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Patriots 53 Man Prediction (Post Week Two)

Now that Week Two of the preseason is over, we are going to take a look at the Patriots and who we think should be on the 53 man roster.

As we are halfway through the NFL Preseason, it's time we take a look at the New England Patriots and who we believe will make the 53 man roster and who we think just misses the cut:

Quarterback (2) - Tom Brady*, Jimmy Garoppolo, Jacoby Brissett

Notable Exclusion(s) - NONE

- No surprises here. Because Tom Brady is suspended for the first four weeks of the regular season, he doesn't count towards the 53 man roster. Jimmy Garoppolo will be the starting quarterback while third-round draft pick Jacoby Brissett will be his back-up. They will continue to carry three quarterbacks even when Brady comes back.

Running Back (4) - LeGarrette Blount, Tyler Gaffney, James White, Brandon Bolden

Notable Exclusion(s) - Joey Iosefa, D.J. Foster, Donald Brown, Dion Lewis

- In lieu of the news that Dion Lewis will miss more time with him needing another knee surgery, he will remain on the PUP (Physically Unable to Perform) list, not counting against the 53 man roster. That all but assures James White making the team. LeGarrette Blount has been impressive through the first two preseason games along with Tyler Gaffney. If both keep it up, they should make the final roster no problem. Brandon Bolden is a core special teams player and change-of-pace back, so he should make the roster as well. 

The team most likely would not need another third down back with White in that role so both D.J. Foster and Donald Brown are on the outside looking in. Foster could be headed for the practice squad if he clears waivers though while Brown hasn't done enough to necessarily win a spot in this battle. He could be someone who the team looks at later in the season if the Patriots suffer any injuries to their running back depth.

Fullback (1) - James Develin

Notable Exclusion(s) - NONE

- No surprise here, Develin is finally healed after missing last season with a leg injury. The Patriots are one of the few teams to use a fullback still and Develin has no competition. 

Wide Receiver (6) - Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell, Keshawn Martin, Matthew Slater

Notable Exclusion(s) - Nate Washington, Aaron Dobson, Devin Lucien, DeAndre Carter, Chris Harper

- One of the more interesting battles, the first four wide receivers are set with Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Chris Hogan and Malcolm Mitchell. Edelman just recently came off the PUP list, Hogan shined against the Bears and Mitchell is making terrific progress after suffering his gruesome elbow injury only recently. Amendola has yet to come off the PUP list, but is expected to soon and will most likely be competing for the starting "Y" (slot) position with Hogan. Matthew Slater is technically a wide receiver but is the special teams captain and is a lock for the team regardless. 

The fifth wide receiver is a fight between Keshawn Martin, Nate Washington, Aaron Dobson, Devin Lucien and DeAndre Carter. Washington has yet to practice or play, so he doesn't really have a shot. Dobson has done well this preseason but if Mitchell is ready for Week One, Dobson probably doesn't make the team. Lucien, Carter and Harper are all interesting projects, but one may be better suited on the practice squad while the others haven't done too much to separate themselves from the rest of the pack enough to win a roster spot. 

Tight End (3) - Rob Gronkowski, Martellus Bennett, A.J. Derby

Notable Exclusion(s) - Clay Harbor, Bryce Williams, Steven Scheu

- The first two tight end spots are locked in with Gronkowski and Bennett. The third tight end spot has come down to the veteran Clay Harbor and A.J. Derby. Derby is a second year player who didn't play last season who has done a lot to impress this preseason. Harbor is a veteran free agent acquisition who has experience on his side. Bryce Williams and Steven Scheu are both un-drafted free agents who have both flashed a little bit, but not enough to unseat Harbor or Derby. 

I believe that Derby being the younger player with perhaps a higher ceiling, he has a better shot right now than Harbor. It is still a tight battle and we likely won't know who the victor is until just before week one.

