Patriots 53-Man Roster Locks Include Just 26 Veteran Players, Six Rookies


The New England Patriots’ preseason win over the Detroit Lions hinted at which players Bill Belichick considers locks for the 53-man roster.

These 18 veteran players are healthy and sat out the Patriots’ first preseason game:

QB Tom Brady
RB Sony Michel
RB James White
FB James Develin
WR/ST Matthew Slater
C David Andrews
OT Marcus Cannon
G Joe Thuney
G Shaq Mason
LB Kyle Van Noy
LB Dont’a Hightower
DE Michael Bennett
DT Lawrence Guy
CB Stephon Gilmore
CB Jason McCourty
CB Jonathan Jones
DB Devin McCourty
SS Patrick Chung

Lock them in for roster spots.

The following two players didn’t play Thursday night because of injuries, but they’re still locks to make the roster.

WR Julian Edelman (non-football injury list; thumb)
OL Isaiah Wynn (Achilles)

Five of the following rookies played Thursday night, but all six should be considered locks based on their draft round.

QB Jarrett Stidham
RB Damien Harris
WR N’Keal Harry
OL Hjalte Froholdt
LB Chase Winovich
CB Joejuan Williams

Harris oddly didn’t play against the Lions. We’ll see if he’s practicing when the Patriots are back at Gillette Stadium on Monday.

The following four players also played Thursday night, but we view them as locks for their special teams abilities.

RB Brandon Bolden
LB Brandon King
K Stephen Gostkowski
LS Joe Cardona

It’s worth noting Bolden and King actually didn’t play on special teams Thursday night. Bolden only played offense, and King only played defense. That tells you all you need to know. They sat out of their typical roles, because they’re making the roster.

These two defenders played Thursday night, but we’re making an exception for them.

LB Ja’Whaun Bentley
CB JC Jackson

Michel was the only second-year player to sit out Thursday night, and we’re guessing that had just as much to do with his injury history as it does his roster-lock status. Bentley isn’t a starter and only played three games last season before going down with a season-ending injury. We’re guessing the Patriots are trying to keep Jackson’s ego in check. He hasn’t been rolling with starters, and he played Thursday night. At least make him think he still needs to earn the roster spot.

So, that’s 32 locks and 21 “open” roster spots. One of those will go to a punter for whoever wins the job out of Ryan Allen and Jake Bailey.

These five players weren’t on the field because of injury. Let’s go through them one by one. We don’t consider any of them locks for the 53-man roster.

RB Rex Burkhead: Burkhead was in uniform but didn’t play. He didn’t practice all week in Detroit and was limited before the Patriots headed to the midwest. Ultimately, we think the Patriots will keep five running backs, but Burkhead’s injury gives us pause at considering him a roster lock. He’s a near-lock.

S Nate Ebner: Ebner is on the physically unable to perform list. The Patriots could free up a roster spot by keeping Ebner on PUP until Week 7. We’ll see if they do that. He’s a near-lock if healthy.

CB Ken Webster: The seventh-round pick also is on PUP. In a crowded cornerback room, Webster should hope to stay on PUP and redshirt this season.

OT Yodny Cajuste: The third-round pick is on the non-football injury list after undergoing quad surgery before the draft. If he’s healthy, he’s a lock. We have yet to see him at all this summer.

WR Demaryius Thomas: The veteran wideout is on the PUP list, as well, after tearing his Achilles in December. It would make sense to keep him on there and bring him back at midseason.

You might be wondering where these 10 players are on our list of roster locks:

QB Brian Hoyer
WR Phillip Dorsett
WR Jakobi Meyers
TE Matt LaCosse
G Ted Karras
DT Adam Butler
OLB John Simon
OLB Jamie Collins
S Terrence Brooks
S Duron Harmon

They all played Thursday night. Let’s call them near-locks.

Tight end Ben Watson is suspended and won’t take up a roster spot through four weeks.

The following players are on the roster bubble:

WR Braxton Berrios
WR Maurice Harris
TE Stephen Anderson
TE Ryan Izzo
TE Lance Kendricks
OL James Ferentz
OL Dan Skipper
DT Byron Cowart
DT David Parry
DT Mike Pennel
DT Danny Shelton
DT Nick Thurman
DE Keionta Davis
DE Ufomba Kamalu
DE Deatrich Wise Jr.
OLB Shilique Calhoun
OLB Trent Harris
OLB Derek Rivers
LB Calvin Munson
LB Elandon Roberts
CB Keion Crossen
CB Duke Dawson
S Obi Melifonwu
P Ryan Allen
P Jake Bailey

We consider these players longshots:

QB Danny Etling
RB Nick Brossette
FB Andrew Beck
FB Jakob Johnson
WR Ryan Davis
WR Dontrelle Inman
WR Gunner Olszewski
WR Damoun Patterson
OL Tyler Gauthier
OL Martez Ivey
OL Cedrick Lang
OL Tyrie St. Louis
LB Terez Hall
LB Christian Sam
CB D’Angelo Ross
S Malik Gant
S A.J. Howard

Our guess at the final 10 players — after the 32 roster locks and 11 near-locks — are Maurice Harris, Izzo, Skipper, Cowart, Pennel, Shelton, Rivers, Roberts, Crossen, Bailey.

The toughest cuts were Berrios, Wise, Calhoun and Melifonwu.

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