Patriots’ pre-preseason 53-man roster projection

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A couple days before the Patriots open the 2022 preseason Thursday night at Gillette Stadium against the Giants, New England’s competition for roster spots is still rather early in the process.

There are plenty of practice and preseason game reps to be logged before Bill Belichick will need to trim his roster down to 53 prior to the Sept. 11 regular season opener against the Dolphins in Miami.

Injuries will almost assuredly alter the competitive landscape. There could even be a couple transactions or two to shake up the competition.

With those qualifiers in mind, here’s an early-August shot at projecting the Patriots’ 53-man roster, some of the more difficult projections coming on the offensive line and defensive front at this early point.

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Offense (24)

Quarterbacks (3)

Mac Jones, Brian Hoyer, Bailey Zappe

Analysis: Unless something strange happens, Hoyer is locked in as not only the backup but also a player/coach role that could be key given the changes to the offensive coaching staff. Zappe has looked solid this summer, better than Jones at times, and certainly appears to be worth developing.

Running backs (5)

Damien Harris, Rhamondre Stevenson, Ty Montgomery, Kevin Harris, Pierre Strong Jr.

Analysis: Even with James White opening the year on PUP in this scenario, this feels one body too many. Strong has been limited at times in the early part of camp, so his health is worth watching. The top three will seemingly be the foundation of the backfield with the two rookies as developmental pieces for the future.

Tight ends (2)

Hunter Henry, Jonnu Smith

Analysis: Given the desire to use two-tight end sets this may seem a little light. It certainly feels like it’s time to move on from 2020 third-round picks Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene, the latter always seemingly dealing with some health issue. Keeping or finding a third tight end for the practice squad would probably be essential.

Wide receivers (5)

Jakobi Meyers, Kendrick Bourne, DeVante Parker, Nelson Agholor, Tyquan Thornton

Analysis: This is a pretty easy spot assuming the five guys remain relatively healthy. Tre Nixon didn’t really carry over his momentum from the spring and veteran Kristian Wilkerson is probably next in line, along with Lil’Jordan Humphrey.

Offensive line (9)

Trent Brown, Cole Strange, David Andrews, Mike Onwenu, Isaiah Wynn, James Ferentz, Justin Herron, Arlington Hambright, Will Sherman

Analysis: This is a tough spot to judge in terms of the backup roles prior to preseason game action. Hambright has come on early in camp while Sherman has been working his versatility. Adding a veteran to this uncertain mix before or into the season shouldn’t be ruled out.

Defense (23)

Defensive line (5)

Christian Barmore, Lawrence Guy, Davon Godchaux, Henry Anderson, Deatrich Wise Jr.

Analysis: Sticking with the known commodities here, although it would not surprise if a longer shot like undrafted rookie LaBryan Ray were to make the cut. There is also room for a couple bodies on the practice squad.

Linebacker (7)

Matthew Judon, Josh Uche, Ja’Whuan Bentley, Raekwon McMillan, Mack Wilson Jr., Jahlani Tavai, Ronnie Perkins

Analysis: There is quantity here, but is there quality? That remains to be seen. Could easily swap Cameron McGrone, Harvey Langi or Anfernee Jennings in for one of the last couple roster spots. After the top couple guys, this position almost feels like a coin flip.

Safety (5)

Devin McCourty, Kyle Dugger, Adrian Phillips, Jabrill Peppers, Joshuah Bledsoe

Analysis: This is easily the deepest position on the roster, with plenty of versatility to boot. Peppers is still working his way to full health coming off ACL surgery. Bledsoe has shown ability, versatility and energy this summer after sitting out his rookie season.

Cornerback (6)

Jalen Mills, Malcolm Butler, Jonathan Jones, Terrance Mitchell, Marcus Jones, Jack Jones

Analysis: There are still a lot of questions here, both in terms of roles and roster spots behind the No. 1 option Mills. Both rookie Joneses have shined at times and Marcus will have a likely key role in the return game. Myles Bryant could certainly enter the defensive back mix, while Joejuan Williams and Shaun Bryant feel like they may be running out of time to prove themselves. If there is a “surprise cut” on the roster, it still feels like Butler could be in the running as he returns from retirement to an uncertain position group.

Special teams (6)

Nick Folk (PK), Jake Bailey (P), Joe Cardona (LS), Matthew Slater, Justin Bethel, Brendan Schooler

Analysis: Bailey is back booming the ball this summer with a new contract in hand. Slater is still the leader of the group, even if he might not be quite as good as he once ways. Schooler is an undrafted rookie who’s seemingly being groomed this summer for a core special teams role and in this projection he takes Cody Davis’ job.

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