Monday, August 17, 2015

New England Patriots' Projected 53 - The Bruised And Battered Jimmy G. Edition

Tom Brady knew what Jimmy Garoppolo was going through in the Patriots' 22-11 loss to the Green Bay Packers in the first preseason game for both - but all he could do for the youngster was go up to him on the bench and ruffle his hair like a knowing and sympathetic father.

After all, Brady as been sacked 364 times in his 14 years, an average of 26 times per season and nearly twice a game on average, and there have been games when the greatest has been hit far more than seven times while standing tall in the pocket, so he is uniquely qualified to administer the knowing touch.

I could be, also, that he was happy that it wasn't him taking the tremendous beating that his understudy was taking, being sacked seven times and hit upon release of the football another half dozen more - but that wouldn't be like the all time greatest quarterback, who is an intense yet compassionate leader and appreciative of the efforts of his teammates.

And no one can doubt that the effort was there on both sides of the ball, but the combination of being just a couple of weeks into camp and having virtually all of the incumbent starters sidelined due to injury or just plain common sense left New England a purposely anemic supporting cast for Garoppolo and the few starters on defense who actually saw some snaps.

That said, the 22-11 score wasn't quite the debacle that it should have been, given that the Patriots' defense rose to the occasion on fourth down twice early in the game with Aaron Rodgers and his first team offense running roughshod over the seconds and thirds playing for New England, which smacks of the evil and wrong bend-but-don't-break defenses of the past...

...which, ultimately, isn't what this defense will be about when the lights shine on the second Thursday in September.

Our projected 53 man roster:

Quarterbacks (2)

Tom Brady
Jimmy Garoppolo

If, and only if, Brady serves any sort of suspension, Ryan Lindley's name will be here as well. There is no reason to elaborate.

Running backs (5)

LeGarrette Blount
Jonas Gray
James White
Brandon Bolden
James Develin

Travaris Cadet's place on the roster as the fifth running back could be dictated by his ability to pass
block. He lost his snaps in New Orleans last season when Pierre Thomas came back from injury because of his inability (unwillingness?) to put himself in harms way and pick up the blitz. On Thursday night we all witnessed James White getting trucked by the Green Bay blitz a couple of times, but also saw him stop the pass rushers a couple of times - but it is that willingness to put himself between the rusher and his quarterback that makes him the more valuable commodity.

Cadet is an explosive talent with the ball in his hands, and White is as well, though Cadet contributes next to nothing in the running game - could he see the roster as a converted receiver?

Blount, Gray and Bolden are no-brainers.

Wide Receivers (6)

Julian Edelman
Danny Amendola
Brandon LaFell
Aaron Dobson
Brian Tyms
Matt Slater

The top three - and perhaps even the top four spots on the roster are ensured, and also Slater's spot as the designated special teams ace. Gibson showed well for himself on Thursday night and brings veteran savvy to the pattern - but that is not to discount the efforts and talents of Jonathan Krause and rookie Chris Harper.

Any could make the roster as there are three preseason games to go, and after their performances in getting open and gaining separation against a young but talented and deep Packers' secondary, they have earned the right to more snaps. It could be a dog fight between the three of them for a roster spot should Dobson's hamstring prove to be problematic or if Tyms falls off.

Tight Ends (3)

Rob Gronkowski
Scott Chandler
Michael Hoomanawanui

Absolutely no surprise here at all. The hope was that Jake Bequette could make the transition from defensive end to tight end to salvage his career, and also that undrafted rookie Jimmay Mundine would at least find his way onto the practice squad - but Bequette can't make the team from the hot tub and Mundine needs more snaps to prove himself.

Problem is, Gronkowski needs a few reps and Chandler hasn't played yet, The thing in Mundine's favor, and Bequette's, is that both of those other two are proven vets that won't need a bunch of snaps to be ready for the season - though it is unknown how acclimated Chandler is to the ways of Brady.

