Patriots 53-Man Roster Projection: Predicting Cuts Before Preseason

Featuring some tough cuts in the secondary and at linebacker

by

August 8

With nine training camp practices in the books and the preseason opener on the horizon, the New England Patriots’ 53-man roster is starting to take shape.

The Patriots shared some early hints last Friday, separating their roster into one team of starters and key contributors and one team of backups for a game simulation held inside Gillette Stadium.

Is every player from that starters squad a roster lock? Certainly not. But the primetime practice offered an informative look at the Patriots’ current depth chart, providing some intel on how some of the team’s competitive roster battles are shaking out.

Ahead of Thursday night’s exhibition matchup against the New York Giants, here’s our latest attempt at predicting the Patriots’ final roster:

QUARTERBACK (3)
In: Mac Jones, Brian Hoyer, Bailey Zappe
Out: None

The Patriots like what they’ve seen from the rookie Zappe, who’s gotten plenty of reps in camp with Hoyer missing time with a reported illness. Could a strong preseason win him the top backup job? Perhaps. But there’s value in keeping Hoyer, who got $3 million guaranteed this offseason and is an important mentor for Jones. It’d also help to have a veteran voice in the QB room with Joe Judge coaching the position for the first time.

RUNNING BACK (4)
In: Damien Harris, Rhamondre Stevenson, Pierre Strong, Ty Montgomery
PUP: James White
Out: J.J. Taylor, Kevin Harris

Montgomery’s versatility allows the Patriots to carry fewer traditional running backs in this projection. He’s listed as a wide receiver but has seen just as many reps in the backfield this summer, if not more, looking like a strong candidate to handle third-down back duties if White can’t recover from hip surgery in time for the season. Stevenson and Strong also could see snaps in that role, and if the latter stays healthy after seemingly shaking an early-camp injury, it could be hard for the Patriots to find room for Taylor or Harris on the 53.

WIDE RECEIVER (5)
In: Jakobi Meyers, DeVante Parker, Kendrick Bourne, Nelson Agholor, Tyquan Thornton
Out: Tre Nixon, Kristian Wilkerson, Lil’Jordan Humphrey, Josh Hammond

Don’t write off Nixon, who was awesome in minicamp and saw increased reps with Jones and the offensive regulars in the second week of training camp. But this is a deep group, and the 2021 seventh-round draft pick still has repped mostly with the scout team this summer. Montgomery can contribute here, too, as well as on special teams.

TIGHT END (3)
In: Hunter Henry, Jonnu Smith, Devin Asiasi
Out: Dalton Keene, Matt Sokol

Asiasi hasn’t been perfect in camp, but he’s clearly outperformed Keene, who still cannot seem to stay healthy, and Sokol. With the Patriots expected to utilize much more two-tight end sets this season, they need some depth at the position in case of an injury to Henry or Smith.

OFFENSIVE LINE (8)
In: Trent Brown, Cole Strange, David Andrews, Mike Onwenu, Isaiah Wynn, Justin Herron, Arlington Hambright, James Ferentz
NFI: Chasen Hines, Andrew Stueber
Out: Yodny Cajuste, Yasir Durant, Will Sherman, Drew Desjarlais, Bill Murray, Kody Russey

Hambright, a 2020 seventh-round draft pick by the Chicago Bears, has been a recent riser, rotating in with Onwenu at right guard on the first-team O-line in the last several practices. Herron is the clear third tackle, and Ferentz is the second-choice center behind Andrews, though the Patriots could look to carry him on the practice squad to start the season.

DEFENSIVE LINE (6)
In: Davon Godchaux, Lawrence Guy, Christian Barmore, Deatrich Wise, Henry Anderson, LaBryan Ray
Suspended: Daniel Ekuale
Out: Carl Davis, Sam Roberts, DaMarcus Mitchell, Jeremiah Pharms

An undrafted rookie has made the Patriots’ Week 1 roster in each of the last 18 seasons. This year, it’s Ray, a former five-star recruit whose Alabama career was wrecked by injuries. He’s been disruptive in camp, flashing in both 1-on-1s and team drills. He gets the nod here over the veteran Davis and sixth-round rookie Roberts.

LINEBACKER (8)
In: Matthew Judon, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Raekwon McMillan, Mack Wilson, Josh Uche, Anfernee Jennings, Cameron McGrone, Ronnie Perkins
Out: Jahlani Tavai, Harvey Langi, Nate Wieland

We strongly considered keeping Tavai after hearing Bill Belichick rave about him in a radio interview last week, but his health now is a question mark after he left last Thursday’s practice with an apparent lower leg injury. That keeps him off in this projection. Perkins hasn’t shown much this summer, but his status as a 2021 third-round pick should earn him another shot. The much-hyped McGrone also makes the cut more for potential than performance, as he’s been quiet this summer. Jennings’ stock, meanwhile, is much higher now than it was at the outset of camp. He’s filled in for an absent Judon on the top defensive unit of late.

CORNERBACK (7)
In: Jalen Mills, Terrance Mitchell, Malcolm Butler, Jonathan Jones, Marcus Jones, Jack Jones, Justin Bethel
Out: Shaun Wade, Myles Bryant, Joejuan Williams

We spotlighted Butler as a potential surprise cut last week. His spot is far from guaranteed after an up-and-down start to camp. But he was with the top team in last Friday’s simulated game, so he sticks for the time being. We’ll be watching to see if Wade, who’s played both in the slot and outside in camp, can separate himself in preseason games and joint practices. Bryant is versatile and well-liked in the locker room, but the presence of roster-lock rookie Marcus Jones makes him redundant. The only real long shot here is Williams, the disappointing 2019 second-rounder.

SAFETY (4)
In: Devin McCourty, Adrian Phillips, Kyle Dugger, Jabrill Peppers
Out: Joshuah Bledsoe, Brenden Schooler, Jalen Elliott, Brad Hawkins

The single toughest cut on this roster was Bledsoe. He’s seen substantial work with the top defense with Peppers injured and the team managing McCourty’s workload, and he was a ball hawk early in camp. But will he have a role in this loaded position group once those veterans are full-go? For now, we begrudgingly left him off. Schooler also has an intriguing roster case as a special teams-only player, but we couldn’t carve out a spot for the athletic UDFA, either.

SPECIALISTS (5)
In: K Nick Folk, P Jake Bailey, LS Joe Cardona, ST Matthew Slater, ST Cody Davis
Out: K Tristan Vizcaino, P Jake Julien

Bailey’s new contract extension extinguished any potential competition at punter. The reliable Folk re-signed this offseason and should be safe, too.

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