two tackles against Philadelphia.
Guard: Logan Mankins, Marcus Cannon, Dan Connolly, Tyronne Green, Markus Zusevics, Will Svitek, Josh Kline, Chris McDonald, Kevin Haslam, Luke Patterson
The Patriots are dealing with a number of injuries at guard right now, which is why Svitek was in that role. Kline and McDonald looked passable with Mallett and Tebow in at quarterback.
Center: Ryan Wendell, Dan Connolly, Matt Stankiewitch, Josh Kline
Wendell should be the guy, but Connolly’s ability to play center could allow him to stay on the 53-man roster. Stankiewitch played center in Philadelphia, but Kline can also play the position.
Interior Defensive Line: Vince Wilfork, Tommy Kelly, Marcus Benard, Jermaine Cunningham, Marcus Forston, Cory Grissom, Justin Francis, Joe Vellano, Anthony Rashad White, Scott Vallone
The Patriots used Wilfork and Kelly in the base defense, but when they went to sub packages, they brought in Benard. Benard took over that role once Cunningham went down. Benard’s been the better player during training camp, which could earn him a spot on the roster over the 2010 second-rounder.
Forston, Grissom and White all made some standout plays on Friday night. Francis was getting reps on the edge, standing up, and inside.
Edge Defender: Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich, Marcus Benard, Justin Francis, Jermaine Cunningham, Michael Buchanan, Jake Bequette, Jason Vega
Since the Patriots use their third defensive end inside, you have to give the third slot to Benard for now. In a bit of a surprise, Buchanan was receiving snaps before Bequette. Buchanan looked solid coming off the edge, pressuring Matt Barkley a number of times.
Linebacker: Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes, Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins, Marcus Benard, Dane Fletcher, Steve Beauharnais, Jeff Tarpinian, A.J. Edds, Mike Rivera
Benard finds his way onto the linebacker depth chart too, since he was playing all over the field against the Eagles. All of the linebackers played well on Friday night, though it looked like Spikes was getting reps before Hightower in the nickel defense.
Cornerback: Aqib Talib, Kyle Arrington, Alfonzo Dennard, Ras-I Dowling, Devin McCourty, Logan Ryan, Marquice Cole, Justin Green, Brandon Jones
With Dennard and Dowling out, Ryan got a lot of action on Friday night. Ryan wasn’t perfect, but he showed the Patriots they’ll be able to survive if Dowling misses time again this season. Green isn’t a bad player to have at the end of the depth chart. He could be a practice squad candidate.
Safety: Devin McCourty, Adrian Wilson, Steve Gregory, Duron Harmon, Tavon Wilson, Marquice Cole, Kanorris Davis, Nate Ebner
For now, it looks like Harmon has passed Tavon Wilson on the depth chart. Both players got a lot of snaps with the second team, but Harmon has been playing better during training camp and reportedly got some reps next to McCourty during joint practices with the Eagles.
Kicker: Stephen Gostkowski
Gostkowski doesn’t have any competition, but missing two field goals on Friday night could change that.
Punter: Zoltan Mesko, Ryan Allen
Damaris Johnson returned a punt 62 yards off Allen, but the rookie averaged 54 yards per punt, while Mesko averaged 44.7. This battle will wage on throughout camp.
Longsnapper: Danny Aiken, Mike Zupancic
Aiken should have this job locked up, but Zupancic was re-signed to the roster.
Photo via Twitter/@LundgaardK