Offensive Linemen (9)

Nate Solder
Sebastian Vollmer
Bryan Stork
Tre Jackson
Shaq Mason
Ryan Groy
David Andrews
Cam Fleming
Marcus Cannon

There is still time for undrafted rookie David Andrews to make a case for the active roster as he is versatile and shows power in the running game. He has an uphill battle against second year pick up Groy and third year guard Josh Kline, but Groy gets the early call for one depth spot simply due to his size and experience as a drive blocker (Not to mention has long snapper experience).  Andrews and Kline are both a bit undersized and the Patriots seem to be steering away from the old ways of employing smaller, more ambulatory interior linemen, but one should make the roster.

Andrews is practice squad eligible, which could work against him if push comes to shove.

Where size is concerned, the rest of the depth chart has that all covered, along with the nastiness required to battle in the trenches - and they really don't come much nastier than Groy, who also cleared a path for running back James White at Wisconsin, a school renowned for producing nasty, big linemen for the professional level.

Offense total: 25

Defensive Linemen (8)

Sealver Siliga
Alan Branch
Dominique Easley
Malcom Brown
Chandler Jones
Jabaal Sheard
Zach Moore
Rob Ninkovich

The only bad thing about the versatility and talent along the defensive line, is that there just isn't enough roster spots to keep everyone. There is still plenty of time for veterans like Joe Vellano, Rufus Johnson and Antonio Johnson to stake a claim for job, but it will probably take an injury for that to happen.

Linebackers (7)

Jamie Collins
Dont'a Hightower
Jerod Mayo
Jonathan Freeny
Eric Martin
Trey Flowers
Geneo Grissom

Both Flowers and Grissom flashed potential in the preseason opener, and both also proved that they were rookies with plenty to learn. Freeny made the most of his starting opportunity on the middle with Hightower sitting out and James Morris made his presence felt. Martin didn't see any action but should supplant Morris for the final linebacker spot if he flashes the speed and sideline-to-sideline range that caused the Patriots to pick him up...

...then again, Morris showed his play-making ability on Thursday night. If the issue keeping Martin out of the lineup is indeed a long-term injury. the job is Morris' for the taking.

Corners (5)

Malcolm Butler
Logan Ryan
Tarell Brown
Robert McClain
Darryl Roberts

Darryl Roberts was a surprise starter in the first preseason game and, like Flowers and Grissom, showed that he has the tools but also that he has some work to do. In past seasons, that has been enough for a corner to stick on the roster - and perhaps it is this time as well, if it weren't for the wrist injury that Roberts suffered early in the contest.

Ryan is hanging onto a roster spot by the skin of his teeth after showing once again that he is not an outside cover guy, though he is a capable phone booth type, which he has a proven track record of - while Bradley Fletcher has nothing like that to fall back on. Fletcher displayed veteran guile in blowing up a screen play but showed nothing past the five yard buffer. That's not going to be enough to secure a roster spot, unless Roberts' wrist injury is enough to land him on the IR.

Butler is as advertised and McClain showed the coverage and hitting ability that caused the Atlanta Falcons to give him plenty of snaps at safety last season - and it is that versatility that helps the Patriots pull off a secondary depth chart that carries just five corners...

Safeties (5)

Devin McCourty
Duron Harmon
Jordan Richards
Pat Chung
Tavon Wilson

...The evolution of Duron Harmon as a centerfielder is the key to this secondary.

Why? He allows McCourty to become a chess piece, giving the Patriots the ability to disguise coverages. One down he could be a corner in press man, the next in cover two, the next a big nickle in cover three - he was , after all, drafted and made the Pro Bowl as a cornerback.

Along with rookie Jordan Richards and incumbent Pat Chung, the box safety position is well accounted for, especially since slot corner McClain has been used in that capacity with the Falcons as well - and along with the vast improvement of Wilson in coverage, the versatility of the safety corps allows for mixing and matching between the corners and safeties.

Defensive total: 25

Special Teams (3)

Stephen Gostkowski (PK)
Joe Cardona (LS)
Ryan Allen (P)

Absolutely no question here.

No comments:

Post a Comment