Rob Gronkowski is going to make the final 53-man roster. Who else will survive cuts? (Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
With the news that came down Sunday regarding the health of Dion Lewis, Sebastian Vollmer and Shaq Mason, it allows us to get a little better idea of what the Patriots’ roster might look like when the regular season begins Sept. 11 in Arizona. With that in mind, here’s another shot at predicting who might make it through to the final 53 for opening night.
OFFENSE — 24
Quarterback (2): Jimmy Garoppolo, Jacoby Brissett (Tom Brady suspended, four games)
Analysis: From this viewpoint, the Patriots aren’t going to be using a roster spot on an extra quarterback for the first four games of the season while Brady is on the sidelines. Other than that, no surprises here.
Running back (4): LeGarrette Blount, James White, Brandon Bolden, Tyler Gaffney (Dion Lewis on PUP)
Analysis: Provided the Patriots put Lewis on the PUP list, that frees open a spot for Gaffney and solidifies White’s status as third-down back, at least in the short-term. But this still feels like a fluid situation that could change between now and opening night. D.J. Foster is going to be part of the mix — if he doesn’t make the final 53, he’ll either come down with an *ahem* injury that will land him on IR, or they’ll try and squeeze him through waivers to the practice squad.
Tight end (4): Rob Gronkowski, Martellus Bennett, AJ Derby, James Develin
Analysis: Derby gets the nod over Clay Harbor, at least right now. We’ll include Develin with the tight ends because that’s the group he works with in practice.
Wide receiver (5): Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Chris Hogan, Keshawn Martin, Malcolm Mitchell
Analysis: There could still be some movement here between now and the start of the regular season, but at this point, this is the grouping that makes the most sense. From this viewpoint, Aaron Dobson finds a way to stick around, especially if there’s another PUP candidate to start the season at another position or Mitchell can’t go because of the elbow.
Offensive line (9): Nate Solder, Joe Thuney, David Andrews, Bryan Stork, Josh Kline, Marcus Cannon, LaAdrian Waddle, Cam Fleming, Tre Jackson. (Shaq Mason and Sebastian Vollmer on PUP/IR)
Analysis: It feels like there are still going to be some changes here between now and the start of the regular season; it wouldn’t be a shock to see the Patriots add another tackle, either when cuts start to come down or in a trade. Ted Karras, a youngster who has impressed, also finds a way to stick around, possibly as a practice squadder.
DEFENSE — 23
Defensive line (9): Malcom Brown, Terrance Knighton, Jabaal Sheard, Alan Branch, Chris Long, Rob Ninkovich, Vincent Valentine, Trey Flowers, Markus Kuhn
Analysis: If Ninkovich can’t go to start the season, this might open the door for another edge defender. Maybe Geneo Grissom? Barring a surprise move, the rest of the lineup is pretty well entrenched.
Linebackers (5): Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins, Shea McClellin, Rufus Johnson, Jonathan Freeny
Analysis: The Patriots could go with an extra linebacker if Ninkovich is on the shelf for a few weeks at the start of the regular season.
Cornerbacks (5): Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan, Cyrus Jones, Justin Coleman, Darryl Roberts
Analysis: We feel pretty confident in the first four. Roberts has had a good summer, but he can’t let up in the chase for one of the final roster spots or he’ll have to defer to the likes of Cre’von LeBlanc.
Safeties (4): Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Jordan Richards, Duron Harmon
Analysis: The depth in this group is augmented by the fact that Nate Ebner and Brandon King can also contribute if needed.
SPECIAL TEAMS — 6
Kicker Stephen Gostkowski, punter Ryan Allen, long snapper Joe Cardona, special teamers Matthew Slater, Nate Ebner, Brandon King.
Analysis: No shockers here. Kamu Grugier-Hill is the tough cut here, but he still has practice squad eligibility. Given his special teams’ background, he’ll find a way to stick in Foxboro.