Patriots Roster Projection: Defensive Line Versatility Allows Extra Safety


Aug 19, 2015

Bill Belichick’s infatuation with versatility should come in handy when the New England Patriots are forced to make tough cuts at the end of the summer.

The Patriots must whittle their roster down from 90 to 75 players on Sept. 1 and again down to 53 on Sept. 5. Belichick praised rookie defensive linemen Geneo Grissom and Trey Flowers for their versatility this week, and that ability to play multiple positions could allow the Patriots to carry fewer players in their front seven and more in the secondary.

Check out’s latest 53-man roster projection:

In: Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo, Ryan Lindley
Brady currently is suspended four games to begin the season. If that suspension holds up, Lindley, or another quarterback, will be on the roster in September. If Brady’s suspension is thrown out, Lindley will be off.

LeGarrette Blount, James White, Jonas Gray, Travaris Cadet, Brandon Bolden, James Develin
Out: Tony Creecy, Eric Kettani, Dion Lewis

Blount also is suspended one game to start the season. When he returns to the team in Week 2, a player like Travaris Cadet could be off the team. Cadet has been injured in training camp, and he will need to impress when he returns to the field to be guaranteed a roster spot past Week 1.

Julian Edelman, Brandon LaFell, Danny Amendola, Aaron Dobson, Brandon Gibson, Matthew Slater
Out: Josh Boyce, Zach D’Orazio, Chris Harper, Jonathan Krause, Brian Tyms

Brian Tyms had a rough start to camp with a series of drops followed by an injury. He’s been much better since being back on the field, but Gibson has been extremely dependable in practices, and Dobson has higher upside. Dobson will need to get back on the field soon to beat out Tyms, however.

Rob Gronkowski, Scott Chandler, Michael Hoomanawanui
Out: Jake Bequette, Asante Cleveland, Jimmay Mundine

The Patriots sent offensive lineman Jordan Devey to the San Francisco 49ers for Cleveland on Tuesday, but that trade only boosts the Patriots’ training camp depth at tight end and shouldn’t affect the regular-season roster.

Nate Solder, Bryan Stork, Tre’ Jackson, Sebastian Vollmer, Shaq Mason, Cameron Fleming, Marcus Cannon, Josh Kline, David Andrews
Out: Mark Asper, Chris Barker, Ryan Groy, Caylin Hauptmann, Chris Martin
PUP: Ryan Wendell

Wendell has yet to return to practice, so at this point, we’ll guess he starts the season on the PUP list. If Wendell returns, either Kline or Andrews, both of whom have practiced at center with Stork out, would be off the roster. Kline likely has the upper hand to make the team at this point, given his experience in the system, which includes a start in last season’s AFC Championship Game.

Chandler Jones, Sealver Siliga, Alan Branch, Rob Ninkovich, Jabaal Sheard, Malcom Brown, Dominique Easley, Geneo Grissom, Trey Flowers
Out: Zach Moore, Antonio Johnson, Rufus Johnson, A.J. Pataiali’i, Joe Vellano, Casey Walker, Eric Martin, Dekoda Watson
PUP: Chris Jones

Moore is a tough cut, but he struggled in the Patriots’ preseason opener in his new role as an interior defensive lineman. He might be best served to spend a year on the practice squad mastering the position.

The Patriots have loads of versatility along their defensive line. Chandler Jones, Ninkovich, Sheard, Easley, Grissom and Flowers all can play defensive end, while Chandler Jones, Siliga, Branch, Brown, Easley, Grissom and Flowers all can play defensive tackle.

Chris Jones has yet to be spotted in practice while he’s on the PUP list. We’ll assume for now he starts the season on PUP. Rufus Johnson had an impressive preseason opener, but he also was injured in the game. If he can regain his health and continue to impress, he could find a spot on the Patriots’ roster.

Dont’a Hightower, Jerod Mayo, Jamie Collins, Jonathan Freeny, James Morris
Out: Xzavier Dickson, Darius Fleming, Cameron Gordon, Brandon King

PUP: Dane Fletcher
The Patriots typically like to carry more than five linebackers, but there isn’t an obvious sixth choice in that group. They could elect to keep a hybrid defensive end/linebacker like Rufus Johnson, Martin or Watson to improve their depth. Ninkovich, Sheard and Grissom also have experience at linebacker.

Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan, Tarell Brown, Robert McClain, Darryl Roberts
Out: Bradley Fletcher, Jimmy Jean, Daxton Swanson

The only cornerback guaranteed a starting spot at this point is Butler, though Brown seems to be making a strong case to be the Patriots’ slot cornerback. Roberts currently is injured, but it seems to make more sense to carry a rookie as a fifth cornerback over a veteran like Fletcher.

Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, Jordan Richards, Tavon Wilson, Nate Ebner
Bill Belichick loves special teams, OK? And this group is full of some of the Patriots’ best special-teamers. Because versatility allows the Patriots to carry a limited number of defensive front-seven players, they could carry a surplus of safeties because of their value in special teams.

Stephen Gostkowski, Ryan Allen, Joe Cardona

The Patriots have elected not to bring in competition for any of their specialists.

Last three in: Nate Ebner, Tavon Wilson, Darryl Roberts

Last three out: Zach Moore, Brian Tyms, Rufus Johnson

Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports

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