By Alex Barth, 985TheSportsHub.com
As the Patriots begin preparing for their Week 1 matchup against the Miami Dolphins, their full team is now in place between the 53-man roster and 16-player practice squad.
While Bill Belichick did tell us Monday morning that the team will be making more moves “in the coming days,” they will likely consist of shuffling players between the main roster, practice squad, and IR. With a decade-low 17 waiver claims on Thursday, NFL GMs told us what many already suspected – bringing in external help will not be common in 2020, with most teams looking to manage roster issues with the players they already have in the building.
So who are the 69 players the Patriots kept over the weekend? Let’s take a look, with a quick thought on everybody who made the team, main roster or practice squad.
NOTE: The roster will likely shift in the coming days, players are listed in their roles as of 5:00 p.m. Monday. All 16 practice squad players were included in the likelihood some of them end up on the main roster.
Cam Newton: Health is the key here. If Newton is a full-go like the coaches have said he is, this offense has the chance to surprise a lot of people.
Jarrett Stidham: Will Stidham get a chance to play meaningful reps this year? It doesn’t feel as though he earned that in camp. After being hospitalized for a hip injury in August, don’t be surprised to see him moved to IR at some point if the Patriots need a roster spot.
Brain Hoyer: Hoyer is like another coach at this point. He can help the Patriots win games this year without taking a single snap.
James White: Should be in for a monster year. Cam Newton loves throwing to running backs, and White is among the best pass-catching backs in the game. We’ll see how much run the Patriots give him after limiting him last year. Only thing that can hold him back is injuries.
Rex Burkhead: Mr. Do Everything for the Patriots should have a bigger role on offense this year given Newton’s affinity for running backs mentioned above. Add that to the fact the Patriots will need to replace key special teams pieces (Brandon King on IR, Nate Ebner lost in free agency) and Burkhead will see the field plenty in 2020.
Sony Michel: Yes, it was a bit of a sophomore slump for Michel in 2019. But remember, the Patriots were without their starting center and left tackle for most of the year, and the right tackle was playing hurt. If he returns to the player he was in his rookie year, you can write off last season as an offensive line problem. If he continues to struggle, that’s a problem.
Damien Harris: A broken pinky will likely hold Harris out for the first month of the season, which is a shame. When he returns, I’m expecting a breakout year for the Alabama product. He’s shown all the tools the Patriots want in a running back, and the reins should come off in year two.
Jakob Johnson (FB): What will the fullback role look like in the Patriots new offense? Will the team run as many ‘I’ sets, or will they transition to a H-Back to give Cam Newton another option? Johnson could be asked to do a lot this year in his first full NFL season.
Julian Edelman: Will the load management in training camp pay off? He’s now the de facto captain of the offense, they need him on the field as much as possible.
N’Keal Harry: Harry’s success in 2020 is reliant in a lot of ways on the coaching staff, specifically Josh McDaniels. Last year, he was asked to work to his weaknesses too often, and didn’t get a chance to play to his strengths. We’ll see if that changes in year two.
Gunner Olszewski: Being the story of camp is nice and all, but none of it really matters if that run doesn’t continue into the regular season. With an out in Julian Edelman’s contract after this year, Olszewski may have more to gain in 2020 than anybody else on the roster.
Damiere Byrd: At the beginning of training camp, Byrd said he wants to prove he can be more than a burner in 2020. The Patriots need him to be in order to have success this season, especially given the injury concerns around the other four receivers.
Jakobi Meyers: Meyers made the team despite a shoulder injury that limited him for the later part of camp. Behind Edelman, he has the most receptions of any Patriots receiver returning from last year.
Devin Asiasi: Before selecting Devin Asiasi in 91st overall, the Patriots hadn’t drafted a tight end on days one or two of the NFL Draft since Rob Gronkowski. Overall, Bill Belichick has actually had a pretty high hit rate on tight ends when using top-150 picks (Gronk, Daniel Graham, Ben Watson, David Thomas, Aaron Hernandez), so we’ll see if he shook the rust off and grabbed another NFL-caliber player.