Offensive Tackle (4) - Nate Solder, Marcus Cannon, Cameron Fleming, LaAdrian Waddle

Notable Exclusion(s) - Sebastian Vollmer

- With Sebastian Vollmer reportedly going to the injured reserve, the Patriots are now without their projected starting right tackle. Nate Solder is locked in as the team's left tackle while Marcus Cannon will most likely take over for Vollmer at right tackle. Both Cameron Fleming and LaAdrian Waddle will both most likely make the roster as swing tackles at a position that was dealing with depth issues even before Vollmer's injury. There are no real surprises at this position regardless.

Offensive Guard (3) - Joe Thuney, Ted Karras, Josh Kline

Notable Exclusion(s) - Jonathan Cooper, Shaq Mason, Tre' Jackson

- Like Dion Lewis and Sebastian Vollmer, we heard news on Sunday that Shaq Mason is dealing with a broken hand. Because of the unknowns so far, Mason is off of the 53 man roster here as there is a possibility he could be heading to the IR (injured reserve). Jonathan Cooper could also be headed to the IR as he is continuing to deal with plantar fasciitis and doesn't appear to be making much progress. That leaves third round draft pick Joe Thuney, sixth round draft pick Ted Karras and Josh Kline as the remaining depth. Thuney and Kline are most likely locked in at the starting guard spots, unless Kline's reported shoulder injury is serious enough to keep him out beyond the end of the preseason. 

Regardless, Thuney is locked in as the team's starting left guard and Kline/Karras will occupy the other guard spot while the other will be the swing guard.

Center (2) - David Andrews, Bryan Stork

Notable Exclusion(s) - NONE

- There is no real shock here as Andrews and Stork are still embroiled in the competition for the starting center job. Stork has battled another concussion but seems to be over it now as he was practicing last week. But, Andrews has done very well this preseason and may have the inside edge right now. The team will be in good hands regardless of who wins the spot and the other will like be the back-up. This is still a very fluid competition at the moment.

Defensive Line (10) - Malcom Brown, Alan Branch, Vincent Valentine, Markus Kuhn, Anthony Johnson, Rob Ninkovich, Jabaal Sheard, Shea McClellin, Trey Flowers, Geneo Grissom

Notable Exclusion(s) - Terrance Knighton, Frank Kearse

- Let's start with the interior defensive line. Malcom Brown is a lock and also has one of the starting roles locked up in the team's 4-3 defensive scheme. Vincent Valentine is also a lock due to being picked in the third round back in April. Alan Branch's team option for 2016 was picked up in the off-season but is currently suspended for what is reported to be a short period of time due to "violation of team rules". This sounds minor and he should be back prior to Week One. Markus Kuhn has been an impressive free agent and has versatility as he can also play defensive end as well. The shocker here is Anthony Johnson over Terrance Knighton. Johnson had a monster game on against the Bears while Knighton has struggled in the first two preseason games.

Johnson doesn't have the experience that Knighton has, but Johnson showed extremely well at getting into the back-field and disrupting numerous plays. Knighton has struggled during the preseason as he hasn't been the intimidating force in the middle some had hoped he would be. The last spot on the interior defensive line could come down to Johnson and Knighton, but Johnson is gaining a lot of steam right now and also doesn't have the $2 million dollar price tag that Knighton does. 

Now for the defensive end position, the team has solid depth with Rob Ninkovich, Shea McClelin, Jabaal Sheard, Trey Flowers and Geneo Grissom. Ninkovich has made a remarkable recovery from his triceps injury and has already started practicing again. McClellin is in the same mold as Ninkovich and was signed to a nice three year, $9 million dollar contract, so he isn't going anywhere. Jabaal Sheard obviously isn't going anywhere either as he is one of the team's top pass rushers. Both of last year's draft picks, Trey Flowers and Geneo Grissom are likely safe as well. Flowers has shown very well in his first two preseason bouts after missing much of last season with a knee injury. 

Grissom is still developing as a pass rusher but shows a high ceiling as he continues to grow. Overall, the defensive end group is in good hands for 2016 again with the depth that the Patriots have.

