Assessing the Final 53 for the New England Patriots

Quarterback (2):

1. Tom Brady

2. Ryan Mallett

Analysis: No surprise here with the two names listed above.  For me, the surprise is that Tim Tebow got cut.  Here’s my thought process: When the Pats signed Tebow, they knew about his struggles as a passer and had to assume that he was going to be a developmental project.  Then, Tebow comes in, shits his pants throwing the ball as was suspected, and yet he gets cut.  I just don’t understand why Tebow was brought in if they weren’t in it for a long-term developmental project.

Running Back (5):

1. Stevan Ridley

2. Shane Vereen

3. Brandon Bolden

4. LeGarrette Blount

5. James Develin

Analysis: In my opinion, 5 is too high.  Yes, James Develin is a fullback by trade, but on a team that relies primarily on the pass, keeping 5 running backs makes you pretty thin in other areas.  With that being said, I love having both LeGarrette Blount and Brandon Bolden waiting in the wings.  We all know that Shane Vereen has had some problems staying healthy, but if Ridley were to ever go down, both Blount and Bolden are more than capable of handling the load.  My question is surrounding the 3rd down running back.  If Vereen goes down, who handles the pass blocking and catching?  Blount has never been known to have great hands, and Bolden is an unknown.

Tight End (3):

1. Rob Gronkowski

2. Michael Hoomanawanui

3. Zach Sudfeld

Analysis: For those of you that have sprouted a little Gronkowski in your pants after seeing the Pats remove him from the PUP list, let’s examine Gronk’s injury history.  During the Patriots last two Super Bowl appearances, Gronkowski, arguably the Patriots’ most dangerous offensive weapon, was banged up.  Wouldn’t you rather have a healthy Gronk in the playoffs rather than in week 3 of the regular season?  I know that I would.  I was a proponent of him starting the season on the PUP, and am still leaning in that direction.  Hoo-man and Sudfeld were no brainers in my opinion.  Hoo-man is a good blocker and has familiarity with the system.  He also has the ability to play both TE and FB.  Sudfeld has shown some flashes of greatness in the preseason, but needs to ass bulk to his frame.  I could see him in a Hernandez-like role this season, playing primarily outside of a 3-point stance, running routes and not run blocking very often.  Am I surprised that Jake Ballard got cut?  Not really.  Word from the insiders were that Ballard never looked right after suffering a torn ACL more than 18 months ago.  Fells?  He was useless.

Wide Receiver (6):

1. Danny Amendola

1. Aaron Dobson

1. Kenbrell Thompkins

2. Josh Boyce

2. Julian Edelman

3. Matthew Slater

Analysis: No real surprises here.  Veterans Michael Jenkins, Donald Jones, and LaVelle Hawkins were all cut early on in camp, which was a clear indicator to me that the Pats were confident in the rookies that they had brought in.  Matthew Slater is nearly exclusive to special teams, so that means the Pats are going into 2013 with 5 wide receivers, 3 of whom are rookies.  I expect the starting 3 wideouts to be Thompkins and Dobson on the outside, with Amendola roaming the middle.  Edelman and Boyce have the ability to spell all three starters.

Offensive Line (9):

1. Nate Solder

1. Logan Mankins

1. Ryan Wendell

1. Dan Connolly

1. Sebastian Vollmer

2. Marcus Cannon

2. Will Svitek

2. Braxston Cave

2. Chris Barker

Analysis: Again, there aren’t any surprises here.  The Patriots are returning their whole starting offensive line from 2012.  Nate Solder has had a year of experience and time in the weight room with the Patriots’ strength and conditioning staff.  Top backups Marcus Cannon and Will Svitek are very versatile and can both play 4 of 5 spots on the line.  Cave is probably their backup center, with Barker providing some depth at guard.