Dalton Keene: Everybody wants to compare Keene to George Kittle, but let’s make sure he can play the H-Back role at the NFL level before we start talking about him being great at it.
Ryan Izzo: Ryan Izzo is the elder statesman of the Patriots tight end group, with just six NFL games and six NFL catches to his name. That’s not as bad as it sounds given he’s mainly a blocking tight end, but with two good blocking rookies also in the room, he’ll need to elevate that element of his game to see the field regularly in 2020.
Isaiah Wynn: The Patriots need Wynn to play his first full NFL season in 2020. He showed he has what it takes to play left tackle at the NFL level in eight games last season, but now he has to stay on the field.
Joe Thuney: It will be interesting to see what Joe Thuney can do in a contract year. The Patriots have been vocal about wanting to keep him, but it will come at a steep price. Whatever happens, he’s one of the best linemen of the Bill Belichick era.
David Andrews: Andrews hasn’t played a live down in over a year. He’s always one of the smartest and best-prepared players on the field, but will he be able to catch up to the speed of the game immediately? I would think so.
Shaq Mason: Mason was playing through injuries for most of last year, which led to a down season. With him back at 100-percent and Andrews back on the field, the running game should look like it did at the end of the 2018 season again.
Jermaine Eluemunor: The biggest question on the offensive line, a solid season from Eluemunor will do more than justify the fourth-round pick the Patriots traded for him this time last year. If he can hold his own at right tackle, the Patriots may have the best offensive line in the NFL.
Yodny Cajuste: After a redshirt year in 2019, Yodny Cajuste starts his sophomore year in line to be the Patriots swing tackle. That’s not an insignificant role given Isaiah Wynn’s injury history, although he’ll likely be competing for the spot with Korey Cunningham and Justin Herrion.
Hjalte Froholdt: Another redshirt player, Froholdt projects as the team’s backup center after the release of Tyler Gauthier. He’s got big shoes to fill in replacing Ted Karras.
Korey Cunningham: The Patriots acquired Korey Cunningham for a sixth-round pick this time last year, only to have him play one game. We’ll see if he gets on the field more this season, but he faces some stiff competition.
Justin Herron: With the most upside out of the group of backup offensive linemen, Herron could have a long career in New England. However, he’s fighting with a big group for playing time in his rookie year.
Michael Onwenu: Can Michael Onwenu fill in if and when Joe Thuney leaves in free agency next year? Given Thuney’s durability, it’s unlikely we’ll get to see him in live action, but practices are essentially a year-long audition for him this year.
Lawrence Guy: Perhaps the Patriots most underrated defensive player, Lawrence Guy will take a bigger pre-snap role in 2020. Entering his fourth year with the team, Guy can help fill the on-field leadership void left by the losses of Dont’a Hightower (opt out), Patrick Chung (opt out), and Duron Harmon (trade).
Adam Butler: If Beau Allen can’t start the season, the Patriots will rely on Adam Butler to be a three-down player. Butler has been a quick learner in his time with the Patriots, and ‘three-down player’ is the next logical step in his development, but it’s also a big one.
John Simon: John Simon is the only full-time edge player returning from last year’s team. When it comes to stopping the run this year, it all starts with him.
Chase Winovich: The offense’s version of N’Keal Harry, the Patriots need a big year-two jump from Chase Winovich. He looked good in a sub role last year, but needs to carry that over when he has double the snaps in each game.
Deatrich Wise: Wise added weight to his frame during the offseason and then came in and had a very productive camp. Are the two linked? We can’t be sure yet. But there’s no time like a contract year for a long-awaited breakout season.
Byron Cowart: The number one ranked recruit coming out of highschool in 2015, Cowart’s career got sidetracked a bit at Auburn. But now that he’s gotten into a system that can maximize his abilities, that potential is starting to show again. He may be a year or two away from being a regular contributor, but look for him in spots this season.
