The Surviving Patriots
The NFL rosters are down to 53 as of the NFL regular season approaches the 2010 Kickoff Weekend. Three months ago, I tried to predict what the Patriots’ roster would look like; I got 43 out of 53 correct. I let the dust settle a little bit, so here are your 2010 New England Patriots, with some side comments:
QB (2): Tom Brady (Starter), Brian Hoyer (Backup).
-No real surprises here, as the Patriots will go with their lineup from last year. 7th round pick Zac Robinson was released and the Seattle Seahawks claimed him for their practice squad, so that eighth spot might be a QB.
RB (5): Fred Taylor (Starter), Laurence Maroney (Backup), Kevin Faulk (3rd Down/Punt Returner?), Sammy Morris (Utility/FB), BenJarvus Green-Ellis.
-Again, no surprise here and the same exact lineup as last season. The plan is for Taylor and Morris to get the bulk of the carries in this committee, but both backs are near locks to get injured, which is why keeping Maroney was always part of the plan. Maroney is a disappointment, but on this team, he has a role, and that role is to be a part of this decrepit committee. Faulk will get his touches, and Green-Ellis provides even more insurance. For the practice squad, Javarris James was signed (Edgerrin James’ brother). He was released from the Indianapolis Colts.
WR (6): Randy Moss (Starter), Wes Welker (Starter/Slot Machine), Brandon Tate (3rd WR/Kickoff Returner?), Julian Edelman (Backup Slot), Taylor Price, Matthew Slater (Special Teams/Kickoff Returner?).
-I had Torry Holt making the team instead of Matthew Slater, so other than that I knew how things would shake out here. Sam Aiken predictably didn’t make the team as there is a little bit more talent available this season; but now those players have to prove it. For the practice squad, Darnell Jenkins made it as he put together a solid preseason.
TE (3): Alge Crumpler (Starter/Blocker), Rob Gronkowski (Backup), Aaron Hernandez (Motion/Utility).
-This group is easily the most improved position on the roster from last season. For the practice squad, the team signed Jeron Mastrud, who was released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
OL (9): Matt Light (Starter-LT), Dan Connolly (Starter-LG), Dan Koppen (Starter-C), Stephen Neal (Starter-RG), Sebastian Vollmer (Starter-RT), Nick Kaczur (Injured, Backup OL), Mark LeVoir (Backup-Swing OT), Ryan Wendell (Backup-Interior OL), Steve Maneri (Backup OT).
-There’s a lot going on here. I actually predicted nine linemen making the team, and of two that aren’t on the roster, one is LG Logan Mankins (holdout) and another is G Rich Ohrnberger, who is on the practice squad. Steve Maneri is an athletic prospect out of Temple who was released by the Houston Texans. Quinn Ojinnaka will join the roster when he gets off the suspended list; it will be interesting to see who loses a spot (including Ojinnaka). Maneri might slide onto the practice squad, or a QB could be signed, putting somebody off the team altogher. A significant surprise was Kaczur’s inclusion on the roster, so he may make it back sometime this season after all. 6th round C Ted Larsen was released and signed to Tampa Bay’s practice squad, while 7th round OT Thomas Welch was released and signed to the Minnesota Vikings’ practice squad. That makes three of the Patriots’ twelve 2010 draft picks on other rosters already.
ST (3): K Stephen Gostkowski, P Zoltan Mesko, LS Jake Ingram.
-No surprises here, although all eyes will be on this new kicking situation. Gostkowski has a new contract but also a new holder in new punter Mesko. The Patriots have the potential to have one of the best special teams units in the league, so it will be interesting to see what, if anything, prevents that from happening.
DL (7): Gerard Warren (Starter-LE), Vince Wilfork (Starter-NT), Mike Wright (Starter-RE), Myron Pryor (Backup), Ron Brace (Backup), Brandon Deaderick (Backup), Kyle Love (Backup).
-Ty Warren is out for the season, and Damione Lewis was still released as Deaderick and Love outplayed him on their way to earning roster spots. The Denver Broncos just released former Patriot Jarvis Green, but take a good look at Denver’s roster and ask yourself what you think Green will bring to this year’s team. If he couldn’t make it in Denver, I don’t believe he is worth someone else’s roster spot in New England, especially after his ineffectiveness last season.
LB (9): Tully Banta-Cain (Starter-Outside), Jerod Mayo (Starter-Inside), Gary Guyton (Starter-Inside), Rob Ninkovich (Starter-Outside), Jermaine Cunningham (Pass Rusher-Outside), Brandon Spikes (Run-Stopper – Inside), Dane Fletcher (Backup – Outside), Marques Murrell (Special Teams – Outside), Tracy White (Special Teams – Inside).
-White was acquired from the Philadelphia Eagles for a conditional draft choice, and his addition cost Tyrone McKenzie his roster spot. He landed on the practice squad, along with (surprisingly) Shawn Crable. The Patriots let go of veterans Derrick Burgess, Eric Alexander, and Pierre Woods, which were good decisions. Burgess was nice enough to show he had little left before the season started, the writing must have been on the wall when he considered retirement this offseason. Alexander and Woods were nice special teams players but added next to nothing defensively, and with a team as suspect as the Patriots are right now defensively, it helps to go with youth and upside. That being said, I’m not sure how White will help on defense, and Ninkovich/Murrell will have no excuses if they don’t make an impact on a defense starving for any of it.
DB (9): Darius Butler (Starter-CB), Devin McCourty (Starter-CB), Brandon Meriweather (Starter-FS), Patrick Chung (Starter-SS), Jonathan Wilhite (Nickel CB), James Sanders (Backup FS), Jarrad Page (Backup SS), Terrence Wheatley (Backup CB), Kyle Arrington (Special Teams CB).
-CB Leigh Bodden and SS Brandon McGowan are on injured reserve, and while it is nice to have a McCourty and Page replace them respectively, that was not part of the plan. 2009 2nd round picks Butler and Chung need to make great leaps this season. I had Wheatley getting cut three months ago, but it looked like he might have made the team even before Bodden went on IR. S Sergio Brown made the practice squad.
The biggest story with this roster involves the injuries (Welker, Kaczur, Ty Warren, Bodden, McGowan), contracts (Brady, the running backs, Moss, Mankins), and youth (Tate, Edelman, Price, Gronkowski, Hernandez, Vollmer, Spikes, Cunningham, McCourty, Butler, Chung, Mesko) of this team. The greatest of these variables is the youth. While there is a lot to be excited about, these players will determine just how bad the injuries and contract situations affect the team. If they exceed expectations, all of that distracting chatter will be on pause. If they disappoint, it will be a long season.
-1SKILLZ| 2010 New England Patriots, New England Patriots, Patriots depth chart, Patriots roster