In my last post, I looked at 30 roster locks that the Patriots have. There were guys who arguably could’ve made the list as well that didn’t. There are also several other players who are likely to make the roster if all goes well. Who are they?
In my initial Patriots roster projections, I counted 21 players with a good chance of making the roster. Those players are Brian Hoyer, Rex Burkhead, Damien Harris, Brandon Bolden, Demaryius Thomas, Phillip Dorsett, Maurice Harris, Cameron Meredith, Jakobi Meyers, Braxton Berrios, Matt LaCosse, James Ferentz, Lawrence Guy, Mike Pennel, Adam Butler, Derek Rivers, John Simon, Elandon Roberts, Jamie Collins, Ja’Whaun Bentley and Jonathan Jones. However, I will only be looking at offensive players in part one.
Why Aren’t They Locks?
For Hoyer, I was very close to naming him a roster lock. However, the Patriots don’t necessarily like carrying three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster. I would say this year would be the year for three QBs. However, Stidham has been impressive enough to pose this question: is he a capable back-up?
There are other positional needs on the roster and a lot of competition all around. If they can spare a player at any position, QB makes the most sense. Not to mention, there’s salary cap relief if they do decide to cut Hoyer. They could even milk Hoyer’s additional value if he continues finding success in the preseason. That would allow them to ship him off to a desperate team for assets. But in the end, he provides value to the Patriots roster. Whether as a leader or in preparation for an upcoming game. He also has the experience within the system and around the league to be a safer option if Brady does go down this season. It’s likely Hoyer sticks around, but Stidham could very well change that in the next two weeks.
Patriots Running Back Dilemma
Rex Burkhead, Brandon Bolden and rookie Damien Harris are the next best options. Even though it’s likely the three will stick around, it is not a sure-fire deal by any means.
Burkhead has had problems with durability, missing just about all of last season with several different ailments. He has missed time in the off-season as well, including training camp, with injuries. Do you want to risk a roster spot on a guy who could be injured right out of the gates? Someone with injury history showing that the possibility is a very real one?
Then there’s Bolden. He isn’t the best runner, and he isn’t a great option, but he could provide depth. He’s also a solid option on special teams. However, the Patriots did release him last season to address other needs, and who’s to say they won’t do it again?
Finally, Harris, who was drafted in the third round of this past draft. He is the least likely to get released simply due to when he was drafted. However, again, running back isn’t a need in New England, and if they decide to keep Bolden and Burkhead, is there a need for a fifth guy? It doesn’t help that he is dealing with a minor injury, which could limit his reps in practice and in the preseason.
Wide Receiver Battle?
This is going to take a while to address. The Patriots receiving core is not the best, that’s for sure. But there have been a few surprises in camp and preseason thus far, that have given this group some nice upside.
Veterans With Injuries
First up, Demaryius Thomas. Recovering from an achilles tear last season, he has yet to see any reps in the off-season. He is currently on the Physically Unable to Perform list (PUP) and could stay that way to start the season. However, Thomas is now 31 years old, and he is coming off his worst statistical year since the 2011 season. The injury only provides more wear and tear on a declining player, and for him to be coming off a bad season on top of that only lessens his chances more. Besides, there are some young guys that have been surprisingly good this summer, which I will touch on shortly.
Dorsett is now in his third year with the Patriots, and he is as close of a lock as you can get to this point. But he isn’t the best receiver, having just a combined 44 receptions and 484 yards the last two seasons with New England. He did, however, get injured on Wednesday, the first joint practice session against the Titans. It appeared to be a hand/wrist injury. The injury takes time away to compete against other receivers battling for the same spot as himself.
Meredith is a new addition to the Patriots roster this season, being signed on August 6th, 2019. He has been dealing with a knee issue for quite some time, which ultimately led to the Saints releasing him. The injury seems serious enough that, despite currently being on the PUP list, he could wind up on Injured Reserve (IR) and miss the first six weeks of the season. It is likely he stays to that point, but like with Thomas, the surprising upside from what’s considered the bottom half of the depth chart could push the Patriots to cut Meredith before the season begins.
Patriots Young Guns
Meyers, Harris and Berrios are the receivers that have done really well in camp. Meyers was an undrafted free agent signing that the Patriots made this off-season, and nobody could have predicted what he’s done so far. He has looked like the Patriots best receiver at times, and many New England reporters are high on Meyers. His performance in a preseason game further proved just how good Meyers has been, and if he keeps it up in preseason week 2, could very well be a lock.
Harris was a free agent that the Patriots picked up, formerly of the Redskins, and he wasn’t a highly anticipated receiver. But he has been really good in camp, showing his reliable hands, very rarely dropping the football. Though he did have two drops in preseason week one, as well as one awful drop during camp on Monday, he certainly has proven to be a reliable receiver. One important note, however; Harris was injured during the first joint practice against the Titans on Wednesday along with Dorsett.
As for Berrios, he was red-shirted in his rookie season (on IR all of last year) after what seemed to me like a very impressive job at camp last off-season. Despite a slow start to camp this year, Berrios has reverted back to the receiver that I enjoyed watching at camp, resembling a young Julian Edelman. It helps that he has impressed at special team’s at camp as well, giving him a slightly better chance of making the roster.
With the retirement of Rob Gronkowski, the Patriots are left with a glaring hole in their offense. Over the years, the Patriots have become known for abusing defenses with their tight ends. This year, Ben Watson is the only guy at the position that is locked in as the number one guy. The next best option has been Matt LaCosse.
LaCosse played for the Giants and the Broncos in his career and is coming off his best season last year. With 24 catches on 37 targets for 250 yards and 1 touchdown, he blew out his previous high of just 3 catches for 22 yards. However, those numbers are not the best. He is clearly not cut out for the number one spot at tight end, and for him to be the best option after Watson, who’s suspended the first four games, he will be thrust into that spot. That being said, he has been the best tight end at practice behind Watson. He did get injured in the first preseason game against the Detroit Lions and has yet to practice since. That injury, depending on the severity, could cost him a spot on the final roster.
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