The New England Patriots released their first unofficial depth chart over the weekend, and quite frankly, it’s a bunch of bunk.
In typical Patriots fashion, the team listed all of their rookies last on the depth chart, despite mounting evidence from practice that certain first-year pros could have big roles on the 2014 team.
Because the Patriots’ depth chart can’t be trusted, NESN.com has filled out a more accurate version based on what we’ve seen at training camp practices. Check out where each player ranks as the Patriots are preparing to play their first preseason game on Thursday against the Washington Redskins.
Mallett is having a strong training camp, while Garoppolo has played like a rookie — to be nice. Mallett will have dollar signs in his eyes as he’ll be able to show his chops in the preseason, playing for an offseason contract.
Ridley will hold that No. 1 slot unless his fumbling issues start to creep up again. White has been impressive this summer, which has allowed him to pass Bolden on the depth chart. Bolden, Houston and Gray will be playing in the preseason in hopes of forcing head coach Bill Belichick to carry a fourth running back.
The Patriots were smart to draft a player like White, who can backup both running back roles on the team. He has shown sure hands in training camp so far. Finch has impressive speed and quickness, but his size (5-foot-7, 180 pounds) could preclude him from finding a spot on the 53-man roster.
McCuller is listed as a linebacker, but he’s been backing up Develin at fullback in practice.
X WIDE RECEIVER
Thompkins has been seeing the most reps at “X” receiver, but LaFell has been nipping at his heels and still could grab the starting role. Dobson will be playing from behind when his broken foot finally heals, but he had an impressive end to his rookie season before injuries caught up.
Z WIDE RECEIVER
Edelman could be the team’s leading receiver for the second year in a row, playing the “Z” receiver role.
-Wilson Van Hooser
LaFell can play all three of the Patriots’ starting receiver roles, which added to his value as a free agent.
Gronkowski, Hoomanawanui and Williams are injured, which leaves the Patriots dangerously low on tight ends as they prepare for their first preseason game. Look for the Patriots to add another tight end this week.
-Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer
Solder and Vollmer are locked into their starting roles, but the Patriots have two solid reserves in Cannon and rookie Fleming.
-Logan Mankins, Dan Connolly
-Marcus Cannon, Josh Kline
Connolly is the de facto starter, since he was the Patriots’ right guard in 2013, but Cannon and Kline are pushing the veteran.
Wendell and Connolly both are seeing reps at center. The player who loses out on that starting role could be cut.
4-3 DEFENSIVE END
-Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich
If the Patriots elect to run a 4-3, Jones and Ninkovich will be the starters for the third straight year. Jones kicked inside to defensive tackle on third down in 2013.
4-3 DEFENSIVE TACKLE
-Vince Wilfork, Tommy Kelly
The Patriots’ front seven was solid before Wilfork and Kelly suffered injuries in 2013. The two vets receive a do-over this season. Easley has yet to take the practice field, but his upside should push him up on the depth chart when he returns from a torn ACL.
3-4 DEFENSIVE END
-Chandler Jones, Vince Wilfork
If the Patriots elect to run a 3-4 in 2014, Jones and Wilfork likely will start outside at defensive end. Jones looks to have added more muscle over the offseason, which should allow him to hold his ground better against the run.
If Siliga isn’t the starter at nose tackle, that role will be passed on to Wilfork, and Kelly will play end.
3-4 OUTSIDE LINEBACKER
-Rob Ninkovich, Dont’a Hightower
Hightower has seen more reps playing a pass-rush role than Collins, who has been dropping back into coverage from inside linebacker. Hightower was an effective rusher in college at Alabama, and he could finally see an opportunity to get after the quarterback in his third NFL season.
-Jerod Mayo, Jamie Collins, Dont’a Hightower
The Patriots are strong at starting linebacker, and there’s a lot of upside in their reserves. Newly signed Morris is at the bottom of the depth chart now, but he could start rising once he’s able to practice with the Patriots. In a 3-4, Mayo and Collins would start on the inside.
-Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner
-Logan Ryan, Alfonzo Dennard, Kyle Arrington
Browner looks primed to start for now, but he’ll miss the first four games of the season with a suspension. That could allow Ryan or Dennard to steal that starting role from the veteran.
Arrington is solid as a slot corner, but he has two young, hungry reserves behind him, who are striving for playing time.
McCourty has the starting free safety role locked down.
Harmon, Chung and Wilson are still competing for the starting role. It will be interesting to see who gets the start on Thursday against the Redskins.
Boyce could find a spot on the 53-man roster if he can prove he’s a dangerous kick returner.
Finch could steal a spot on the roster if the Patriots can trust him to handle punt return duties.
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