In my last piece, I looked at the offensive players that the Patriots have that, while not being roster locks, have the best chances of making the roster. Here are the linemen (defensive and offensive) along with the rest of the defensive players.
In my initial projections, I counted 21 Patriots 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.
Patriots Offensive Line Depth
The Patriots like to keep around a few extra bodies on the offensive line in case of injury. They also drafted a couple in Hjalte Froholdt and Yodny Cajuste. However, there are a few things to keep in mind. While Froholdt was listed as a lock, Cajuste has been out of practice all summer; he could simply be placed on the Injured Reserve and sit out his whole rookie season. That takes one body out of the rotation and places a need for a new reserve. That’s where James Ferentz kicks in.
Ferentz, like Ted Karras (who was a roster lock), has stuck in New England as a reserve. He has done this because of his versatility in case of injury. Froholdt, which I touched on in my last article, was even more important. He would wind up lessening the load on Karras. Ferentz provides that same help. Along with being in the Patriots organization for a couple of years and being versatile on the line. However, if Cajuste does return from his injury before the cut-down deadline, Ferentz could very well be the odd man out.
Patriots Defensive Tackles Battling It Out
Lawrence Guy is just about a lock in my book, but not quite. Of the seven total defensive tackles on the roster, six of them have a possibility of making the roster. While Guy has been on top of the bunch, there’s still a boatload of competition. There’s still a slim chance for someone else to push Guy off the throne.
Mike Pennel was a free agent signing that the Patriots made this off-season. Due to the competition at defensive tackle, along with not having experience within the Patriots organization, he is not a lock. However, he has been performing well and has a good chance of making it despite everything else.
Adam Butler is only 25 years old, with two years of experience in New England. While he hasn’t turned out exactly the way the Patriots initially envisioned when they drafted him, he has started making waves this summer. This could be his last shot to prove he is worth keeping around. It’s likely that he will be on the opening night roster with that desperation in mind.
Defensive End Competition
Defensive end has become a strength despite losing star Trey Flowers to free agency. With the selection of Chase Winovich looking like a good move and the trade for veteran Michael Bennett paying off (so far), it comes down to the reserves. The Patriots are also strong there.
Derek Rivers is seemingly taking strides to become that solid defensive end that the Patriots wanted him to become. After taking him in the third round in 2017, Rivers has continued to grow in camp. While he should make the roster, there’s still competition.
John Simon was acquired mid-season last year and fit in as well as he could in a back-up/rotational role. The Patriots brought him back for another season this summer and based on his success as a reserve last year, he could very well make the team. But there are a few youngsters that I consider “on the bubble” who could overtake Simon if they find success in camp or preseason.
The linebackers are strong this season. Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy leads the charge as locks at the position, but these next three guys very well could also be starters.
Elandon Roberts, who was never given many opportunities in the past due to injuries, came out big last season. He wound up being one of the top rotational guys and did well. He has the chance to do the same again this season, but the linebackers are so strong that he could also be the odd man out.
Jamie Collins played with the Patriots a few seasons back, before getting traded to Cleveland. After two seasons there, he made his return to Foxborough. Thus far, he has been a force everywhere he goes. Though he will likely start in a rotation to begin the year, it’d be no surprise if he quickly became the number two linebacker on the team.
Ja’Whaun Bentley was a starter on last years defense before he went down with an injury at the beginning of the season. With that in mind, he could very well be a lock, however, the linebackers are much stronger this year than last. He will have to continue to impress if he wants to start again this season.
Just like with the linebackers, the Patriots have a very strong and competitive cornerback crew. Stephon Gilmore, Jason McCourty, JC Jackson and Joejuan Williams are all locks, and a couple of players listed as safeties on the Patriots official site can slide to corner as well, making that position even stronger. But there’s one player, though he may not be a lock, who can be a solid option.
Jonathan Jones was impressive in Super Bowl 53 and has been with the Patriots since 2016 after going undrafted. The strength of the position does make him expendable and potentially used as trade bait, but he has still been consistent at camp and has proven to be valuable since joining the squad. I have every right to believe he will make the final cut. On the contrary, I wouldn’t be shocked if he wound up on a new team to start the season.
After looking at all the Patriots roster locks and players who will likely make the squad, it’s easy to see why cut-down day will be a difficult one. With 29 locks and 21 players who are likely to make the cut, it leaves the Patriots with just three open spots
There are so many other players to look at too. The ones who are “On the bubble” are still capable players who can prove worthy enough to make the squad and too valuable to place on the practice squad. Looking at my list of players considered “on the bubble”, there are going to be 18 really tough cuts. That’s 21 players that I consider very close to being on the roster. Among those players are Duke Dawson, Danny Shelton, Deatrich Wise and one of the two punters on the roster, Jake Bailey and Ryan Allen. Tune in to see what those player’s odds are, as we count down the days to the regular season.