Jimmy Garoppolo will have a spot on the 53-man roster. Who are the other 52 going to be? (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
When the first episode of “Survivor: Foxboro” concluded on Tuesday afternoon, there were 75 players still remaining. For those who are left — especially those on the roster bubble — the opportunities to show something for the coaching staff are now few and far between. The final preseason game of the year is Thursday night in North Jersey, and final cuts to 53 come shortly after that.
As always, when it comes to these final roster projections, we want to make one thing perfectly clear: There will be plenty of roster shuffling between now and the start of the regular season. In 2013, there were 15 transactions made between the “final cuts” and start of the regular season. And that didn’t even include the practice squad moves. But it’s clear the basic foundational roster elements that will help shape New England this year already are in place. With that in mind, here’s our shot at predicting the group that will line up on opening night against the Cardinals.
OFFENSE — 24
Quarterback (2): Jimmy Garoppolo, Jacoby Brissett (Tom Brady suspended, four games)
Analysis: No changes this time around.
Running back (4): LeGarrette Blount, James White, Brandon Bolden, Tyler Gaffney (Dion Lewis on PUP)
Analysis: Also no changes here from our last projection.
Tight end (4): Rob Gronkowski, Martellus Bennett, AJ Derby, James Develin
Analysis: With the Patriots cutting all sorts of veterans over the last week-plus and Clay Harbor still sticking around despite his limited reps, it’s clear that Derby can’t rest on his laurels, even at this point. (This will be an area worth focusing on Thursday night.) As always, Develin is with the tight ends because that’s his practice group.
Wide receiver (5): Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Chris Hogan, Keshawn Martin, Malcolm Mitchell
Analysis: No changes from our previous projection, although there’s the possibility that Aaron Dobson finds a way to make it at the expense of another position. I’m interested to see what happens with Mitchell and the timeline around his return — it’s clear they’re counting on him to return sooner rather than later.
Offensive line (9): Nate Solder, Joe Thuney, David Andrews, Josh Kline, Marcus Cannon, LaAdrian Waddle, Shaq Mason, Tre’ Jackson, Ted Karras. (Sebastian Vollmer on IR)
Analysis: Even with the movement this week, it still feels like there’s more to come here between now and opening night, likely in the form of another tackle. And we’re still trying to find a way to wedge guard Jonathan Cooper into the mix; the fact that he was back at practice on Tuesday, even after missing an extended stretch this summer, bodes well for his future.
DEFENSE — 23
Defensive line (9): Malcom Brown, Jabaal Sheard, Alan Branch, Chris Long, Rob Ninkovich, Vincent Valentine, Trey Flowers, Markus Kuhn, Anthony Johnson
Analysis: The departure of Terrance Knighton opens the door for Anthony Johnson.
Linebackers (5): Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins, Shea McClellin, Barkevious Mingo, Jonathan Freeny
Analysis: We hate to do this because we’re big fans of Rufus Johnson, but the Mingo pickup could mean the end of his time in Foxboro. Maybe they can stash him and his collection of awesome throwback jerseys somewhere? Elandon Roberts has also played well enough for the Patriots to find a spot for him somewhere this year.
Cornerbacks (5): Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan, Cyrus Jones, Justin Coleman, Darryl Roberts
Analysis: This started out as a slam-dunk, and while the first three on the list remain no-brainers, the rest of the field is probably still up for grabs. Coleman has experience in the system, but Roberts and Cre’von LeBlanc have both had good summers. (Then, there’s Jonathan Jones to consider.) If LeBlanc’s hip issue is a long-term thing, that could open the door for him to be stashed on IR this year, like Roberts last season. But ultimately, this is a wait-and-see scenario, one that will become clearer following Thursday’s preseason finale.
Safeties (4): Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Jordan Richards, Duron Harmon
Analysis: No changes from the last series of projections — these four seem pretty locked in, and the depth here can always be augmented with the likes of special teamers Nate Ebner and Brandon King, both of whom have safety experience.
SPECIAL TEAMS — 6
Kicker Stephen Gostkowski, punter Ryan Allen, long snapper Joe Cardona, special teamers Matthew Slater, Nate Ebner, Brandon King
Analysis: This crew is set. They’ll be joined by Kamu Grugier-Hill sooner rather than later — he seems to be ticketed for the practice squad.