Patriots 53-man roster projection: 3.0

Evaluating where the roster stands after the Patriots trounce the Lions in their first preseason game.

The New England Patriots put an absolute beating on the Detroit Lions in Week 1 of the preseason winning by a score of 31-3. It's even worse for the Lions when you take a look at the total yards for both teams. The Patriots put up a total of 459 yards of total offense while holding the Lions to a mere 93 yards.

New England's pass rush was also on full display putting up nine sacks during the exhibition game. To sum it up, the Lions offense couldn't get anything going and the Patriots offense could not be stopped.

There were a lot more winners than there were losers in Week 1 of the preseason which makes this roster projection even more difficult than it's been in weeks past. I can't remember a deeper New England team which means when cut day comes on August 31st, the Patriots front office is going to be faced with a lot of tough decisions. That said, let's take a look at what the roster will look like when the team is forced to trim their roster from 91 to 53.

Quarterback

  • Tom Brady
  • Brian Hoyer
  • Jarrett Stidham

Cut: Danny Etling

Stidham was about as good as you could have hoped for in the preseason opener. The rookie quarterback was cool, calm, collected in the pocket and looked very worthy of the fourth round selection that the team used on him in the 2019 Draft. Stidham completed 14 of 24 passes for 179 yards with a touchdown and may have recorded two more had Maurice Harris been able to corral two dimes in his breadbasket. 

While Stidham looked great, a lot of his production came against the third and fourth stringers on the Lions defense. Hoyer played the majority of his snaps against the second defensive unit and looked nearly unstoppable completing 12 of 14 passes for 144 yards and two touchdowns.

Taking all this into account, I'm not ready to hand over the backup quarterback spot to Stidham just yet. It's going to take much more than a solid preseason game against a suspect Detroit defense for Stidham to beat out the veteran. Hoyer's job is safe for now.

Runningback

  • Sony Michel
  • James White
  • Rex Burkhead
  • Damien Harris
  • Brandon Bolden

Cut: Nick Brossette

Brossette was the team's workhorse against the Lions toting the rock 22 times for 66 yards and a touchdown. Not too bad for the undrafted rookie out of LSU, but Brossette finds himself buried on the depth chart behind four capable NFL runningbacks and a special teams ace in Bolden. Brosette likely saw an increased workload because the team didn't need to see any of the other backs in action. 

The running back position is locked in barring injury.

Tight End/Fullback

  • Matt LaCosse
  • Stephen Anderson
  • James Develin

Suspended: Ben Watson

Cut: Ryan Izzo, Andrew Beck, Lance Kendricks, Jakob Johnson

LaCosse caught two receptions for 37 yards in the opener but it looks like he still needs to improve on his blocking in the running game. He's still the favorite to be the starter when Watson is serving his four-game suspension but if he can't improve his blocking soon then Anderson's roster spot could indirectly be affected. 

The team may opt to carry a traditional blocking tight end in Izzo instead of Anderson who's classified as a "flex" TE which essentially means he is more of a receiver than he is a blocker.

It wouldn't make sense for New England to carry two receiving TE's who can't block so if LaCosse or Anderson can't show they are effective blockers soon, then Anderson would likely be out and Izzo would be in.

Wide Receiver

  • Julian Edelman
  • N'keal Harry
  • Phillip Dorsett
  • Maurice Harris
  • Jakobi Meyers
  • Braxton Berrios

PUP: Demaryius Thomas 

 Suspended: Josh Gordon

Cut: Dontrelle Inman, Damoun Patterson, Ryan Davis, Gunner Olszewski 

Meyers was the star of the preseason opener after recording six catches for 69 yards and two touchdowns. After an already strong start to camp, Meyers is looking more and more like a lock to make the final 53-man roster which would make it 16 straight seasons that an UDFA has made New England's final roster.

Berrios' route running looked excellent against Detroit but what was even more impressive was his ability as a punt returner. The shifty receiver returned 4 punts for 35 yards (8.8 avg) and also caught three balls for 45 yards. With Edelman expected to be back before the start of the regular season, there won't be much opportunity for Berrios to see the field on offense. His best chance is to stick around as the team's primary punt returner, similar to the role Edelman played behind Welker from 2009-2012. Berrios could very well be Edelman's replacement when he is ready to retire.

Offensive Line

  • LT Isaiah Wynn
  • LG Joe Thuney
  • C David Andrews
  • RG Shaq Mason
  • RT Marcus Cannon
  • LT/RT Dan Skipper
  • C/G Ted Karras
  • C/G Hjalte Froholdt

NFI: Yodny Cajuste

Cut: Cedric Lang, Tyree St. Louis, James Ferentz, Cole Croston, Tyler Gauthier

This position doesn't change much from the last roster projection but a guy to keep an eye on is James Ferentz. Ferentz was on and off the active roster last season but spent the majority of the year on the team's practice squad. He adds depth at both center and guard so the team may decide to keep him around for extra insurance. 

