There are two rules with Bill Belichick as your head coach: you don’t know what he’s going to do and when he does it, he is right. In Bill We Trust. I know that this roster will be wrong, but I’m going to try and do the impossible and get inside the mind of Bill Belichick. Here is how I think the initial 53 man roster will break down.
QB (3): Tom Brady, Jimmy Garappolo, Jacoby Brissett
Tough cuts: None
I have heard speculation that Jacoby Brissett’s job could be in jeopardy but I don’t see it. Belichick used a 3rd round pick on Brissett and I don’t think he would be so quick to dump him over one roster spot on a stacked team. Also, Jimmy G’s future with this team is extremely uncertain. It is very possible that he will walk in free agency to not only cash in but be a starter somewhere else, after spending 4 years on the bench. If Brissett is cut and Jimmy walks, this leaves the Patriots with a 41-year old Tom Brady and no plans for a backup. That scares me.
RB/FB (6): Mike Gillislee, James White, Dion Lewis, Rex Burkhead, Brandon Bolden, James Develin
Tough cuts: DJ Foster
Six backs is a lot for the Patriots to carry, but I just don’t see a scenario where Belichick cuts any of the above players. Gillislee and Burkhead were just given fairly decent money for running backs in the offseason. James White just came off a 3-TD MVP worthy performance in the Super Bowl. The Patriots are undefeated in a game where Dion Lewis is active (yes that is true). Bolden is a key contributor on special teams, which we all know Belichick goes crazy for. Develin is an excellent blocker and will be the lone fullback. Ideally, Foster could go to the practice squad if he clears waivers.
WR (5): Brandin Cooks, Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola, Malcolm Mitchell
Tough cuts: Devin Lucien, Austin Carr
Arguably the deepest position on the team, wide receivers Lucien and Carr may get screwed, as they would probably make the roster for most NFL teams. Both have had impressive camps, and Carr had a sweet TD catch in the first preseason game. Again, I bet the Pats would love to have Lucien and Carr on the practice squad, but to me it is very unlikely that both of these guys will clear waivers.
TE (3): Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen, James O’Shaughnessy
Tough cuts: Cody Hollister
Cody has had a much more impressive camp and preseason than his brother Jacob, but O’Shaugnessy is the more experienced player and I think he is the clear choice for the 3rd tight end on the roster.
O-Line (8): David Andrews, Marcus Cannon, Antonio Garcia, Ted Karras, Shaq Mason, Nate Solder, Joe Thuney, La’Adrian Waddle
Tough cuts: Cameron Fleming (I guess)
Fleming has been consistently bad in his time during New England, so he has to be the odd man out in this group in my opinion. The other guys are mostly young and developing, besides Solder and Cannon. Hopefully, this group can give Brady solid protection.
Defensive End (4): Trey Flowers, Kony Ealy, Deatrich Wise, Geneo Grissom
Tough cuts: None
Injured Reserve: Derek Rivers
I am sure by now you have heard that this is the Patriots’ thinnest position on the roster. Just because that is overstated doesn’t mean it isn’t true however, because it is. It really sucks that Rivers went down for the year, and I kind of expect a signing or trade for a player at this position.
Defensive Tackle (5): Alan Branch, Malcolm Brown, Laurence Guy, Vincent Valentine, Adam Butler
Tough cut: Woodrow Hamilton (I guess)
Yes I already used that joke. No, I don’t have much else to say here. Adam Butler might not make the team but I think he has a good chance to sneak his way on.
Linebackers (6): Dont’a Hightower, David Harris, Elandon Roberts, Kyle Van Noy, Shea McLellin, Brandon King
Tough cuts: Johnathan Freeny, Trevor Bates, Harvey Langi
Hightower and Harris should be an excellent duo linebacking core, covering all bases. Hightower might even play a lot of edge rusher this season. A lot of people have Trevor Bates squeezing his way on to the roster but I just don’t see the numbers working his way. Maybe he edges out Brandon King, but King contributes on special teams, giving him an edge.
Cornerbacks (5): Malcolm Butler, Stephon Gilmore, Eric Rowe, Johnathan Jones, Cyrus Jones
Tough cuts: Justin Coleman, DJ Killings
Coleman may be a slight surprise cut but because Cyrus Jones is a returner (for now), he serves a little bit more of a purpose. I think Butler, Gilmore, Rowe and J. Jones are the clear first 4 corners, meaning Cyrus Jones would see limited snaps at corner. DJ Killings has had an impressive camp and preseason and will almost certainly end up on the practice squad, if not another roster.
Safeties (4): Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, Nate Ebner
Tough cuts: Jordan Richards
Richards never really got too much of a chance, but at the same time never showed a reason to give him one. He’ll probably be picked up by another team, but he just doesn’t fit on this roster. The other safeties are all very good on this roster.
Special teams (4): Stephen Gostowski, Ryan Allen, Joe Cardona, Matthew Slater
I think it’s obviously too late to bring in another kicker to compete with Gostowski. Same for Allen and Cardona. This seems very much set in stone.