The New England Patriots’ initial roster battles were settled when Bill Belichick trimmed his team to 53 players this weekend.
Now it’s time to sort out the depth chart. The Patriots still could see movement at wide receiver, guard and cornerback during the season.
Here’s who we’re projecting to start in Week 1 against the Arizona Cardinals.
Tom Brady (suspended)
See that banner on the Gillette Stadium lighthouse? Yeah, Brady’s still the starter when he returns in Week 5. But until then, it’s Jimmy’s team. Kind of.
Dion Lewis (PUP)
Blount will take over the early down role until (or if) Lewis returns from a knee surgery.
Dion Lewis (PUP)
The sub-back role will go to White until Lewis recovers. Even when Lewis returns, Blount and White likely still will receive reps.
Harbor offers depth at this position and tight end, but Develin remains one of the best fullbacks in the NFL.
Chris Hogan – Danny Amendola
Edelman will be on the field for most offensive downs, while Hogan and Amendola likely will share the No. 2 role depending on the offensive set.
Rob Gronkowski – Martellus Bennett
Derby proved to be a more dangerous weapon than Harbor during training camp and preseason.
Nate Solder – Marcus Cannon
Sebastian Vollmer (not expected to return off PUP)
Fleming came onto the field before Waddle on Thursday after Solder suffered an injury in the Patriots’ preseason finale.
Tre Jackson (PUP)
Thuney is the clear-cut starter at left guard. After reportedly trading Josh Kline to the Philadelphia Eagles, it appears the Patriots are confident Mason or Cooper will be healthy to start the season.
Kline also will back up Andrews at center.
INTERIOR DEFENSIVE LINE
Malcom Brown – Alan Branch
Johnson will be used on third down in pass-rushing situations, while Valentine likely will rotate with both Brown and Branch.
Jabaal Sheard – Rob Ninkovich (suspended)
Ninkovich still projects to be a starter when he returns from a four-game suspension, but strong performances by Long and Flowers potentially could change that.
Dont’a Hightower – Jamie Collins
Barkevious Mingo – Shea McClellin
Mingo proved he’s more linebacker than defensive end in his Patriots preseason debut. McClellin and Freeny also likely will receive reps as a third linebacker.
Malcolm Butler – Logan Ryan
Coleman was the Patriots’ third cornerback over Cyrus Jones in Week 4 of the preseason. Cyrus could move up the depth chart as the season progresses. Rowe provides size at an otherwise small-statured position.
Devin McCourty – Patrick Chung
Ebner received defensive playing time over Richards on Thursday. Richards struggled in man coverage throughout the summer. Rowe can fill in at both safety and cornerback.
Stephen Gostkowski – Ryan Allen – Joe Cardona
Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images
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