Derek Rivers: Now fully healthy, Rivers has a chance to show off what made him such a touted prospect at Youngstown state. With the edge rush rotation still very much undefined, he’ll have a chance to earn playing time.
Ja’Whaun Bentley: The Patriots are counting on big things from Bently in 2020. He’s looked good in spurts, but we’ll see how much he really soaked up from Dont’a Hightower & Co. over the last two years.
Brandon Copeland: Copeland is the veteran of the linebackers this year. A smart player in his own right, he’s raved about the level of intellect behind the Patriots defensive scheme. It will be interesting to see how those two factors come together.
Shilique Calhoun: Calhoun played mostly on special teams last year, but made some noise on the 26-percent of defensive snaps he was on the field. That number should go up in 2020, can he keep the momentum going?
Josh Uche: Even as a rookie, Uche could be given a sizable role in the Patriots defense. Given his versatility and lack of film for other teams to use against him (again, he’s a rookie), he lines up perfectly to be Bill Belichick’s chess piece of the year.
Anfernee Jennings: As an edge rusher, Jennings led the Alabama defense in passes deflected last year. Given the number of ‘shorter’ quarterbacks on the Patriots schedule, he could wreak havoc at the line of scrimmage at times this season.
Cash Maluia: The first player moved from the practice squad to the main roster, the 2020 sixth-round pick had a very strong camp, plays a position of need, and is a four-down player. With the departures/absences of so many key special teams players (Bolden, King, Ebner), look for Maluia to get most of his run there and fill in at linebacker when needed.
Stephon Gilmore: Steph is Steph. No reason to think he won’t be in the running for defensive player of the year again.
J.C. Jackson: Entering an RFA contract year, the stakes are high for Jackson. If he plays well, he’ll get paid by the Patriots. If he plays really well, he’ll get paid elsewhere.
Jonathan Jones: As more and more cornerbacks get paid, Jones’ extension keeps looking better for the Patriots. He rounds their elite group out nicely as the slot corner.
Jason McCourty: McCourty will battle with J.C. Jackson for reps opposite Stephon Gilmore, that’s a given. What’s unknown is if he’ll factor in as the second deep safety next to his brother Devin. It’s the role previously held by Duron Harmon that the Patriots never truly filled this offseason.
Joejuan Williams: Maybe a corner, maybe now a safety. One of many hybrid secondary players for Bill Belichick to scheme with this year.
Justin Bethel: Looking forward to seeing him, Slater, and Jake Bailey again this year.
Devin McCourty: A huge part of the Patriots’ defensive success in recent years has been what they do before the snap, namely communication. The team lost two of its three most crucial communicators when Dont’a Hightower and Patrick Chung opted out before training camp. That leaves McCourty as the on-field engineer of the defense. It’s a lot to ask of one player, but if anybody can do it it’s him.
Kyle Dugger: The question with Dugger coming into camp was how would he adjust to the speed of the NFL game, and by all accounts it hasn’t been a problem for him. He knows how to make plays once he gets to the ball, something he was doing regularly in practice.
Adrian Phillips: Phillips is one of the many hybrid linebacker/safety type players on the team. Given the lack of true linebackers on the roster, look for guys like Phillips, Terrence Brooks, and Kyle Dugger to play more in the box.
Terrence Brooks: Brooks brought a ton of energy to both the Patriots defense and special teams unit last year. He seemed to pick things up pretty quickly in his first year in New England in 2019, it’s not unrealistic to expect him to take on some sort of leadership role in 2020.
Cody Davis: Davis is mainly a special teams player, but he’s also the closest thing the Patriots have to a second ‘free safety’ to back up and play alongside Devin McCourty. He’s played just 78 defensive snaps combined in the last two years, so defense hasn’t been a focus for him recently. Will it be this year?
Jake Bailey: Matthew Slater said during camp that Bailey had worked on the ‘technical’ element of his game during the offseason. Given Bailey’s ability to place and put spin on the ball was already at a high level, one can only imagine what’s coming.
