Patriots’ Roster Projection: How Key Positions Shake Out

Julian Edelman, Tom Brady, Phillip Dorsett

Getty Phillip Dorsett (middle) after a catch against the New York Jets in 2018.

The New England Patriots roster competition on offense is extremely interesting this year, with tons of reloading to do at several positions.

There were several impact losses on offense, as the Patriots saw left tackle Trent Brown leave in free agency for a record deal. Meanwhile tight ends Rob Gronkowski (retired) and Dwayne Allen (free agent) departed as well.

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The offensive line position is extremely thin after four tackles either retired or were released already. There are also some big decisions to make at wide receiver and tight end.

Here’s an early look at how the Patriots’ offense could look come Week 1.

QUARTERBACK (3) – Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, and Jarrett Stidham

We haven’t seen three active quarterbacks in a few years for the Patriots, but Stidham’s accuracy and upside have already drawn some attention from critics. Bill Belichick has also weighed in on the rookie, noticing his early improvement.

Hoyer has been Brady’s understudy and is certain to stay that way for now. Though some early mistakes by Hoyer have given Stidham a chance to get extra reps. Neither is anywhere close to unseating Brady, however.

Out: With this much talent, there’s simply no room for second-year man Danny Etling on the roster, but perhaps a spot on the practice squad could be in order.

RUNNINGBACK (5) – James White, Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead, Damien Harris, Brandon Bolden

There’s an inkling that the Patriots could be shifting to a more run-heavy offense with a pair of backs drafted each of the last two years.

Sony Michel

GettySony Michel in the 2018 AFC Championship Game.

Sony Michel is more of a downhill back, averaging 4.5 yards per carry last season in 13 games. The second-year rusher seems to have overcome an offseason knee injury and looks ready to claim to the starting spot in the backfield.

James White and Rex Burkhead have traditionally been used in short-yardage situations as well as in passing plays out of the backfield. The two backs are extremely versatile, yet different, with Burkhead showcasing more size and physicality as opposed to White’s shifty, speedy approach.

Damien Harris is a nice fit for this backfield and has already been used in both running and passing schemes. The final man, Bolden, returns after a year hiatus in Miami and may be one of the last players to make the roster due to his special teams’ experience.

Out: Nick Brossette is the lone man out, as the undrafted rookie has yet to set himself apart.

FULLBACK (1) – James Develin

One of the most unsung Patriots, Develin, pending a healthy preseason, will be a major part of facilitating the offense by providing protection for running backs and Tom Brady.

Out: Jakob Johnson may be unseated by fellow rookie Andrew Beck, a tight end who has been taking reps in the backfield.

TIGHT END (3) – Matt LaCosse, Stephen Anderson, Andrew Beck
Suspended: Ben Watson

LaCosse could be the next ‘diamond-in-the-rough find for Bill Belichick. The 6-foot-6 tight end had his first full season of NFL action last year with the Broncos, and now he steps into the spotlight in Foxborough taking over for future Hall-of-Famer Rob Gronkowski. He’ll look to build on a career-high 24 catches from a year ago.

With LaCosse mainly serving as a blocking tight end so far in his career, Stephen Anderson could give Brady a receiving option at tight end. He has already showcased his hands with a couple of nice grabs in training camp, and NESN reports that Anderson bulked up during the offseason as well.

The final option, potentially for the short term, is undrafted rookie Andrew Beck. He has seen reps at full back and his roster spot seems certain given his contract – the highest-paid among undrafted free agents.

Out: Newly-acquired Lance Kendricks and second-year man Ryan Izzo are longshots to make the roster, but Izzo still has practice squad eligibility should he go unclaimed.

WIDE RECEIVER (6) – N’Keal Harry, Julian Edelman, Phillip Dorsett, Maurice Harris, Matthew Slater, Braxton Berrios
PUP List: Demaryius Thomas | Suspended: Josh Gordon

This year’s receiving corps is deep with a mix of veteran steadiness and youthful energy.

NKeal Harry

N’Keal Harry breaks a tackle at Arizona State last season.

In the slot, Super Bowl LIII MVP Julian Edelman will be the primary man with Jakobi Meyers potentially set to be the understudy. Signing as an undrafted free agent, Meyers has already seen a fair amount of first-team snaps. Not to mention his size (6-foot-2) makes him a prime candidate at slot receiver.

Maurice Harris and Phillip Dorsett are threats over the middle thanks to their speed. In addition, the duo serves as versatile options short or long.

First-round pick N’Keal Harry is among the most exciting rookie prospects in the game. His speed and physicality are unrivaled among young receivers. Despite some rough patches early, Harry typically has good hands, strong route-running ability, and above all, he’s tough to bring down.

The Patriots are without arguably their top two receiving options to start the year in Thomas and Gordon. The former is recovering from an Achilles tear last December while Gordon remains suspended for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy.

Out: Braxton Berrios is the toughest cut but the second-year man out of Miami may just be edged out by Meyers. Veteran Dontrelle Inman is also on the bubble and hasn’t seen much time in camp after nursing an injury. Ryan Davis, Gunner Olszewski, and Damoun Patterson are long shots.

OFFENSIVE LINE (8) – David Andrews, Joe Thuney, Shaq Mason, Marcus Cannon, Isaiah Wynn, Dan Skipper, Ted Karras, Hjalte Froholdt
NFI List: Yodny Cajuste

Four of the five starters from last year return, with the left tackle position the only spot to fill.

The first-round pick from 2018 Isaiah Wynn is making his way back to full health after tearing his Achilles last August and is expected to be the starting left tackle. In Wynn’s absence from first-team reps, 6-foot-10 Dan Skipper has seen his workload increase and Joe Thuney has switched between guard and tackle on the left side throughout training camp.

Ted Karras could find his way back onto the roster given his interior versatility and experience while rookie Hjalte Froholdt has had a strong camp so far but could be limited to a reserve role.

Out: Cuts include veteran James Ferentz along with Cedrick Lang, Tyler Gauthier, and Tyree St. Louis.

Stay tuned for the defense and special teams projections to follow.

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