Patriots’ 53-man roster projection, Version 3.0
|08.20.13 at 11:27 pm ET|
The first two are undeniable. As for Tebow, I believe there’s more long-term value there — think 2014 and beyond. The Patriots have had players essentially take redshirt seasons their first year in Foxboro — Jake Bequette was on the 53-man roster last year and played in just three games, and the same was true for wide receiver Taylor Price, who made it past the final cuts but played in just one game as a rookie in 2010. In both cases, the idea was to keep them around and develop them for the long term. (For what it’s worth, both haven’t worked out, at least to this point.) That being said, Tebow is holding on to the roster by the skin of his teeth — at this point, he’s the 53rd guy on a 53-man roster.
Essentially the same group we’ve seen since the start of camp — potentially one of the finest in the league — but we have added Zusevics with the idea that the team needs to increase depth at tackle if Svitek continues to spend more time at guard. This group is helped by the fact that it has several guys who can play multiple positions.
Tight end (3): Jake Ballard, Zach Sudfeld, Michael Hoomanawanui (Rob Gronkowski on PUP)
The tough cut here is Daniel Fells, who has struggled to stay healthy over the last week or so but has otherwise displayed nice chemistry with Brady and done everything that’s been asked of him. If the Patriots do decide to toss Tebow overboard between now and the start of the season, Fells is one of the guys who could benefit. Hoomanawanui’s versatility allows him to stick around ahead of fullback James Develin.
No changes here since our last projection.
Bolden makes it in just under the wire, but he is one of a handful of players who could play himself off the roster in the next two weeks in favor of someone like Fells. Washington will work as a special teamer and a backup to Vereen.
Specialists (3): Zoltan Mesko, Stephen Gostkowski, Danny Aiken
No changes here, although the younger (and cheaper) Ryan Allen continues to push Mesko.
Questions about depth on the defensive line have led us to keep Benard and Buchanan, but the former needs to display more consistency — particularly as an interior pass-rushing presence — if he wants to keep the spot ahead of veteran Jermaine Cunningham. The thought is that Buchanan wouldn’t be able to get through to the practice squad if the Patriots expose him to waivers, but he’d be the one guy in this group I think they’d try and take a chance on. Francis might be a bubble guy at this point, while Forston is around because Armstead isn’t ready to go.
This looks slim, but it’s important to remember that Ninkovich gives them some versatility at this spot. There are no changes from our last roster, but Niko Koutouvides is a tough cut. In addition, the Patriots hope they can sneak seventh-round pick Steve Beauharnais through to the practice squad, although that would be a gamble — he could be a keeper if New England cuts somewhere else like safety or running back. There are a handful of really good special teams linebackers (Koutouvides, Jeff Tarpinian, Beauharnais) who could land a spot if the Patriots are so inclined to bolster depth.
Six safeties seems like a lot, but with Ebner providing little more than special teams value, there’s a reason for it. Ebner and Tavon Wilson get in just under the wire, but they shouldn’t get too comfy — a bad two weeks could leave them on the outside looking in on cutdown day. (If New England does go with five safeties, that could open up a chance for someone like Cunningham or Fells.)
While the first three are no-brainers, the questions here involve Dowling and Cole. First, can Dowling stay healthy to contribute on a consistent basis? And second, can Cole (a good special teams presence) provide enough value as a defensive back to warrant sticking around? Ryan continues to come on strong, and he has earned a roster spot to this point in camp. If the Patriots know they’re going to lose Dennard to a possible suspension, that could open the door to someone on the bubble.