Defensive End (4):

1. Chandler Jones

1. Rob Ninkovich

2. Jake Bequette

2. Michael Buchanon

Analysis: I’m a little surprised with some of the moves that the Patriots made at defensive end.  Previous contributors like Jermaine Cunningham and Justin Francis received their pink slips.   Offseason CFL acquisition Jason Vega got cut while Armond Armstead is on the non-football injured list.  Meanwhile, unproven guys like Bequette and Buchanon hang around.  I’ll be interested to see what the rotation starts to look like once the season gets underway.

Defensive Tackle (4):

1. Vince Wilfork

1. Tommy Kelly

2. Joe Vellano

2. A.J. Francis

Analysis: The top two guys on this list come as no surprise.  Wilfork has been a staple for the Pats for years, while Tommy Kelly has impressed throughout the preseason.  The surprise comes with the 2nd two guys on this list.  Both Vellano and Francis were undrafted rookies that were claimed on waivers by the Patriots yesterday.  Meanwhile, the Patriots released more proven commodities in Marcus Forston (who was moved to the practice squad) and Marcus Bernard.  I’m not sure if Vellano and Francis will be here for long, but either way I am surprised by the moves.

Linebacker (7):

1. Jerod Mayo

1. Brandon Spikes

1. Dont’a Hightower

2. Jamie Collins

2. Dane Fletcher

3. Steve Beauharnis

3. Chris White

Analysis: Not many surprises here.  Mayo, Spikes, and Hightower were all expected to return and start for the Patriots in 2013.  Jamie Collins will contribute on passing downs, where he’ll be able to use his rushing ability and pass coverage skills.  Dane Fletcher looks close to the 2011 version of himself as he is still recovering from a torn ACL.  Steve Beauharnis has looked decent in the preseason and will need time to add some bulk to his frame.  Chris White was acquired on waivers and will look to contribute on special teams.

Cornerback (5):

1. Aqib Talib

1. Alfonzo Dennard

2. Kyle Arrington

2. Logan Ryan

3. Marquice Cole

Analysis: The Patriots will move into the 2013 season with 5 cornerbacks on the roster.  That concerns me.  Yes, if necessary Devin McCourty can move to corner.  Yes, if necessary Steve Gregory can slide down and cover slot receivers.  Sadly, neither are ideal situations.  In addition to only keeping 5 corners, Alfonzo Dennard’s future is completely unknown as his probation hearing is approaching.  Kyle Arrington can play the outside, but he is much better on the inside.  Logan Ryan played more snaps than any other player this preseason, but he still has a lot of room for improvement.  If there is one position that concerns me on this Patriots team, it’s cornerback. 

Safety (5):

1. Devin McCourty

1. Steve Gregory

2. Tavon Wilson

2. Duron Harmon

3. Nate Ebner

Analysis: Although much has been made of Adrian Wilson being placed on IR, I don’t see it as much of a surprise.  Throughout the preseason, Wilson has reportedly looked slow, and Gregory was receiving many more 1st team reps than Wilson.  As camp progressed, Duron Harmon was moving his way up the depth chart while Adrian Wilson wasn’t making any improvements.  As for the guys remaining on the roster, McCourty is solid at free safety.  Steve Gregory makes me nervous.  Oftentimes, he takes gambles and is found out of position when the other team makes big plays.  Tavon Wilson is losing my confidence as he continues to fail to make gains as time progresses, while Duron Harmon makes plays that continue to improve my confidence in him.  Nate Ebner is a Matt Slater type, aka special teams extraordinaire.

Specialist (3):

P: Ryan Allen

K: Stephen Gostkowski

LS: Danny Aiken

Analysis: The only surprise here is with the cut of Zoltan Mesko.  Mesko was a solid performer for the Patriots and was an even bigger influence within the community.  However, Allen proved to be as effective as Mesko in the preseason, and by cutting Mesko the Patriots saved more than $1 million in salary cap space this season.


Most Surprising Player Cut: Tim Tebow

As mentioned above, the Patriots had to expect that Tebow was going to be a developmental signing, however it didn’t seem that they were willing to give Tim Tebow time to develop.

Most Surprising Player Kept: James Develin

By keeping James Develin, on thing is becoming apparent, the Patriots will place a lot of emphasis on the run game in 2013.

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