The New England Patriots must cut their roster to the 53-man limit by 6 p.m. Saturday.
Here is our projection of what that roster will look like, and who needs a good performance Thursday night against the Giants in the team’s final preseason game.
(Names in italics are on the roster bubble )
Quarterback (3): Tom Brady, Ryan Mallett, Tim Tebow
Given his terrible performance this preseason and the Patriots’ penchant for carrying two quarterbacks (3 of last 4 years), it doesn’t make much sense to keep Tebow around. Then again, it never made much sense to bring him in in the first place so my money is on Tebow making the team.
Running Back (5): Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, Brandon Bolden, LeGarrette Blount, Leon Washington
In theory, Bolden and Blount are both power backs, essentially competing for the goal-line, short yardage role. Blount has played surprisingly well in the preseason games and outweighs Bolden by 30 pounds, so he may get the gig by default. But Bolden is a significantly more athletic player and his terrific pass catching ability should help him stick around as a Shane Vereen insurance policy, if nothing else.
That might leave veteran Leon Washington on the outside however. With rookie WR Josh Boyce proving to be a capable return man, Washington will have to do something extremely impressive Thursday night to keep his spot on the roster.
Wide Receiver (6): Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman, Aaron Dobson, Josh Boyce, Matthew Slater, Kenbrell Thompkins
All six of these guys should be good to go. Slater is nominally a receiver but makes his bones as one of the league’s best special teamers.
Tight End (4): Rob Gronkowski, Jake Ballard, Zach Sudfeld, Michael Hoomanawanui
Despite a solid training camp, Daniel Fells may still be the odd man out if the Pats decide to keep Gronkowski on the 53-man roster and off the physically unable to perform (PUP) list, which would sideline him for the first six weeks of the season.
Offensive Line (8): Sebastian Vollmer, Nate Solder, Logan Mankins, Ryan Wendell, Dan Connolly, Marcus Cannon, Will Svitek, Chris McDonald
McDonald is probably the Patriots’ best option for the last offensive line spot now that Marcus Zusevics is on IR.
Defensive Tackle (3): Vince Wilfork, Tommy Kelly, Marcus Forston
Wilfork and Kelly are an excellent 1-2 punch but this group lacks the depth the Patriots are used to. The team must be impressed with Cory Grissom, whom they put on season-ending IR instead of releasing him after he suffered an injury in the third preseason game.
Defensive End (6):
Rob Ninkovich, Chandler Jones, Justin Francis, Michael Buchanan, Marcus Benard, Jermaine Cunningham
Cunningham is hanging on by a thread at this point but with Armond Armstead out until at least Week 7, Cunningham probably squeaks by.
Linebackers (5): Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes, Dont’a Hightower, Dane Fletcher, Jamie Collins
Fletcher and Collins will get plenty of reps on special teams and in sub defenses and don’t be surprised if Niko Koutouvides returns at some point during the season. Rookie seventh round pick Steve Beauharnais will likely stick around on the practice squad.
Cornerback (5): Aqib Talib, Alfonzo Dennard, Kyle Arrington, Marquice Cole, Logan Ryan
With the release of Ras-I Dowling, Cole’s job is probably safe. Don’t be surprised to see the Pats bring in another body at some point.
Safeties (5): Devin McCourty, Steve Gregory, Tavon Wilson, Duron Harmon, Nate Ebner/Adrian Wilson
If Ebner makes the cut it will be for his work on special teams. Pay attention to when veteran Adrian Wilson is playing Thursday night. The later in the game – the worse his odds are of making the team.
Special teams (3)
Stephen Gostkowski (kicker), Zoltan Mesko (punter), Danny Aiken (long snapper)
Mesko and rookie punter Ryan Allen have had a competitive training camp but the veteran should come out on top.