Without Deion Branch and a healthy Chad Jackson the Patriots are in trouble at the position. Branch's return would solidify the position and allow his quarterback a better comfort zone during crunch time vs. what could be expected from the rest of the unit.
John Stone is decent, but not exactly a playmaker. Stone, Rich Musinski and former college QB Keron Henry are players that have a better opportunity to stick around because of the aforementioned issues with Branch and Jackson, but they are firmly on the bubble. Kelvin Kight and Bam Childress appear to be in better position with both players having turned in solid camps and decent practices. Eddie Berlin is a wildcard, his league experience may keep him around.
The Patriots hardly keep four or more running backs on the roster, and last year it bit them badly as they were forced to sign names like Amos Zereoue and Mike Cloud off the street to have anyone in the backfield.
Patrick Cobbs is the little playmaker that could. Cobbs has been impressive in camp and on the field. It will be tough for the team to let him go. He may be a practice squad candidate. Heath Evans is a decent all-around fullback, but is caught in a numbers game with Patrick Pass and Garrett Mills. Mills should have no trouble making to the next round of cuts because of his tight end abilities. Pass, who is still on the PUP list, has to get healthy before his status can be determined.
Garrett Mills falls here because of his hybrid status, but he's as much a running back as a tight at this point.
Luzar was a late camp addition when the team opted to move on without Walter Rasby. The Patriots never keep five tight ends and with Mills sharing duties as a TE and a RB, Luzar is odd man out.
The Patriots benefit from the return of Matt Light and Nick Kaczur. With the additions of Ryan O'Callaghan and Dan Stevenson via the draft, the unit has improved its depth from last season in spite of losing Tom Ashworth and trading Ross Tucker and Brandon Gorin.
Locks: Starters- T, Matt Light; G, Logan Mankins, C, Dan Koppen; G, Stephen Neal; T, Nick Kaczur. Reserves - C, Russ ochstein; T Ryan O'Callaghan.
On The Bubble: Billy Yates, Gene Mruczkowski, Wesley Britt, Dan Stevenson, Nick Steitz, Randy Hand, and Brian Barthelmes
G/C, Billy Yates probably earns a spot because he took many/most of the reps at center with the third unit and looked better at guard than Gene Mruczkowski who was cut and re-signed last season. T Wesley Britt has looked decent, but unimpressive with his opportunities. G, Dan Stevenson looks in better position than G Nick Steitz and T Randy Hand. Barthelmes has size and power, but too far down on the depth chart.
With only three players on the roster the question is whether Corey Bramlet has done enough to stick around. The team could conceivably sign a veteran to the roster in case of emergency, but the ability to free up a roster spot may be more attractive.
Bramlet will probably get an opportunity to make it to the practice squad after the final round of cuts. At this point the Patriots still have one more game which Brady will see little if any action. Bramlet should get one more opportunity to show he deserves an invitation to stay on the practice squad unit.
With a load of first-round talent in this group, the locks are easily identified. The remainder of the group is dealing with the roster numbers game and injury concerns
Wright is on the bubble, but virtually cemented his spot with his solid play during the preseason. Johnathan Sullivan also looks like he's earned a spot after a shaky beginning. Dan Klecko is anomaly in the mix, sometimes a LB sometimes a downlineman. Klecko is so unique that he'll likely earn a spot because of his versatility. Santionio Thomas, Eddie Freeman, and Le Kevin Smith are fighting for one of the few spots available for the unit. If Marquise Hill returns, then one or none of the trio will make it. The team's infatuation with Klecko could also end opening up one spot.
By far the most difficult bunch to sort out. A number of young players have made an impression and some veterans have not. Because no newcomers impressed more than Don Davis and Larry Izzo on special teams, there are some who fall in the "on the bubble" category but might otherwise have joined the locks.
Locks: Tedy Bruschi, Mike Vrabel, Rosevelt Colvin, Tully Banta-Cain, Don Davis, Larry Izzo
On the Bubble: Barry Gardner, Monty Beisel, Chad Brown, Junior Seau, Eric Alexander, Pierre Woods, Jeremy Mincey, Freddie Roach, and Corey Mays.
Gardner and Seau are virtual shoe-ins due to their ability to contribute immediately. Brown's injury put him in a difficult spot. Beisel has slowly disappeared at Foxboro and in the preseason while Alexander is in a numbers game. The newcomer's list has Jeremy Mincey and Pierre Woods heading the group. Both have shown the ability to make plays and are college defensive ends that converted to linebackers in the pros. Mincey has the size, Woods has the speed. Corey Mays and Freddie Roach are too far down on the depth chart to have a real shot to stick, although both showed decent talent in camp. Mays can fly around to the ball, but is competing against Don Davis and Larry Izzo for a coveted spot. His inexperience is going to be the determining factor. Roach was injured over a week ago and hasn't been seen in action. He's not as big as some of the other backers in front of him, so his return is unlikely as an inside backer.
The cast of former safeties and defensive backs that fall into this group have made it a competitive situation. Some backs are listed here while others fall into the safety category.
Surprisingly Randall Gay is among the bubble candidates due to the competition of multi-role players. Chad Scott (see safety) is also one of those multitalented players. Willie Andrews' return skills, time at wide receiver and defensive presence puts him ahead of others on the bubble including Hank Poteat. Poteat was the player in filling that role. Eric Warfield is in a tough position trying to earn a roster spot. He's better at cornerback than others in this group, but position flexibility may be the key with Scott and Andrews filling those roles. Antwain Spann and Vernell Brown have too many players ahead of them on the unit although both can play, and may be candidates for depth should the injury bug strike as it did last season.
The return of Rodney Harrison, although a bit early to tell, provides a big boost to the depth in the deep secondary. Other players filling multiple roles add to the competition for spots. Those in the mix at safety are subject to the roster numbers game. Most will make it through the first round of cuts, but the second round will put them firmly in the danger category hence their listing on the bubble at this point.
Jones, Sanders Hawkins and Chad Scott are all players who can contribute immediately for the Patriots. All will make it to the final roster cuts when things will get very interesting due to need for depth at other positions. Mel Mitchell was a virtual lock but he's been placed on IR for the year. Guss Scott is in the most jeopardy at this time. The savvy veterans ahead of him make his battle for a spot more difficult. Although Scott has overcome two knee injuries to remain on the roster, the drafting of James Sanders in Scott's second season on top of the other veterans in camp put Scott in a precarious position.
The roster battle here has already been decided.
LS Jon Condo took many of the reps at Patriots training camp as Paxton recovered. With Paxton back at full strength, Condo was expendable. The team cut him early to allow him to seek employment elsewhere. K Martin Gramatica looked decent in training camp. He made the kicks asked of him, but the leg strength of the rookie was too great. The 5-8 yard difference between the two could mean the difference in a game.
Players not mentioned: S, Ray Ventrone (Injury) likley candidate for IR. RB, Earl Charles (NFLEL Injury) likely injury settlement. WR, Zuriel Smith undetermined.