By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
At long last, the Final 53 is set. The Patriots have whittled their 90-man roster all the way down to 53 players with the 2019 regular season opener coming next Sunday.
Check below for the complete roster, plus analysis of each positional group.
Quarterbacks (2): Tom Brady, Jarrett Stidham
Ultimately, the Patriots decided they were comfortable carrying just two quarterbacks with Stidham as the backup. Ideally, we don't see Stidham on the field again in a meaningful snap until 2020. The rookie out of Auburn had a promising season and gets at least one year to develop under Brady and Belichick.
Running Backs (5): Sony Michel, James White, Rex Burkhead, Brandon Bolden, Damien Harris
This has been the group all summer and fortunately they've avoided major injuries. There's even more depth in this year's group than 2018, thanks to the drafting of rookie Damien harris and the return of Brandon Bolden. If all goes well, we will never see a wide receiver taking regular snaps as a running back.
Fullback (1): James Develin
No surprise here. The Patriots (and the other AFC East teams) can still bring back Jakob Johnson as a roster exemption on the practice squad through the NFL's International Pathway Program. So if something happens to Develin, they'll likely have Johnson ready to be called up. But Devlin remains a cornerstone player in the running game.
Wide Receivers (6): Julian Edelman, N'Keal Harry, Josh Gordon, Phillip Dorsett, Jakobi Meyers, Gunner Olszewski
The one major surprise here is Olszewski, who came on very strong and became a fan favorite late in the preseason. He offers immediate value as a punt returner. The others have been locks or near-certainties all summer, while Gordon looks to have a chance to start Week 1 after a surprise reinstatement. Demaryius Thomas was released on Saturday, but his spot could be used on a guy who moves to short-term IR, which would allow him to re-sign.
Tight Ends (2): Matt LaCosse, Ryan Izzo
LaCosse missed most of the preseason with a reported ankle injury, but appeared to be in the lead for a starting TE job before that. Izzo has shown enough to have value as an in-line blocker. It's possible they keep both LaCosse and Izzo when Ben Watson returns in Week 5. Lance Kendricks is also suspended, but just for Week 1, so it will be interesting to see what the Pats do with him at that point.
Offensive Line (8): Isaiah Wynn, Joe Thuney, Ted Karras, Shaq Mason, Marcus Cannon, Russell Bodine, Jermaine Eluemunor, Korey Cunningham
The five starters are locked in, presumably with Ted Karras at center. Meanwhile, the Patriots acquired their entire group of backup linemen in trades over just the past week. Rookie third-round pick Yodny Cajuste will start the season on the non-football injury list, so he could return after Week 6. The other rookie, Hajlte Froholdt, will be redshirted after being placed on long-term IR.
Defensive Line (8): Michael Bennett, Lawrence Guy, Adam Butler, Danny Shelton, Chase Winovich, Byron Cowart, John Simon, Deatrich Wise
Most of this group has been locked in since the start of training camp. Cowart surged in the preseason and earned himself a spot, which wasn't totally guaranteed for the fifth-round pick out of Maryland. Simon is listed as a defensive end on the Patriots' website, but will serve mainly as an edge-rushing outside linebacker-type. Wise looked to be on the bubble as a less-than-ideal scheme fit, but he's a solid player and the Patriots apparently didn't want to just cut him loose. They'll find a way to make him work.
Linebackers (6): Dont'a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins, Ja'Whaun Bentley, Elandon Roberts, Shilique Calhoun
For a while it looked liked Calvin Munson could have pushed Roberts for a roster spot, but Roberts stays despite not appearing to be the best scheme fit. The Patriots are moving more toward a 3-4 defense so it will be interesting to see how Roberts is utilized. Hightower and Van Noy are cornerstones, while the returning Collins had a good preseason and looks ready for a renaissance. Bentley is depth for now, but could prove to be better than that. Calhoun figures to contribute as a rotational edge rusher after a promising camp that was a bit slowed due to an injury.
Safeties (5): Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, Terrence Brooks, Obi Melifonwu
Obi Melifonwu looked like the odd man out, but ultimately made the team. Brooks will be a core special teamer and got plenty of reps on defense throughout camp and the preseason. The other three comprise one of the deepest safety groups with some of the best chemistry in the league. Chung is in no danger of a suspension in 2019, despite his legal troubles off the field.
Cornerbacks (5): Stephon Gilmore, Jason McCourty, Jonathan Jones, J.C. Jackson, Joejuan Williams
After a whole summer of figuring out how the Patriots would finalize such a deep group of cornerbacks, they settled on five instead of six or seven. Duke Dawson and Keion Crossen appeared to be battling for a spot, but instead both were traded. Rookie Joejuan Williams got better as the preseason went along and Jonathan Jones could be on the verge of a career year, which made the others expendable. It's also possible that Olszewski could count on the roster as a defensive back instead of a receiver, considering his experience as a CB at Bemidji State.
Special Teams (5): K Stephen Gostkowski, P Jake Bailey, LS Joe Cardona, Matthew Slater, Nate Ebner
No surprises here, either. Bailey won the punting job over Ryan Allen a couple of weeks ago. Slater and Ebner retain their jobs as core special teamers and part of a potentially elite unit. Gostkowski and Bailey looked much sharper on the field goal unit in the preseason finale, so things are pointing up for the Patriots' special teams groups as a whole despite losing Brandon King to a torn quad.
The situation remains fluid, so we'll see if any surprise moves come. Right now there's no opening for someone like Demaryius Thomas or Brian Hoyer to re-sign.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at [email protected].