Saturday, August 20, 2016

Initial Patriots' Roster Projection Reveals Juggernaut In The Making

Juggernaut (n); any large, destructive, overpowering force or object, such as war, a giant battleship or a powerful football team. -

New England Patriots' head ball coach Bill Belichick has slowly but surely shifted his philosophies on both sides of the ball. going from his standard 4-3 alignment on defense to a safety heavy 4-2-5 "Big Nickle" formation that features a fortress for a defensive line and perhaps the best trio of safeties in the NFL that support two athletic linebackers, allowing them to flow to the ball virtually unimpeded...

White is explosive and powerful in the short area spaces
...while on offense, he finally has the jumbo package that he's always wanted, featuring a set of dominating tight ends flanking a young but improving line, and a running game that can go anywhere from a Thunder and Lightening approach to a 22 or 23 personnel formation that relies on pure heft and violent intent to shove folks out of the way and take what they want by force.

It's a beautiful thing, but maybe not so much for Belichick at this moment in time, as he has so much of a good thing at virtually every position that he has some difficult decisions to make to get his team down to just 53 players less than two weeks from now.

Obviously, there are many young players that could revert to the practice squad, but Belichick's charges are so loaded with talent that many will find themselves scooped up by other teams if they hit the waiver wire at final cutdowns.

Needless to say, the Dark Master has his work cut out for him to juggle the roster, not just to keep the best 53 players, but also to keep talented youngsters to develop on his practice squad.

It's an awesome problem to have.

Offense (25)

Quarterbacks (2)

Jimmy Garoppolo
Jacoby Brissett
(Tom Brady - Suspension)

There is really no question regarding roster spots here, at least until Brady returns from his four-game suspension.  At that point, a couple of different variables come into play, such as a market developing before the trade deadline for Garoppolo and the readiness of Brissett.

Running Backs (5)

LeGarrette Blount
James White
Tyler Gaffney
Brandon Bolden
James Develin
(Dion Lewis - PUP)

It is quite possible that Lewis starts the season on the PUP.  Fortunately for New England, the passing back position is well cared for by White, who continues to impress with his short-area burst and subtle elusiveness.  Blount and Gaffney form a power back combination not seen in Foxborough for decades while Bolden is a core special teamer and a capable emergency fill in.

Tight Ends (3)

Rob Gronkowski
Martellus Bennett
A.J. Derby

The rise of Derby to grasp the third tight end spot makes this core group even more scary than they were before, which would have been hard to imagine a couple of weeks ago.  Derby is a fluid, big and fast pass catcher who will effectively free up one of the wide receiver spots once Brady or Lewis returns to the field.

Receivers (6)

Julian Edelman
Chris Hogan
Danny Amendola
Malcolm Mitchell
Keshawn Martin
Matt Slater

Amendola and Mitchell are nursing ailments, but are expected to be part of the rotation in a largely devalued area of the passing game - devalued because the focus of the offense appears to be the big and powerful tight ends and the emerging running game, which is poised to dominate the "skill position" spots, leaving a maximum of two spots in the lineup for wide outs - and many times just one.

Offensive Linemen (9)

Nate Solder
Joe Thuney
David Andrews
Shaq Mason
Sebastian Vollmer
Ted Karras
Josh Kline
LaAdrian Waddle
Cameron Fleming

It appears that the interior offensive line is in for an extreme makeover, as Thuney has excelled at the left guard spot, pushing Mason to right guard, for which he is better suited as a drive blocker.  Stork may have fought his way out of a roster spot while Cannon still has shown no inclination of being an answer at swing tackle.  Karras is in a fight with Josh Kline for an interior spot, while Waddle and Fleming have shown enough to edge out Cannon.

If Vollmer starts the season on the PUP, which is entirely possible, one could conceivably add Cannon back to the mix.  This is one scenario which begs for attention, and perhaps should be a focus next offseason in free agency or the draft.

Defense (25)

Defensive Linemen (10)

Rob Ninkovich
Jaball Sheard
Chris Long
Shea McClellen
Trey Flowers
Geneo Grissom
Malcom Brown
Terrance Knighton
Anthony Johnson
Vincent Valentine

All six defensive ends are adept at setting the edge, and there may not be a deeper overall group of edge players in the league.  Ninkovich and Sheard  are the projected starters, though there will be a healthy situational rotation in place to keep everyone fresh - which also goes for the interior of the line, which is massive.  Brown, Knighton and Valentine are space eaters with plus-athleticism while a trimmed-down Johnson has renewed his career as the team's lone three-tech.

Linebackers (4)

Dont'a Hightower
Jamie Collins
Elandon Roberts
Kamu Grugier-Hill

In the big nickle, which the Patriots are in frequently enough to call their "base", Hightower and Collins form the best one-two punch in the league.  Collins may be the best overall talent on the defense and frequently slices through gaps caused by the bigs up front to blow up plays in the opponent's backfield, while Hightower roams the second level like a man possessed.  Roberts could find himself on the practice squad instead of the active roster, but has performed admirably.  Hill is a special talent as a weakside tweener and should be developed on the roster.

Cornerbacks (5)

Malcolm Butler
Logan Ryan
Cyrus Jones
Darryl Roberts
Jonathan Jones

Belichick kept just four corners last season, but this year's crop of pass defenders combine to make perhaps the deepest, most talented camp unit in years.  Butler, Ryan and Jones are locks, while Roberts is flexing his muscles and has taken over the race for the dime back, though there are several young greyhounds on the camp roster who could leapfrog him.  Jonathan Jones is by no means a lock as, in truth, the last corner spot is deep with young talent and it could go to anyone.

Safeties (6)

Devin McCourty    
Patrick Chung        
Duron Harmon
Jordan Richards     
Nate Ebner             
Brandon King

Only four of the six safeties see the field as part of the alignment, as Ebner and King make their bones as core special teamers, but what an incredibly talented group of blue liners Belichick has built over the years.  McCourty is a former corner who helps out as such in the big nickle, while Chung reduces down into the box where he is a force against the run.  Harmon is the key as he is as capable a centerfielder as there is in the game, running a sub 4.4 and possessing ridiculous sideline to sideline range.

Specialists (3)

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

Absolutely no drama here - as solid a group as there in in the NFL.


  1. I tend to think that Coleman will make the squad. He struggled against the Bears, but he has up and coming talent- and above Roberts and Jones on the depth chart. I also think that Dobson could make the team at least until Mitchel returns healthy.

    1. Coleman is a nobody - especially in comparison to Roberts. Jonathan Jones is a question mark though. You're right about Dobson. BUT it's that he is FAR better than Keyshawn Martin, NOT that Mitchell is as good or better. They have two different roles. Dobson is the only true TALL fast, athletic deep threat at 6' 4". And with GREAT blocking ability. The ONLY thing keeping him from having become a star thus far has been a nagging injury. Something all too common in the game of football.

  2. It appears that this writer is not very up to speed with professional football. OR.. the New England Patriots current roster and the standouts thus far. Aaron Dobson has been light-years ahead of Keyshawn Martin, and is ahead of everyone at his particular spot; the tall, athletic deep threat.

    1. I appreciate your candor, but I think maybe you need to study the roster a bit more. Dobson will be gone, mark my words.

  3. There is a reason the Foxborough Free Press is "Free".