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5 thoughts on first Patriots depth chart of preseason

08.04.14 at 12:39 pm ET
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Trying to analyze the Patriots depth chart — especially over the course of the preseason with multiple players being shuffled in and out of practice and games — can be something of a fool’s errand. However, the team issued its first game release of the 2014 preseason over the weekend, and with it came a depth chart. While it should be taken with a grain of salt, here are five things we found interesting about the first New England depth chart of the new year.

1. The depth chart appears to be one way to make sure rookies know the pecking order. The only rookie listed above the third spot at their respective position on the depth chart is long snapper Tyler Ott, and that’s only because the Patriots only have two long snappers in camp. Of course, that’s pretty much the way it’s always worked — a look back at preseason depth charts over the last decade or so indicate the same thing. (By way of comparison, the only rookies who are listed above third string at this time last year were punter Ryan Allen, linebacker Jamie Collins and wide receiver Josh Boyce.)

2. Center has Ryan Wendell as the starter, with Chris Barker as the backup, Braxston Cave as the third stringer and rookie Bryan Stork as fourth string. Nothing against Barker and Cave, but as we wrote here, it would be a surprise if Stork didn’t push Wendell over the course of the summer. In addition, Dan Connolly — who has gotten some extended run at center to this point in the spring, and has some experience at the position over the course of his career in New England — isn’t on the center depth chart at all. Instead, he’s listed only as the starting right guard. (For what it’s worth, the Patriots have several players listed at multiple spots on the depth chart. Connolly isn’t one of them.) One more offensive line note — Marcus Cannon is listed as both the backup left tackle and right tackle. If the TCU product can solidify the backup swing tackle position, it will be one fewer personnel question mark for the team going into the 2014 season.

3. The Patriots feature a four-man defensive front — no surprise there — with Vince Wilfork at one defensive tackle and Tommy Kelly at the other spot. Sealver Siliga and Chris Jones are listed as the backup defensive tackles to Wilfork and Kelly, with Joe Vellano working as the third-stringer behind Siliga. The reps to this point in the summer have reflected that, and could speak to the fact that the back end of the depth chart at defensive tackle could get a little tricky. (One more thing about the defensive line — rookie first-round pick Dominique Easley is listed as a fourth-stringer at left defensive end and defensive tackle. Easley and offensive lineman Jon Halapio are the only two rookies listed at multiple spots — the Patriots have Halapio as a third-stringer at right guard and left guard.)

4. The biggest question mark on defense at this point appears to be strong safety. The Patriots listed second-year man Duron Harmon alongside incumbent Devin McCourty, who is expected to be free safety. Patrick Chung and Kanorris Davis are listed as the second- and third-stringers behind Harmon. At McCourty’s position, the Patriots have Tavon Wilson and Nate Ebner as the primary backups. From this viewpoint, the depth at the linebacker spot appears to be the biggest concern with the Patriots defense, but other than McCourty, the depth at safety could also be an issue. It will be interesting to see how the snaps break down as the preseason games get underway this week.

5. It appears to be a wide-open field at this point for the role of kick returner, but one guy who appears to have taken most of the reps at the spot is second-year man Josh Boyce. The TCU product is listed as the primary kick returner, with Matthew Slater as the backup and Shane Vereen as the third stringer. Rookies Roy Finch and Travis Hawkins, both of whom also have worked back there, aren’t listed on the depth chart.

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