Monday, September 1, 2014

Patriots' Roster Projections Earn Free Press A Solid "B"

Bill Belichick's quirky style screwed us out of an "A", but overall it was good preseason...
In the world of journalism, accountability is something that went out the window long ago, when writers began hiding behind unnamed sources and clandestine contacts - but when working with projections, be they in political races or in 53-man NFL rosters, a person stands alone and puts his knowledge and reputation on the line for everyone to see, and there is no hiding from it.

Nor should they try, because anything uploaded onto the internet is a matter of public record, forever and ever, amen.

So it is in that spirit that we take a look at our final roster projection for the New England Patriots - putting our knowledge and intuition up for public scrutiny, and owning our choices, for good or ill...

Quarterbacks (2)

12 - Tom Brady
10 - Jimmy Garoppolo (R)

Well, it took an extra day to work the roster down to these two quarterbacks, but it happened with the trade of Ryan Mallett to the Houston Texans, something that many speculated would happen - but it occurred with so little fanfare and so little compensation from the Texans, that now I wonder what the big deal was...

Prediction Score: 2 for 2

Running Backs (5)

22 - Stevan Ridley
34 - Shane Vereen
28 - James White (R)
35 - Jonas Gray
46 - James Develin (H-back)

I ommitted Brandon Bolden from the list in favor of Jonas Gray, mostly because it appeared that Bolden was on the chopping block after being held out of the final two games of the preseason in street clothes.  Silly me, but not as silly as it would have been had the team not re-signed Gray to the practice squad.

Prediction Score: 4.5 of 5

Tight Ends (2)

87 - Rob Gronkowski 
86 - Steve Maneri

I missed the boat on Maneri, thinking he was a viable candidate for the roster with Michael Hoomanawanui on the shelf since early in the preseason, but Hooman got the nod...

Prediction Score: 1 of 2

Receivers (8)

80 - Danny Amendola 
11 - Julian Edelman 
17 - Aaron Dobson 
19 - Brandon Lafell  
85 - Kenbrell Thompkins
81 - Tim Wright  
18 - Matthew Slater 
84- Brian Tyms (suspended 4 games)

The only real questions faced in prognosticating this group was whether Josh Boyce had done enough to stick with the team and whether feel-good story Brian Tyms would stick after being suspended for four games - the correct decisions were made, but it will be in week 5 of the regular season when Tyms is eleigible to return before this process is completed.

Prediction Score: 8 of 8

Offensive Linemen (8)

77 - Nate Solder
76 - Sebatian Vollmer
63 - Dan Connolly
61 - Marcus Cannon
67 - Josh Kline
71 - Cameron Fleming (R)   
66 - Bryan Stork
65 - Jordan Devey 

How dare Ryan Wendell win the starting center position!  In the original projection, Wendell was a casualty due to Stork's return from injury in time to play in the preseason finale and because of Dan Connolly's role as starter in the first three exhibition game - and then I completely missed on the team keeping Chris Barker.

Really didn't expect that Belichick would keep ten linemen, but the process could pare that down to nine or even eight by the time the week is up.  In the interim...

Predication Score: 8 of 10

Defensive linemen (10)

50 - Rob Ninkovich 
75 - Vince Wilfork 
97 - Jerel Worthy
95 - Chandler Jones 
99 - Michael Buchanan
74 - Dominique Easley (R) 
94 - Chris Jones 
96 - Sealver Siliga
71- Zach Moore (R)
72 - Joe Vellano

 When a team pares down their roster to 53 players, it is rare that the roster actually remains the same for more than a day or two - it's just the nature of the business.

But in the wake of the Mallett trade, Belichick did the proper thing and added depth to both the nose tackle position and at the three-tech end position by bringing in Bruce Gaston and Kelcy Quarles, respectively, and cutting Worthy after a brief cup of coffee.  And even though Gaston may be a temporary fixture to provide insurance in case Siliga isn't ready for the opener, he's still on the roster.

The depth on the line is enormous, both in stature and number, making up for the lack of depth on the second level.

Prediction Score: 9 of 11

Linebackers (6)

54 - Dont'a Hightower 
91 - Jamie Collins 
51 - Jerod Mayo 
58 - Steve Beauharnais
44 - Darius Fleming
53 - Ja'Gared Davis

The Patriots originally kept five linebackers, but reduced that number to four when veteran linebacker Chris White was slashed from the roster to make room for Gaston.  Beauharnais and Davis were among the original cuts, though Davis has reverted back to the practice squad.  There will probably be more movement here, though Chandler Jones, Ninkovich, Moore and Buchanan serve as outside linebackers in the 3-4.

Prediction Score: 4.5 of 6

Corners (6)

24 - Darrelle Revis 
39 - Brandon Browner (suspended 4 games) (CB/NS)
26 - Logan Ryan 
37 - Alfonzo Dennard 
25 - Kyle Arrington (CB/SS)
29 - Malcolm Butler

This was a no-brainer.  No need to elaborate.

Prediction Score: 6 of 6

Safeties (4)

30 - Duron Harmon  
32 - Devin McCourty  
43 - Nate Ebner    
27 - Tavon Wilson 

Keeping five safeties seemed unreasonable due to the fact that three of the corners had worked as blue liners in the preseason, but Belichick sacrificed a linebacker position to keep Patrick Chung on the roster, who will probably reduce down to the linebacker-ish big nickle role in three safety sets if the Patriots decide to stack the box on early downs.

One safety position could be sacrificed in turn once Brandon Browner returns from suspension - perhaps even Chung, since Browner provides the same physical presnece over the middle.

Predication Score: 4 of 5

Specialists (2)

6 - Ryan Allen 
3 - Stephen Gostkowski 

What?  No long snapper?  Well, there is one and his name is Rob Ninkovich.  The release of Danny Aiken was a curious one on the surface, as he was a serviceable special teamer, but his struggles in the playoffs last season and several shaky snaps in the preseason doomed his fate.

Allen and Gostkowski were sure fire roster locks, given the lack of competition.

Predication Score: 2 of 3

Totals: 49 of 55 or 89% for a solid "B"

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