We were about to construct another New England Patriots 53-man roster projection until we realized not a whole lot has changed since our last one.
The only real difference is a roster spot opened up when offensive tackle Isaiah Wynn suffered a season-ending injury. So, who takes that spot?
Here’s our last 53-man roster projection, omitting Wynn:
In: Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer
Out: Danny Etling
RUNNING BACK (5)
In: Rex Burkhead, Sony Michel, James White, Jeremy Hill, Brandon Bolden
Out: Mike Gillislee, Ralph Webb
WIDE RECEIVER (5)
In: Chris Hogan, Kenny Britt, Phillip Dorsett, Cordarrelle Patterson, Matthew Slater
Out: Braxton Berrios, Eric Decker, Devin Lucien, Riley McCarron, Paul Turner
Suspended: Julian Edelman
TIGHT END (4)
In: Rob Gronkowski, Jacob Hollister, Dwayne Allen, James Develin
Out: Ryan Izzo, Will Tye, Henry Poggi
OFFENSIVE LINE (9)
In: Trent Brown, Joe Thuney, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Marcus Cannon, LaAdrian Waddle, Ted Karras, Cole Croston
Out: Luke Bowanko, James Ferentz, Ulrick John, Jason King, Brian Schwenke, Matt Tobin
Injured reserve: Isaiah Wynn
DEFENSIVE TACKLE (4)
In: Lawrence Guy, Danny Shelton, Malcom Brown, Adam Butler
Out: John Atkins, Frank Herron, Vincent Valentine
EDGE DEFENDERS (4)
In: Trey Flowers, Deatrich Wise, Adrian Clayborn, Derek Rivers
Out: Keionta Davis, Geneo Grissom, Trent Harris, Eric Lee
In: Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Elandon Roberts, Marquis Flowers, Brandon King, Nicholas Grigsby
Out: Christian Sam
Injured Reserve: Harvey Langi
In: Stephon Gilmore, Eric Rowe, Jason McCourty, Jonathan Jones, Duke Dawson
Out: Keion Crossen, J.C. Jackson, Cyrus Jones, Ryan Lewis, Jomal Wiltz
In: Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, Eddie Pleasant, Nate Ebner
Out: A.J. Moore, Jordan Richards, Damarius Travis
In: Stephon Gostkowski, Ryan Allen, Joe Cardona
Out: Corey Bojorquez
So, who takes that 53rd spot?
Let’s break it down into categories:
A THIRD QUARTERBACK
Etling has played sparingly through two preseason games, but if he impresses against the Carolina Panthers and New York Giants, then maybe the Patriots will want to work with him more and not expose him to waivers in hopes of getting him on the practice squad.
Or maybe the Patriots will instead choose to trade for or sign another quarterback. Would that mean the end for Hoyer? Or would the Patriots still want to keep Hoyer around until the other QB is groomed?
We kept Burkhead, Hogan and Chung around as our punt returners, but it’s possible the Patriots will decide to carry McCarron, Berrios or Cyrus Jones until Edelman returns from his four-game suspension.
McCarron and Berrios haven’t done much to impress this summer, Jones, despite working back from a torn ACL, might be the favorite among that group.
We’ll also include Decker in this group even though he’s a long shot to return punts this season. He has returned punts in his career, though, and he could still make the 53-man roster.
EXTRA OFFENSIVE LINEMAN
We have just eight offensive linemen listed above. The Patriots could get away with that since Croston plays tackle and guard and the Patriots typically dress only seven offensive linemen for games anyway. They could stash a reserve on the practice squad. John and Tobin would be the favorites to earn a roster spot. John’s been slightly better in the preseason.
The most likely candidate to make the roster, among players left off, is Davis. He started at defensive end in Thursday’s preseason game and seems like a team favorite this summer.
Another option on the defensive line would be Vincent Valentine, a 2016 third-round pick who missed all of last season with a knee injury.
The Patriots have some intriguing young cornerbacks on their roster, but none are without their imperfections. Crossen was penalized three times in Thursday’s game, Jackson was beat deep by Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nate Sudfeld, Lewis has a minor injury and Wiltz has struggled.
We could throw Cyrus Jones into this mix too. He was a 2016 second-round pick who missed all of last season with a torn ACL.
Ultimately, it comes down to Davis and Cyrus Jones for us. Davis provides versatility to rush from the edge or inside, and it’s clear the Patriots think something is there. He had 1.5 sacks Thursday night.
And Cyrus provides insurance as a punt returner, and he might still have some untapped potential as a slot cornerback. It’s worth giving him another look-see.
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images