Notebook: Final Roster Shaping Up

Camp update, injury news, and more in this edition of the Notebook. One more look at the battle for position on the depth chart at OLB.

With Derrick Burgess reporting to camp last week, and adding at least some depth to outside linebacker, the Patriots roster heading toward the regular season starting to come together. Logan Mankins' absence and a growing group of injured players remain a concern. But at some point, what you see is what you get.

At this point Bill Belichick and his coaches are not only working toward roster cut downs and a 53-man roster, but beginning to hone in on roles for a huge number of untested, unproven players on both sides of the ball. For better or worse, the Patriots will field a large group of new faces in 2010. Only time will tell whether the roster retooling has been a success.

--WR Torry Holt was placed on injured reserve with a knee injury Aug. 15. The first-year Patriot subsequently reached an injury settlement with the team and became an unrestricted free agent after a short and clearly disappointing offseason stint in New England.

--DB Ross Ventrone, an undrafted free agent who's the brother of former Patriot and current Brown Ray Ventrone, was released Aug. 15. The latest Ventrone in New England saw action in the preseason opener, but had no real chance to make the team or even the practice squad.

--WR Buddy Farnham, a rookie free agent out of Brown, re-signed with New England Aug. 15. The 6-0, 185-pound Farnham had been with the Patriots all summer up until his release on Aug. 9.
--OL Brian Simmons, a rookie free agent out of Oklahoma, was signed Aug. 15. The 6-4, 318-pounder is yet another body to add to the mix of inexperienced backup talent along the New England line.
--G Logan Mankins' situation remains unchanged. The two-time Pro Bowler hasn't signed his RFA tender and the situation doesn't seem to be any closer to a resolution than it was the day earlier this summer when he asked to be traded.

BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Aaron Hernandez vs. Rob Gronkowski. This battle isn't necessarily for one job or role, but more for the spot at the top rookie tight end. Hernandez, the fourth-round pick, and Gronkowski, a second-round selection, are very different talents. The former is virtually a receiver, while the latter is an in-line presence, blocking force and has the ideal size to be a red zone target. Both made pretty touchdown receptions in the second preseason game in Atlanta to improve their burgeoning stock. Both will get plenty of reps as rookies, as their complementary skills could help the passing game from the get-go.
OTHER BATTLE FRONTS: The outside linebacker duel remains, simultaneously, the most competitive and least competitive on the team. It's highly competitive in that there are questions as to who the two starters will be and how the various edge rolls will be broken up. It's not all that competitive, though, in that returning starter Tully Banta-Cain and rookie second-round pick Jermaine Cunningham are hurt. Derrick Burgess just showed up to camp and, as he did a year ago, looks to have little impact ability left. There simply isn't much talent at the OLB spot in New England, giving many of the mediocre bodies on the depth chart an actual chance to see significant playing time.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: WR Wes Welker -- The All-Pro caught just two passes for 20 yards against the Falcons in the second week of preseason action. But his presence on the game field was enough. It's now a virtual certainty that he'll be in the lineup on opening day and that has Patriots fans everywhere smiling.

ROOKIE REPORT: TE Rob Gronkowski had a nice 24-yard touchdown against the Falcons, one of his four catches in the game. He also saw more offensive snaps than any other Patriot in the win and continues to display a wide variety of skills. ... TE Aaron Hernandez also found the end zone at the Georgia Dome, making nice adjustment on a back shoulder throw from Tom Brady for a 4-yard score. ... QB Zac Robinson hit both his pass attempts in limited action against Atlanta and remains a real long shot for the roster. But a practice squad role can't be ruled out. ... P Zoltan Mesko had a 44.5-yard net average on four punts against the Falcons. He remains a bit inconsistent in his directional and situational work at times, but clearly is making strides in his role as the team's only punter. ... CB Devin McCourty once again got the preseason start in Atlanta, and finished tied for a team high with five tackles. He also had a pass defensed as he remains very much in the mix at the top of the cornerback depth chart, especially with returning starter Leigh Bodden remaining out of action. ... OLB Jermaine Cunningham had been getting first-team reps before going down to injury a little more than a week ago. Now, he's missed each of the first two preseason games and continues to fall further behind in terms of practice reps.

INJURY REPORT: OLB Tully Banta-Cain has been out of action for nearly a week with a reported ankle injury and did not play in the second preseason game. ... CB Leigh Bodden continues to miss both practice and preseason game action with a knee injury suffered early in camp, though he's downplayed the injury. ... LB Gary Guyton has not been seen in uniform since the first weekend of training camp thanks to a knee injury. ... OL Nick Kaczur has reportedly undergone back surgery and his season could be in jeopardy at this point. ... OLB Jermaine Cunningham has now missed more than a week and each of the first two preseason games with an unknown injury.

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