How Has Patriots’ Roster Changed Since Season-Opening Loss To Chiefs?

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The New England Patriots have come a long way since their lopsided home loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 1 of the NFL season, and they’ve experienced their fair share of roster turnover.

As the Patriots prepare for their divisional-round playoff game next Saturday, let’s take a look at how this current Pats team compares to the one we saw in the regular-season opener.

(Note: Some players listed as “out” no longer are on the roster, while others simply have had their roles diminished thanks to injuries or other factors.)

QUARTERBACK
In:
Brian Hoyer (as the backup)
Out: Jimmy Garoppolo

The Patriots certainly had consistency under center this season, as Tom Brady started all 16 games and is the favorite to take home his third NFL MVP award. The depth chart behind Brady did change during the season, with Hoyer returning to New England after backup QB Garoppolo was traded to the San Francisco 49ers.

RUNNING BACK
In:
Dion Lewis
Out: Mike Gillislee

The personnel here hasn’t changed, but the roles have — drastically. Lewis and Gillislee effectively switched spots, with Lewis playing just seven offensive snaps in Week 1 but leading the team in rushing in each of its final 12 games. Gillislee, on the other hand, was inactive for most of the second half of the season after rushing for three touchdowns in the opener.

WIDE RECEIVER
In: Kenny Britt, potentially Malcolm Mitchell
Out: None

Danny Amendola, Brandin Cooks and Phillip Dorsett have been mainstays in the Patriots’ receiving corps all season. Chris Hogan missed seven of the final eight games but should be back for the playoffs. Britt joined the fray last month after an unceremonious exit from Cleveland, and Mitchell, who hasn’t played this season but returned to practice last week, could be activated off injured reserve for New England’s divisional-round game.

TIGHT END
In: None
Out: None

Martellus Bennett was a surprising midseason addition, but he landed on IR after just two games. Other than that, it’s been Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen and Jacob Hollister — in that order — carrying the load.

OFFENSIVE LINE
In: Cameron Fleming
Out: Marcus Cannon

The only change to the O-line came at right tackle, with Fleming replacing Cannon after the latter was placed on IR. LaAdrian Waddle was Cannon’s original replacement, but he suffered an injury of his own and finished off the season as the Patriots’ swing tackle.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE
In: Ricky Jean Francois
Out: None

Alan Branch endured a disappointing season and missed the final three games of it with a knee injury, though he still should have a role in the playoffs after returning to practice this week. But Jean Francois, now in his second stint with the Patriots this season, has played well in his absence.

DEFENSIVE END
In: Eric Lee
Out: Cassius Marsh

Marsh was a major disappointment and was cut in November. Lee has his flaws, particularly in the run game, but has shown flashes of pass-rushing brilliance since being signed off the Buffalo Bills’ practice squad.

LINEBACKER
In: James Harrison, Marquis Flowers
Out: Dont’a Hightower

Harrison, the former Pittsburgh Steelers star, looked like an excellent late-season pickup in his first game with the Patriots. Flowers, who began the season as a special teams-only player, finished it as one of New England’s more consistent defenders. Kyle Van Noy missed three games late in the season but should be active for the divisional round. No team wants to lose a player of Hightower’s caliber, but the Patriots’ defensive stats haven’t suffered since he hit IR after Week 7.

CORNERBACK
In: None
Out: None

This group underwent a few in-season tweaks — Johnson Bademosi replacing an injured Stephon Gilmore; Jonathan Jones as the third corner over Eric Rowe — but returned to its original alignment in the final few weeks of the regular season, with Gilmore and Malcolm Butler starting and Rowe playing the nickel.

SAFETY
In: None
Out: None

The Patriots’ most consistent position group remained healthy and intact all season. Special teams ace Nate Ebner, who didn’t play a single defensive snap this season, was its lone casualty.

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