Ranking Patriots From Roster Locks To Long Shots Ahead Of Cutdown Day

Evaluating the Patriots' roster battles ahead of cutdown day

by

The New England Patriots must slice their roster from 79 players to 53 by 4 p.m. ET on Saturday. As cutdown day approaches, here’s a closer look at each position battle:

QUARTERBACK
Locks: Cam Newton, Jarrett Stidham
Near locks: Brian Hoyer

The Patriots theoretically could try to carry Hoyer on their practice squad, which now can include up to six players with unlimited NFL experience. But given Newton’s injury history, Stidham’s rocky summer and the ever-present threat of COVID-19, we’d keep all three. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise us if Hoyer, not Stidham, entered the season as New England’s No. 2 quarterback.

RUNNING BACK
Locks: James White, Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead, Damien Harris
On the bubble: Lamar Miller, J.J. Taylor

Miller will have less than a week to prove he deserves a roster spot after being removed from the physically unable to perform list on Monday. If the Patriots don’t like what they see from the veteran, perhaps Taylor, an intriguing undrafted rookie who also has return ability, sneaks onto the 53. (Update: Harris’s reported hand injury, which could sideline him for the start of the regular season, increases Miller’s chances of sticking. Harris has missed the last two practices.)

FULLBACK
Near locks: Jakob Johnson
Long shots: Paul Quessenberry

The Patriots want to keep the fullback position in their offense, and Johnson has had no legitimate competition since Danny Vitale opted out. Quessenberry, who hasn’t played organized football in five years, is a practice squad candidate.

TIGHT END
Locks: Devin Asiasi, Dalton Keene
On the bubble: Ryan Izzo
Long shots: Jake Burt, Paul Burton

Izzo had a solid camp after being exiled to Healthy Scratch Land last season, but if the Patriots look to bolster this extremely young group with a trade acquisition or waiver-wire pickup, he’d be the one to go. Burt would be a nice player to have on the practice squad.

WIDE RECEIVER
Locks: Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry
Near locks: Gunner Olszewski
On the bubble: Damiere Byrd, Jakobi Meyers, Devin Ross, Jeff Thomas
Long shots: Isaiah Zuber, Andre Baccellia

The Patriots already removed one player from this equation when they cut ties with veteran Mohamed Sanu on Wednesday. Olszewski, who likely will be the Patriots’ top punt returner, bumped himself up to near lock status with an excellent camp. Byrd was far from spectacular this summer, but his speed makes him the current top candidate for the No. 3 receiver spot. Meyers showed a lot of promise last season but hasn’t been fully healthy since the first few days of camp, and Ross has faded to the back of the pack after a hot start. Thomas would be more of a long-term play. He didn’t show much in camp but is a high-ceiling UDFA who might not pass through waivers if released. Overall, this looks like one of the weakest receiving corps in the NFL. A trade/waiver addition would make a lot of sense.

OFFENSIVE LINE
Locks: David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Joe Thuney, Isaiah Wynn, Jermaine Eluemunor, Hjalte Froholdt
Near locks: Mike Onwenu
On the bubble: Yodny Cajuste, Korey Cunningham, Justin Herron
Long shots: Ben Braden, Tyler Gauthier

This unit lacks proven depth at all five spots — Froholdt, who’s yet to appear in a regular-season game, and the rookie Onwenu look like the top interior backup options — and is especially thin at tackle. It could seriously benefit from at least one veteran addition.

DEFENSIVE LINE
Locks: Lawrence Guy, Adam Butler
Near locks: Deatrich Wise, Byron Cowart, Beau Allen
On the bubble: Xavier Williams
Long shots: Bill Murray, Nick Thurman, Michael Barnett

This group likely will be Guy, Butler, Wise, Cowart and Allen to begin the season, but Allen’s injury is concerning. He has yet to practice in pads this summer and has attended (but did not participate in) just one practice at which reporters were present. Allen’s $2.75 million in guaranteed money means he’s unlikely to be cut, but if the Patriots plan to move him to injured reserve after cutdown day, they could choose to roster a player like Williams, who signed late in camp.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKER
Locks: John Simon, Chase Winovich
Near locks: Shilique Calhoun, Brandon Copeland
On the bubble: Derek Rivers
Long shots: Rashod Berry, Tashawn Bower

Not a lot of Patriots experience in this group outside of Simon. Can Rivers, who’s garnered plenty of praise from Bill and Steve Belichick, finally contribute this season?

INSIDE LINEBACKER
Locks: Ja’Whaun Bentley, Josh Uche, Anfernee Jennings
On the bubble: Cassh Maluia, Terez Hall
Long shots: Scoota Harris

One of Maluia (a rookie sixth-rounder) or Hall (a 2019 UDFA) likely will be on the roster. We’d give the edge here to Maluia, who made more plays in camp and has the speed to be a factor on special teams. Hall has played well too, though, and has more than a year of experience in New England’s system.

CORNERBACK
Locks: Stephon Gilmore, Jason McCourty, J.C. Jackson, Jonathan Jones
Near locks: Justin Bethel
Long shots: Myles Bryant, Michael Jackson, D’Angelo Ross

Not a lot of drama here. Bryant, Jackson and Ross all have flashed at times this summer, but this group simply is too deep to fit any of them.

SAFETY
Locks: Devin McCourty, Kyle Dugger
Near locks: Terrence Brooks, Adrian Phillips, Cody Davis, Joejuan Williams

Phillips could be in danger after missing nearly all of training camp with an injury, but his contract includes $3 million guaranteed, putting him in the same boat as Allen. All six of these players could see defensive playing time as the Patriots look to replace Patrick Chung and Duron Harmon. Brooks, Phillips and Davis all are top-tier special teamers, too. Williams, who’s listed as a cornerback, could play multiple positions in New England’s secondary.

SPECIALISTS
Locks: P Jake Bailey, LS Joe Cardona, ST Matthew Slater
Near locks: K Nick Folk
Long shots: K Justin Rohrwasser

After their lopsided training camp competition, it would be very surprising if the Patriots kept Rohrwasser over Folk.

Thumbnail photo via New England Patriots

Previous Article

Patriots Final 53-Man Roster Projection: Who Sticks At Wide Receiver?

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady
Next Article

How Tom Brady Felt About Camp Trash Talk From Bucs Defensive End

Picked For You