New England Patriots

FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - AUGUST 11: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots looks on ahead of the preseason game between the New York Giants and the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on August 11, 2022 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

  • With three weeks of training camp and a preseason game now in the books, it’s time to start taking a closer look at the Patriots’ roster. Let’s dive right into things with our first roster projection of the summer.

    There’s still a few days until the NFL’s first cutdown day – teams have to be down to 85 players by Tuesday at 4 p.m. – but it’s not too soon to start looking ahead. For the purpose of this projection, we’ll work with only what we’ve seen, with the understanding that things can change (and highlight those potential changes) between now and the end of the preseason.

    Note: Players are listed alphabetically by position. Rookies are in italics

  • Quarterbacks (3)

    Nov 14, 2021; New England Patriots quarterback Brian Hoyer (5) and quarterback Mac Jones (10) walk onto the field prior to a game against the Cleveland Browns at Gillette Stadium. Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

    Nov 14, 2021; New England Patriots quarterback Brian Hoyer (5) and quarterback Mac Jones (10) walk onto the field prior to a game against the Cleveland Browns at Gillette Stadium. Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

    –Brian Hoyer
    –Mac Jones
    Bailey Zappe

    Some people may be expecting the Patriots to make Brian Hoyer an initial cut and then bring him back like they did last year, but his new contract makes that more difficult (and expensive) this year. It looks like the team will be starting the year with three QBs.

  • Running backs (5)

    Aug 11, 2022; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots running back Pierre Strong Jr. (35) runs with the ball during the second half of a preseason game against the New York Giants at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

    Aug 11, 2022; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots running back Pierre Strong Jr. (35) runs with the ball during the second half of a preseason game against the New York Giants at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

    –Damien Harris
    Kevin Harris
    –Ty Montgomery (also a WR)
    –Rhamondre Stevenson
    Pierre Strong Jr.

    Ty Montgomery is listed as a wide receiver on the Patriots’ roster, but we’ve seen him spend a lot of time with the backs this summer. He looks to be in the mix to get a significant amount or even the majority of the passing-down back snaps.

    Early in camp, rookie running back Kevin Harris has been very involved. Meanwhile, fellow rookie Pierre Strong Jr. has ramped up quickly after being limited to start camp. If those two continue to be involved as they have been this week, that would likely mean J.J. Taylor ends up off the roster.


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  • Wide receivers (5)

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - AUGUST 11: Tyquan Thornton #11 of the New England Patriots celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the preseason game between the New York Giants and the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on August 11, 2022 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – AUGUST 11: Tyquan Thornton #11 of the New England Patriots celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the preseason game between the New York Giants and the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on August 11, 2022 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    –Nelson Agholor
    –Kendrick Bourne
    –Jakobi Meyers
    –DeVante Parker
    Tyquan Thornton

    The roster crunch here remains tight, and will only get tighter if Tyquan Thornton continues to show he’s ready for a significant role Year 1. Pending a trade, all five of these players seem like roster locks.

    Instead, the real question is will anybody else be joining this group on the initial roster. Tre NixonKristian Wilkerson, and Lil’Jordan Humphrey have all played well enough to at least earn a longer look. All three have been playing special teams this summer (a first for Nixon and Humphrey) which should help their cases, but the overall usage to justify a roster spot just doesn’t appear to be there given the group ahead of them.

    If the Patriots can get any or all of them on the practice squad, they’d likely see multiple elevations during the course of the season. However, if they play like they did Thursday then they probably won’t make it through waivers.

  • Tight ends (2)

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - AUGUST 11: Hunter Henry #85 of the New England Patriots looks on ahead of the the preseason game between the New York Giants and the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on August 11, 2022 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – AUGUST 11: Hunter Henry #85 of the New England Patriots looks on ahead of the the preseason game between the New York Giants and the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on August 11, 2022 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    –Hunter Henry
    –Jonnu Smith

    The depth at other positions is going to force the Patriots  to go thin somewhere, and one likely spot is tight end. Devin Asiasi, Dalton Keene, and Matt Sokol all seem like logical practice squad candidates, and if the Patriots want more depth on gameday behind Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith, they could elevate any of those three. With three practice squad elevations per player this year, the Patriots could go as many as nine weeks without having to have a third tight end ‘on the roster.’

  • Offensive line (8)

    Jul 30, 2022; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots offensive tackle Trent Brown (77) works on the tackle sled at the Patriots training camp at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

    Jul 30, 2022; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots offensive tackle Trent Brown (77) works on the tackle sled at the Patriots training camp at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

    –David Andrews (C)
    –Trent Brown (T)
    –Yodny Cajuste (T)
    –James Ferentz (C/G)
    –Justin Herron (T)
    –Michael Onwenu (G/T)
    Cole Strange (G)
    –Isaiah Wynn (T)

    Right now, it feels like there are three players in Justin HerronYodny Cajuste, and Arlington Hambright competing for the final two spots on line. Herron and Cajuste get the nod right now based on experience, but Hambright is right there in the conversation. He’s looked good in camp, and showed some positional versatility Thursday night filling in at tackle after injuries late in the game. Both Herron and Cajuste left Thursday night’s game with injuries, further clouding the picture.

