With just one preseason game remaining, the New England Patriots’ roster still features myriad question marks.
Here are seven(-ish) roster battles that will be decided when the Patriots host the New York Giants on Thursday night in their final tuneup for the 2019 season:
Will the Patriots keep two QBs or all three? We likely won’t know the answer to that question until cutdown day (Saturday at 4 p.m. ET), but Thursday night could give us some indication. Rookie Jarrett Stidham is going to play in this game regardless, but if Brian Hoyer takes snaps, as well, that would suggest his spot on the roster is not safe.
If the Patriots have enough faith in Stidham to make him Tom Brady’s primary backup, Hoyer would be an obvious trade candidate, with Indianapolis being a potential landing spot following Andrew Luck’s retirement.
David Andrews’ health situation — he was hospitalized this week, reportedly for blood clots in his lungs, and is expected to miss significant time, if not the entire season — complicated things up front for New England, as did the team’s lack of a proven swing tackle.
The Patriots addressed both of those concerns Wednesday by swinging trades for Arizona Cardinals tackle Korey Cunningham and Baltimore Ravens guard/tackle Jermaine Eluemunor, both of whom have starting experience. Those moves made it exponentially more difficult for any of the Patriots’ current O-line backups — save for Ted Karras, who likely will start in Andrews’ place, and fourth-round rookie Hjalte Froholdt — to make the roster.
The Patriots did carry nine O-linemen for more than half of last season, though, so there’s a chance one more could sneak his way on if Andrews is placed on the reserve/non-football illness list. Since Karras is the only roster lock who’s played center at the NFL level, another player with snapping ability (i.e. James Ferentz or Tyler Gauthier) could be appealing. Ferentz and Gauthier both will see extensive playing time against the Giants.
With Ben Watson (four games) and Lance Kendricks (one game) both facing suspensions, expect multiple alterations to the Patriots’ tight end group during the early portion of the season. Ryan Izzo, Matt LaCosse, Stephen Anderson and Eric Saubert are the ones currently vying for spots on the initial 53-man list.
The “if he doesn’t play in Week 4 of the preseason, he’s made the team” model doesn’t really apply to this unit since LaCosse and Anderson both have missed time with injuries of late. But if Izzo sits out, you can safely pencil him onto the roster. We’re expecting LaCosse to stick, too, that’s not set in stone.
WIDE RECEIVER/PUNT RETURNER
The Patriots might already have their receiving corps set — Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon, Demaryius Thomas, Phillip Dorsett and Jakobi Meyers all should be safe — and if Bill Belichick continues to be comfortable using Edelman to return punts, that spot is sewn up, as well.
But this is the final opportunity for Braxton Berrios and Gunner Olszewski to prove they belong on this team. Berrios missing last week’s game might have crippled his already-slim chances, especially since Olszewski looked great in the return game in his absence.
Following Mike Pennel’s release this week, David Parry is squarely in the mix for a roster spot as Danny Shelton’s backup at nose tackle. He’s competing with Nick Thurman there. At defensive end, it remains unclear whether Deatrich Wise — an awkward fit in New England’s new 3-4 scheme — will stick around for a third season. If not, he could be a trade candidate.
The two names to watch here are Calvin Munson and Elandon Roberts. Brandon King’s season-ending injury might have opened a spot for Munson, who’s enjoyed a strong summer defensively and also can fill the King role on special teams. As for Roberts, we’ve talked all offseason about how having him and second-year pro Ja’Whaun Bentley on the roster could be redundant. Are he and Munson fighting for one spot?
Duke Dawson’s last stand. Will the 2018 second-round draft pick be able to convince the Patriots to roster seven cornerbacks or jettison valuable special teamer Keion Crossen? Or will he become the first Patriots player in the Belichick era to be cut one year after being drafted in the first two rounds?
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images