Linebacker (4) - Jamie Collins, Dont'a Hightower, Jonathan Freeny, Kamu Grugier-Hill

Notable Exclusion(s) - Ramon Humber, Elandon Roberts

- Jamie Collins and Dont'a Hightower form one of the league's best linebacker duos and are not going anywhere. Jonathan Freeny filled in last season as an inside linebacker and is a lock for one of the back-up spots. Kamu Grugier-Hill is a sixth round pick out of Eastern Illinois but has impressed throughout training camp and the preseason. At 6'2", 215 lbs, Grugier-Hill is rather undersized for an outside linebacker role in the NFL, but could be someone the Patriots utilize in the "nickel" role as a hybrid outside linebacker and safety. His speed (4.45 forty yard dash) could come in handy off the edge and in coverage. 

Ramon Humber is a long-time veteran that can play both inside and outside linebacker but was signed as a fringe 53 man roster competitor and hasn't done anything to "stand out" so far. Elandon Roberts is an undersized inside linebacker at 6'0", 235 lbs but has been highly touted for his work ethic and tackling ability. With the team sometimes running a 4-2-5 defense, the team doesn't need as many linebackers. Roberts could be a solid practice squad player though and that is likely where he is headed for his rookie season.

Safety (6) - Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Nate Ebner, Duron Harmon, Jordan Richards, Brandon King

Notable Exclusion(s) - NONE

- Starting with the safety position, the Patriots boast one of the best secondaries in the NFL. Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung are one of the best safety duos in the NFL and are obviously not going anywhere. Nate Ebner and Duron Harmon are both very solid safety depth. With Harmon, he enters the last year of his rookie deal and projects to return as the team's number three safety and McCourty's primary back-up. Ebner was re-signed to a two year deal over the off-season and is one of the best special teams players in the NFL.

As for Jordan Richards, he is a second round pick back from the 2015 NFL Draft and comes into his sophomore season after playing just under 20% of the Patriots defensive snaps but over 50% of special teams one. He will have a chance to finally get more time on defense as a number four safety. Lastly, Brandon King is another solid special teams player who earned a roster spot last season and is another linebacker/safety hybrid player. He should grab one of the last spots as a core special teamer and reserve safety.

Cornerback (5) - Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan, Cyrus Jones, Justin Coleman, Jonathan Jones

Notable Exclusion(s) - V'Angelo Bentley, Cre'von LeBlanc, Darryl Roberts

- One of the deepest position for the Patriots, Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan are locked in as the team's starting cornerbacks on the outside along with being one of the best young cornerback duos in the NFL. Alongside them is second round pick Cyrus Jones. He is a lock for the roster and will either be the main back-up outside cornerback or the team's starting slot cornerback along with being a kick/punt return specialist. Justin Coleman was picked up by the team from Seattle and did well in 2015. He has had a decent preseason and should be a lock for the roster competing for the slot cornerback position.

The last cornerback spot is a four way competition between Jonathan Jones, V'Angelo Bentley, Cre'von LeBlanc and Darryl Roberts. Jones is a very athletic cornerback who despite his size limitation (5'9") has shown well in training camp. Bentley and LeBlanc have both had their moments throughout training camp and preseason as rookies. Roberts has come back into this competition and is now competing for the last spot. In the end, I believe Jones still wins the spot due to how well he has done and the impression he has made to the coaching staff. Le'Blanc and Bentley both could end up though on the Patriots practice squad as long-term projects.

Punter (1) - Ryan Allen

Notable Exclusion(s) - NONE

- Not a shocker, the team gave Allen a three year extension last summer and has no competition. 

Kicker (1) - Stephen Gostkowski

Notable Exclusion(s) - NONE

- Gostkowski is arguably the best kicker in the NFL and like Allen, signed a long-term contract extension last year. 

Long Snapper (1) - Joe Cardona

Notable Exclusion(s) - NONE

- Now that the U.S. Navy has allowed Cardona to play in 2016, there is no other competition for Cardona as he is the no-doubt long-snapper for the team.

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