Patriots’ Week 1 Projected Depth Chart Includes Shallow Group At Receiver

The New England Patriots trimmed, shuffled then reshuffled their roster, and now it’s time to look forward to Week 1 of the regular season.

Here’s our best guess at what the Patriots’ depth chart looks like with the season opener around the corner:

QUARTERBACK
Tom Brady
Brian Hoyer
Practice squad: Danny Etling

Hoyer, shockingly, didn’t pass Brady on the depth chart this summer. There’s always next year.

RUNNING BACK
Rex Burkhead
Jeremy Hill
Sony Michel
Practice squad: Ralph Webb

Burkhead and Michel were banged up this summer, and their status for Week 1 is still unclear. Initial reports indicated both players should be good to go for the regular season, but then their injuries lingered through the preseason.

Based on Patriots roster cuts, it seems the Patriots expect to have at least one of those players against the Texans. Hill isn’t a bad player to fall back on if necessary. Michel might have some work to do before rising up the depth chart.

THIRD-DOWN BACK
James White
Rex Burkhead
Sony Michel
Practice squad: Ralph Webb

Patriots running backs coach Ivan Fears called White one of the best third-down backs in the NFL this week. He’s not wrong. White likely will be counted on heavily through the first four weeks of the season.

FULLBACK
James Develin

Develin has no backup and no competition.

WIDE RECEIVER
Chris Hogan/Phillip Dorsett
Cordarrelle Patterson
Riley McCarron
Chad Hansen

Matthew Slater
Practice squad: Jace Billingsley, Riley McCarron
Suspended: Julian Edelman

Some Patriots fans are losing their minds with panic over this group. All I can say is: Calm down, and what are the Patriots supposed to do about it at this point? It’s not as if they didn’t try to address the position over the offseason.

Dorsett did enough in the preseason to show he can be a No. 2 through the first four weeks of the season. Hogan is coming off an eight-catch, 126-yard, one-touchdown performance in Super Bowl LII. Patterson is fine as a No. 3 with other offensive weapons on the roster. And Hansen serves as insurance in case one of those three players goes down with an injury.

The Patriots looked like they had great wide receiver depth as recently as July. Then Kenny Britt, Jordan Matthews, Malcolm Mitchell and Braxton Berrios all didn’t work out. And the Patriots couldn’t prepare for Edelman’s suspension during free agency and the draft.

So, if there’s not a trade available, then what are they supposed to do? They get by until Edelman returns.

TIGHT END
Rob Gronkowski
Dwayne Allen/Jacob Hollister
Practice squad: Stephen Anderson

Hollister and Allen likely will split time as the No. 2. Hollister is the receiving option, and Allen is the blocker.

OFFENSIVE TACKLE
LT Trent Brown, RT Marcus Cannon
LaAdrian Waddle
Practice squad: Cole Croston, Eric Smith

We expected the Patriots to keep a fourth offensive tackle. Instead, they took a risk and slipped Croston onto the practice squad.

GUARD
LG Joe Thuney, RG Shaq Mason
Ted Karras
Brian Schwenke
Practice squad: Cole Croston, Eric Smith, James Ferentz

Thuney and Mason are solid as starters, and Karras is a top backup. Schwenke has 30 games of starting experience.

CENTER
David Andrews
Ted Karras
Brian Schwenke
Practice squad: James Ferentz

The Patriots are in good shape here.

DEFENSIVE END
Trey Flowers/Deatrich Wise
Adrian Clayborn
Keionta Davis
Geneo Grissom
Derek Rivers
Practice squad: Trent Harris

We had a tough time deciding whether to project Wise or Clayborn as the first-teamer. Clayborn hasn’t been a regular starter — serving instead as a situational pass rusher — since 2013. Wise started four games for the Patriots last season. Wise started Week 1 and 3 of the preseason, while Clayborn started Week 2. We’ll go with Wise.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE
Malcom Brown/Lawrence Guy
Danny Shelton
Adam Butler
Practice squad: Vincent Valentine

We also had a hard time deciding between Shelton and Brown as the starter. They could even both start with Guy coming off the bench. It’s likely Shelton, Guy and Brown all get a similar share of snaps no matter who is on the field first. Butler is the third-down interior rusher of the group.

LINEBACKER
Dont’a Hightower/Kyle Van Noy/
Ja’Whaun Bentley/Elandon Roberts
Geneo Grissom
Nicholas Grigsby
Brandon King

The Patriots only ran 15 percent of their snaps last season in a “regular” defense, so we project a starting defense with just two linebackers.

CORNERBACK
Stephon Gilmore/Eric Rowe
Jason McCourty
JC Jackson
Keion Crossen

Jackson and Crossen have solid upside, but we’d put McCourty on the field before the rookies if Gilmore or Rowe go down with an injury.

SLOT CORNERBACK
Jonathan Jones
Keion Crossen
Practice squad: Jomal Wiltz
Injured reserve: Duke Dawson

Dawson is eligible to return from a hamstring injury after Week 8.

SAFETY
Devin McCourty/Patrick Chung/Duron Harmon
Jason McCourty
Nate Ebner

It’s surprising the Patriots don’t have a practice squad safety on the team over Wiltz. If McCourty, Chung or Harmon suffer an injury, then the Patriots likely would go to three cornerbacks and two safeties over giving McCourty a starting share of snaps in a new position.

SPECIAL TEAMS
K Stephen Gostkowski, P Ryan Allen, LS Joe Cardona

The Patriots enter their fourth consecutive season with the same group of specialists.

Thumbnail photo via Jeremy Brevard/USA TODAY Sports Images

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