New England Patriots

New England Patriots

New England Patriots

EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - AUGUST 29: Head Coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots looks on from the bench during the game against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium on August 29, 2021 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

A lot has happened since our last roster projection. The Patriots have played two games, held more joint practices, and made a couple of trades as well.

How did all that action impact the outlook for the initial roster? We’ll find out over the next 48 hours as the real tough decisions begin. The Patriots, and the other 31 NFL teams, have until Tuesday at 4 p.m. to trim their roster down to 53 players. At that point, they can begin making other moves such as placing players on eligible-to-return IR and forming their practice squad.

But who will be a part of that initial roster? Let’s take a look in our final roster projection of the summer.

Note: Players are listed alphabetically by position. Changes from Roster Projection 2.0 are in bold.

  • Quarterback (3)

    • Brian Hoyer
    • Mac Jones
    • Cam Newton

     

    In the age of COVID, keeping three quarterbacks has become the new norm. Having that extra level of safety is extra important given Cam Newton’s vaccination status. Hoyer makes as much sense as anybody for the role, given any new player would be behind on learning the Patriots’ offense. Jarrett Stidham likely sticks around on PUP.

  • Running back (5)

    • Brandon Bolden
    • Damien Harris
    • Rhamondre Stevenson
    • J.J. Taylor
    • James White

     

    Having six running backs make the initial roster always felt too crowded, but with everybody playing so well, there was no obvious cut. The Sony Michel trade took care of the odd man out situation, while leaving the Patriots’ backfield with depth and versatility both for this season and moving forward.

  • Wide receiver (5)

    • Nelson Agholor
    • Kendrick Bourne
    • N’Keal Harry
    • Jakobi Meyers
    • Gunner Olszewski

     

    In terms of the initial, Tuesday at 4 p.m. roster, the wide receiver group seems relatively set. It’s what happens in the days after that remains a question.

    The group listed above, as constituted, should be enough to give the Patriots’ offense what it needs in 2021. Yet N’Keal Harry‘s status for the start of the season is unknown after he suffered a shoulder injury last week in Philadelphia. Will the Patriots quickly move him to IR, giving him three weeks to fully heal? Or keep him on the roster so he can play as soon as possible.

    Either way, if he misses Week 1, what happens to the fourth receiver spot? Gunner Olszewski seems like the obvious candidate, as he’ll make the roster either way as the punt returner. Although he’s stylistically different to Harry, the main point of that role is to allow the top three receivers a breather when needed.

    Olszewski had an up-and-down final week of camp, with two of his best days and two of his worst days coming in a four-day span. He followed that up with a bad drop in the game against the Giants. If the team feels like he’s not ready as a receiver, they could bring back Kristian Wilkerson after placing Harry or another player on IR.

  • Tight end/Fullback (3)

    • Devin Asiasi
    • Hunter Henry
    • Jonnu Smith

     

    Don’t rule out Jakob Johnson being on the Week 1 roster. But between the lack of teams around the league using a fullback, and his International Pathway status, the Patriots probably wouldn’t risk much by releasing him initially, then bringing him back after placing a player on IR.

    The real question is what happens with Matt LaCosse. LaCosse was having a great summer, and with injuries already piling up for Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith, tight end depth will be key. But he’s still recovering from an injury suffered during joint practices with the Eagles and hasn’t played in over a week. He could be initially kept then placed on IR, or released then brought back when healthy, taking a chance that no other teams would sign an injured player.

  • Offensive Line (8)

    • David Andrews (C)
    • Trent Brown (T)
    • Yodny Cajuste (T)
    • Justin Herron (T)
    • Ted Karras (C/G)
    • Shaq Mason (G)
    • Michael Onwenu (G/T)
    • Isaiah Wynn (T)

     

    Even having eight players feels a little light along the offensive line for a Bill Belichick team, but the new practice squad rules make it a little more manageable. The versatility of a number of these players helps too.

    Yodny Cajuste’s rise over the last week and a half is worth noting, as he’s played his way onto the roster. If another player is going to squeeze his way on, it’d likely be an interior lineman, possibly James Ferentz.

  • Defensive Line (7)

    • Henry Anderson
    • Christian Barmore
    • Carl Davis
    • Davon Godchaux
    • Lawrence Guy
    • Chase Winovich
    • Deatrich Wise Jr.

     

    Carl Davis flashed at times after joining the Patriots part way through last season, but injuries kept him from being a regular contributor. Now healthy, he’s been impressive this summer and regularly rotated in with the Patriots’ starting defense.

    The Patriots have great depth at defensive tackle, especially with rookie Christian Barmore picking things up so quickly. Yet with situations changing elsewhere on the roster, it looks like there’s now room for Davis to add to that depth.

    Meanwhile, Henry Anderson and Chase Winovich both played deep into the game Sunday night. That’s generally not the case for roster lock players, so it’s something to keep an eye on.

  • Linebacker (6)

    • Ja’Whaun Bentley
    • Dont’a Hightower
    • Matt Judon
    • Ronnie Perkins
    • Josh Uche
    • Kyle Van Noy

     

    On one hand, it feels like it’s too early to give up on Anfernee Jennings. He was a top-100 pick just a year ago, and wouldn’t be the first player to come on strong after a difficult first year in the Patriots’ system.

    Yet at the same time, Jennings has missed a good amount of time this summer, which makes it hard to justify him landing a roster spot at such a competitive position. Maybe he could come down with the ‘Foxborough Flu’, but his grasp on a spot on the initial 53 feels loose at best right now.

  • Cornerback (6)

    • Myles Bryant
    • Stephon Gilmore
    • J.C. Jackson
    • Jonathan Jones
    • Shaun Wade
    • Joejuan Williams

     

    Shaun Wade will certainly have to play catch-up after being acquired earlier this week from the Baltimore Ravens. Yet he was constantly on the field Sunday night, a sign he’s quickly catching on. For the majority of the game, he made the most of his playing time, bullying his coverage assignment down the field on a handful of occasions. However, he was on the wrong side of the late-game Giants touchdown. The 2021 fifth-round pick saw considerable time on special teams as well.

    Given the lack of depth in the cornerback room and the uncertainty around Stephon Gilmore’s availability, Wade should have a spot on the roster. If he doesn’t, or if Myles Bryant is put on IR after the roster cut deadline, D’Angelo Ross is a player to watch after a strong performance Sunday night.

  • Safety (4)

    • Kyle Dugger
    • Devin McCourty
    • Jalen Mills
    • Adrian Phillips

     

    There hasn’t been much movement from this group throughout camp. After a strong spring it seemed as though Adrian Colbert might make a run at a depth roster spot, but that never materialized.

    Expect some of the cornerbacks, namely Joejuan Williams and Myles Bryant, to help add depth here. If they can’t, or Bryant’s injury carries over into the regular season, they could look to add external help.

  • Special Teams (6)

    • Nick Folk (K)
    • Jake Bailey (P)
    • Joe Cardona (LS)
    • Justin Bethel
    • Cody Davis
    • Matthew Slater

     

    Nick Folk will likely be the Patriots’ kicker Week 1. He should make the initial roster, but there’s a chance the Patriots cut him initially to get somebody else on, as they did last year. That’s contingent on nobody else claiming him, but there shouldn’t be a robust market for a 36-year-old dealing with a back injury.

  • Bubble Watch

    Last three on:

    • Carl Davis
    • Shaun Wade
    • Gunner Olszewski

    Next three on

    • Jakob Johnson
    • Matt LaCosse
    • Anfernee Jennings

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