Defensive End

  • Michael Bennett
  • Deatrich Wise
  • John Simon
  • Chase Winovich
  • Derek Rivers

Cut: Keionta Davis, Trent Harris, Shilique Calhoun, Ufomba Kamalu

Rivers entered preseason on the roster bubble but he has done everything to prove that he deserves a spot on the final 53. After an already impressive camp, Rivers helped improve his stock after recording two sacks in the preseason opener. It's safe to say the former  2016 third-round pick will once again get a chance to prove his worth.

Another third-round pick got in on the sack party. That third-round pick would be none other than Chase Winovoich who recorded 1.5 sacks in his first NFL action. His high-motor and grit were on full display as he was a constant threat to Detroit's offensive line.

Simon recorded an acrobatic interception that set the Patriots up in the red-zone late in the second quarter. After a solid stretch late last season, Simon is expected to be a lock to make the final roster.

Calhoun, Kamalu, Davis, and Harris have all flashed potential but there just isn't enough room to keep all of them around. Look for them to sneak at least one of these players on the practice squad.

Defensive Tackle

  • Lawrence Guy
  • Mike Pennel
  • Adam Butler
  • Danny Shelton

Cut: David Parry, Byron Cowart, Nick Thurman 

Shelton recorded a sack in the early goings which is huge for a player that struggled with consistency at points last season. The former Cleveland Brown is going to need to continue performances like this together if he wants to be a part of the team's pursuit of Super Bowl number seven.

Guy, Pennel, and Butler are all locks to make the final roster. The true battle is for that fourth spot.

Having said that, if the team decides to run a 3-4 defense then it is quite possible that the team only carries three defensive tackles on the roster. That would mean bad news for Shelton, Parry, Cowart, and Thurman who are all in contention for that final spot.

Linebacker

  • Dont'a Hightower
  • Kyle Van Noy
  • Ja'Whaun Bentley
  • Jamie Collins
  • Brandon King (ST)

Cut: Elandon Roberts, Terez Hall, Calvin Munson, Christian Sam 

This continues to be one of the hardest positions to project for New England. 

Roberts has had a great career with the Patriots but with the addition of Collins, there just may not be enough room for him on the final roster. If he can show that he can contribute on special teams and overtake King's role then he would have a fighting chance but I just don't see that happening.

Collins has flashed early in camp and recorded a sack in the preseason opener. The former All-Pro LB looks rejuvenated and brought the hammer in the opening series against the Lions.

Sam also performed well in the opener and actually graded out as the team's best defensive player according to PFF. New England may be able to sneak him back on the practice squad for another season but not if he keeps putting up performances like this.

Hall, a UDFA out of Missouri, recorded a sack but he just finds himself behind too many talented players.

 Cornerback

  • Stephon Gilmore
  • Jason McCourty
  • JC Jackson
  • Joejuan Williams
  • Jonathan Jones
  • Keion Crossen

Cut: Duke Dawson, D'Angelo Ross

IR: Ken Webster

Dawson and Jones opened up camp battling for a roster spot. Unfortunately for Dawson, it hasn't been much of a battle at all. 

Jones has looked like one of the team's best corners throughout camp and is looking to build off of a successful 2018 campaign. Dawson, on the other hand, has struggled mightily in camp and those struggles carried over to the preseason opener. Dawson let up two long catches for 53 yards. Both were the longest plays of the game for Detroit.

Meanwhile, all the other corners locked their receivers up. Jackson had some great plays in coverage as did Crossen, who primarily contributes on special teams.

While it's difficult to part ways with a second-round pick just a year after drafting him, this cornerback group is just far too deep and talented to warrant keeping a player who continues to look more and more like a project than a viable staring corner in the NFL.

Safety

  • Devin McCourty
  • Patrick Chung
  • Duron Harmon
  • Terrence Brooks 

PUP: Nate Ebner

Cut: Obi Melifonwu, Malik Gant, AJ Howard

Melifonwu got tricked by play action early in the fourth quarter and was beat for a 13 yard gain because of it. He did settle down and made a couple of great tackles later in the game. That said, he could be on the outside looking in.

While Melifonwu has looked decent in the early stages of camp, the emergence of Brooks as a safety, and not just a special teamer, hurts Obi's chances of making the roster mightily.

Specialist

  • K Stephen Gostkowski
  • P Jake Bailey
  • LS Joe Cardona
  • Special Teams Ace Matthew Slater

Cut: Ryan Allen

Bailey quickly proved why the team traded up to select him in the 5th round of the 2019 Draft. The former Stanford punter's hangtime is ridiculous as he's been reported to kick the ball in the air for as long as 5.09 seconds. For those of you that aren't familiar with punter hangtimes, anything above five seconds is considered exceptional. Expect Bailey to beat out the former Super Bowl star 

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