State of the Patriots’ Nation: Projected 53 man Roster

The draft is done and training camp is two and a half months off…and that sucks.

On the flip side, it gives all of us twice the time that Jesus had in the wild alone with his thoughts, and the damnable game of football taunting us and tempting us on top of it.  But we have things that Jesus didn’t.

Oct 26, 2012; Colorado Springs, CO, USA; Nevada Wolf Pack tight end Zach Sudfeld will make the Patriots as an undrafted free agent. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Food, for one, and we have the Red Sox to distract our attention from the long NFL off-season.  Hell we even have the Celtics and Bruins playoff runs to occupy our time, so if Jesus can pull of 40 days in the woods fighting off temptation, surely we can endure twice that long fighting off boredom.

But for those obsessive / compulsive few of us that stem on the game of football, these “Dog days” of spring taunts us and tempt us.  We pretend to care what the other Boston teams are doing but, out of sheer due diligence, we can name the starting lineups for all teams in addition to save and power play percentages for the hockey perverts and ERA’s and batting averages for the Boys of Summer.

And the hours and days that we spent diligently looking at film and going blind on scouting reports before the draft and for the draft – which turned out to be it’s usual crap-shoot in trying to figure out what Bill Belichick is thinking – can still be put to good use…

…in something as useless as trying to project the opening day 53 man New England Patriots roster – an exercise in futility, but here it is, for good or ill:

Quarterbacks (2):

Tom Brady

Ryan Mallett

Not much drama here.  Mike Kafka was in consideration for backup duties due to his slight game experience edge over Mallett, but Mallett’s upside is such that Kafka would have a tremendous camp to unseat the incumbent.

Running Backs (4):

Stevan Ridley

LeGarrette Blount

Shane Vereen

Leon Washington (ST)

Letting Danny Woodhead go in free agency was disappointing, but also gives us a hint as to which way the offense is gravitating, particularly in light of picking up Blount on a draft day trade with Tampa.  The odd man out is Brandon Bolden, who loses out to Leon Washinton due to special teams prowess…and is the one move that Bill Belichick has made this offseason that I question – why bring in another one-dimensional guy just to play special teams?  This could also potentially impact Nate Ebner’s spot on the roster as well, though he is a core special teamer.

Wide Receivers (6):

Danny Amendola

Aaron Dobson

Julien Edelman

Josh Boyce

Donald Jones

Matthew Slater (ST)

The only rookie to crack the Day 1 opening roster will be Aaron Dobson, pretty much by default though he will have to beat out a couple of veterans along the way.  Boyce could have an immediate impact in spread formations.

Tight Ends (5)

Rob Gronkowski

Aaron Hernandez

Jake Ballard

Michael Hoomanawanui

Zach Sudfeld

Sudfeld, the undrafted free agent Tight End out of Nevada makes the squad as a huge (6’7″), athletic target to back up the big three.  Hoomanawanui makes the team as an inline blocker and impromptu fullback.

Offensive Tackles (3)

Nate Solder

Sebastian Vollmer

Will Svitek

No surprises here, as one of the best set of bookend tackles in the NFL have their positions locked down.  Sviteck is a versatile swing tackle that can back up both positions, and Marcus Cannon can slide outside from right guard to back up Vollmer as well.

Offensive Guards (4)

Logan Mankins

Marcus Cannon

Dan Connolly

Nick McDonald

It is time for Marcus Cannon to take the next step in his development and assume the starting right guard spot.  Connolly and McDonald are seasoned reserves and can both play all three interior line positions.

Center (1)

Ryan Wendell

More than competent, Wendell is entering a contract year as will be playing lights out.  Reserve Center is not an issue, though they are both listed at guards.  Connolly and McDonald are capable.

Defensive End (5)

Chandler Jones

Rob Ninkovich

Justin Francis

Jermaine Cunningham

Jake Bequette

An area of concern if the Patriots remain at 4-3 for their base.  Other than Francis, none of the other reserves have shown consistency, though Cunningham was having a nice season before being caught doping and suspended.  Both he and Bequette are squarely on the bubble, as Michael Buchanan and Jason Vega wait on the practice squad…

Defensive Tackle (5)

Vince Wilfork

Tommy Kelly

Armond Armstead

Brandon Deaderick

Kyle Love

An area of tremendous depth, should the team return to it’s 3-4 roots or maintain a 3-3-5 big nickle.  All of the tackles are tried and proven, with Kelly and Armstead having the capability to penetrate.  Wilfork, Deaderick and Love are maulers that are capable of re-establishing the line of scrimmage in the opponent’s backfield.

Linebackers (6)

Jerod Mayo

Brandon Spikes

Dont’a Hightower

Jamie Collins

Dane Fletcher

Steve Beauharnais

All three reserves are better in pass coverage than the starters, while Hightower and Collins could find themselves in the mix at Defensive end at times and Beauharnais is more of a strong safety than an inside linebacker but is a playmaker that could prove to be too versatile to bring off the field, particularly on passing downs.

Cornerbacks (5)

Aqib Talib

Alfonzo Dennard

Kyle Arrington

Logan Ryan

Ras-I Dowling

How good does anyone feel about Dowling’s chances of staying healthy for at least half of the season?  The starters are solid, the slot is manned and the draft produced a solid depth option in the event that things are played straight up, but a contribution from Dowling will enable the secondary to blossom.  This is the best group of corners the Patriots have started the season with since, yes, the championship years.

Safeties (4)

Devin McCourty

Tavon Wilson

Adrian Wilson

Duron Harmon

This is a group that can play as physical as you want, but also will be decent over the top.  Steve Gregory should be in the mix right up until final cuts, but ultimately won’t be able to do enough to keep his roster spot.  Harmon is a hybrid that will be able to play at either safety spot or in the nickle or dime as a linebacker.

Specialists (3)

Zoltan Mesko (P)

Steven Gostkowski (K)

Aiken (LS)

Practice squad (7)

Nate Ebner (SS)

T. J. Moe (WR)

Matt Stankiewitch (C/G)

Jason Vega (DE)

Michael Buchanan (DE)

Markus Zusevics (T)

Niko Koutouvides (LB)

Topics: Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, New York Jets

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