Matthew Slater: Now the longest tenured Patriot, Slater will be as crucial off the field as he is on it as a leader in the locker room. The good news is there may be nobody better suited for that job.
Joe Cardona: Every kicker has their own preferences for the snapper-holder-kicker operation, and last year Cardona had to adjust to three different styles. With Folk returning, it has to be a bit of a relief he’s working with a guy he has experience with.
Nick Folk (K): After all that, Folk is back as the Patriots kicker for the second straight year. He’s more reliable than people realize. In 2019 the 35-year-old knocked in everything from inside 40 years, with two of his three total misses coming on a rainy, windy day against the Cowboys.
Justin Rohrwasser (K): Given the information we’re now getting about Rohrwasser’s lower leg injury, it’s hard to imagine the Patriots put him in a game this year, at least right away. Best case scenario for both parties is giving him another shot next summer when he’s fully healthy. It’s not ideal, but it’s also unfair to write off the pick as a ‘waste’ just yet.
J.J. Taylor (RB): If Damien Harris starts the year on IR, Taylor is a strong candidate for a call up as an emergency option. Even if he does get to the 53-man roster though, don’t expect to see him on the field much as the Patriots have a history of burying rookie running backs.
Paul Quessenberry (FB/TE): Quessenberry is an incredible story, but after four years out of football it’s hard to see him getting elevated from the practice squad for anything short of a Jakob Johnson injury.
Devin Ross (WR): Outside of the kickers, it feels like Ross has the best chance to get the call to the 53-man roster. He’s now in his second year in the system, playing a position of need, and had a strong camp. Whether it’s Week 1 or later, I think we see him on the field at some point in 2020.
Isaiah Zuber (WR): Zuber got onto the practice squad over Jeff Thomas, and it’s hard to say it was a ‘stylistic’ choice. Both are smaller, fast receivers who excel at returning kicks. Clearly, there was something the Patriots saw this summer that led to them ranking Zuber ahead of Thomas.
Jake Burt (TE): If Ryan Izzo really struggles Burt could potentially get a call, but he still feels like more of a project. Let’s check back in with him next summer.
Rashod Berry (TE/DL): A hybrid two-way player, I don’t think the Patriots are done with Berry quite yet. A 16-man practice squad allows Belichick to keep more developmental long-term project players, and Berry seemingly fits in that category.
Xavier Williams (DT): Williams wouldn’t have been able to get on the Patriots practice squad in past years given his experience (he’s entering his sixth year in the league). He’s a logical call up if Beau Allen ends up on IR before the first game.
Nick Thurman (DT): The Patriots just can’t quit Thurman. He’s back for a second straight year on the practice squad.
Bill Murray (DT): The William & Mary product with the punnable name made it to the practice squad, to the delight of Patriots Twitter. He’s got a long way to go before getting on the field though, with a number of talented players ahead of him on the team between both on the 53-man roster and practice squad.
Tashawn Bower (DE): Bower was the last reported addition to the practice squad, although he may be on his way out soon with the reported signings of wide receivers Mason Kinsey and Kristian Wilkerson.
Terez Hall (LB): The hard-hitting linebacker out of Missouri returns to the Patriots practice squad for a second-straight year. He’s a guy who would have really benefited from preseason games and full-speed game action.
D’Angelo Ross (CB): Ross has put together two outstanding summers with the Patriots, but fell victim to injury last year and just unprecedented depth in front of him this year. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him get signed if the Patriots need help at corner at some point this year, or even claimed if another team gets bit by the injury bug.
Myles Bryant (CB): Bryant is another corner who’s release had less to do with his performance and was more about the players ahead of him. His best shot at playing time may be moving to free safety, where the Patriots could use help behind Devin McCourty.
Beau Allen: The Patriots would certainly like to have Allen’s veteran presence on defense, but it’s going to be a steep learning curve for him if and when he comes back after missing on-field work the entire summer.
Alex Barth is a writer and 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. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at Alexander.Barth@bbgi.com.