  • Defensive line (7)

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - AUGUST 11: LaBryan Ray #74 of the New England Patriots looks on during the preseason game between the New York Giants and the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on August 11, 2022 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – AUGUST 11: LaBryan Ray #74 of the New England Patriots looks on during the preseason game between the New York Giants and the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on August 11, 2022 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    –Henry Anderson
    –Christian Barmore
    –Davon Godchaux
    –Lawrence Guy
    LaBryan Ray
    Sam Roberts
    –Deatrich Wise

    The defensive line was one of the Patriots’ most impressive units Thursday night – especially rookies Sam Roberts and LaBryan Ray. Roberts, a sixth-round pick, hasn’t flashed too much during camp, but showed an aggressively physical rush style that wouldn’t translate to practice. He was credited with five pressures and looked to be a level above the competition he was on the field with at the end of the game. Ray has gotten some attention in camp. In the game, it was his versatility that stood out as he played a number of different spots along the defensive line.

    In order to make this work, the Patriots have to part with veteran defensive tackle Carl Davis. In terms of depth, the younger players with multiple years of affordable team control end up winning out. Davis would both be strong practice squad candidates.

    Note: Daniel Ekuale will be suspended for the first two games of the season, so he can remain on the team without counting against the roster total until Week 3. 

  • Linebackers (7)

    Jul 30, 2022; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots linebacker Mack Wilson Sr. (30) walks to the practice field at the Patriots training camp at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

    Jul 30, 2022; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots linebacker Mack Wilson Sr. (30) walks to the practice field at the Patriots training camp at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

    –Ja’Whaun Bentley
    –Anfernee Jennings
    –Matthew Judon
    –Raekwon McMillan
    –Ronnie Perkins
    –Josh Uche
    –Mack Wilson

    Based on what we’ve seen the last two weeks, it seems as though Raekwon McMillan and Mack Wilson will feature heavily off the ball along with Ja’Whaun Bentley. Coming into camp, that role appeared to be set for Cameron McGrone, but McGrone has gotten off to a slow start this summer after missing last year with a torn ACL. Thursday night, he didn’t show the same explosiveness he did at Michigan before the injury.

    That leaves McGrone fighting for the final linebacker spot with Ronnie Perkins. Perkins also hasn’t seen much involvement in camp, and didn’t play on defense until late in Thursday’s game. Right now, his work on special teams gives him the nod.

    One linebacker looking less and less like a bubble player is Anfernee Jennings. Jennings was a part of the ‘starting’ pass rush rotation Thursday night, and has mainly been on the field with the top defense for the last two weeks.

  • Cornerbacks (7)

    Jun 8, 2022; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler (4) during the New England Patriots minicamp at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford/USA TODAY Sports

    Jun 8, 2022; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler (4) during the New England Patriots minicamp at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

    –Justin Bethel
    –Malcolm Butler
    Jack Jones
    –Jonathan Jones
    Marcus Jones
    –Jalen Mills
    –Terrance Mitchell

    Once again, we’ve reached a roster crunch. At this point, it feels like Malcolm ButlerShaun Wade, and Myles Bryant are competing for just one spot.

    Butler gets the nod for now as a veteran. Without him, this is a very young group.

    Bryant was impressive Thursday night as a punt returner. However, the team has two other top-tier returners in Marcus Jones and safety Jabrill Peppers. He’ll need to show improvement on defense as well.

    Then there’s Wade, who’s an interesting candidate given his versatility. He has significant experience playing on the boundary and in the slot. That skillset should play well in the Patriots’ defensive scheme. He looked good Thursday night.

  • Safeties (4)

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - AUGUST 11: Devin McCourty #32 of the New England Patriots looks on during the preseason game between the New York Giants and the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on August 11, 2022 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – AUGUST 11: Devin McCourty #32 of the New England Patriots looks on during the preseason game between the New York Giants and the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on August 11, 2022 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    –Kyle Dugger
    –Devin McCourty
    –Jabrill Peppers
    –Adrian Phillips

    All four of these players got either the majority of the game or the whole game off Thursday night, a strong indication that all four will be featured in the defensive rotation once the regular season begins. With those four out, Joshuah Bledsoe and Jalen Elliott made the most of their expanded playing time.

    Bledsoe was a fifth-round pick by the Patriots last year, and missed the entire season due to a pre-draft injury that likely hurt his draft stock. Players and coaches have raved about his football IQ and work ethic, and that behind the scenes work has started to show in what is really his first NFL training camp.

    Elliott signed late in camp but has quickly caught up, putting together a few strong practices and then a notable performance on Thursday. Two things that stand out about his game – his closing burst and aggressiveness at the catch point – are two things the Patriots value. He may end up blocked out of a roster spot given the depth ahead of him, but he’s another strong candidate to be a regularly-elevated practice squad player – if the team can get him there.

  • Specialists (5)

    Jul 30, 2022; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots long snapper Joe Cardona (49), kicker Nick Folk (6) and punter Jake Bailey (7) walk together to the practice field at the Patriots training camp at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

    Jul 30, 2022; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots long snapper Joe Cardona (49), kicker Nick Folk (6) and punter Jake Bailey (7) walk together to the practice field at the Patriots training camp at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

    –K Nick Folk
    –P Jake Bailey
    –LS Joe Cardona
    –Matthew Slater
    –Cody Davis

    No surprises here, with the same core group returning. If anything changes, it could be rookie UDFA Brenden Schooler making a push for a roster spot. He’s worked extensively with Slater and Davis during training camp, and saw snaps as the personal punt protector on Thursday night.

  • Bubble watch

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - AUGUST 11: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots looks on from the sideline during the preseason game between the New York Giants and the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on August 11, 2022 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – AUGUST 11: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots looks on from the sideline during the preseason game between the New York Giants and the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on August 11, 2022 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    Here’s a quick look at the last three players that were cut, and the last three to get onto the roster.

    Last three off:

    –Myles Bryant
    –Tre Nixon
    –J.J. Taylor

    Last three on:

    –Kevin Harris
    –Ronnie Perkins
    –Malcolm Butler