Monday, September 7, 2015
Front seven on defense looks like strength of Patriots' roster
By Mike Reiss
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Here's a player-by-player look at the New England Patriots' 53-man roster:
Tom Brady: Could see the toll that seven months of Deflategate took on him in his Sunday meeting with reporters, his first since Feb. 2.
Jimmy Garoppolo: Played 158 snaps in the preseason, and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said he saw big strides.
RUNNING BACK (4)
James White: The 2014 fourth-round draft pick from Wisconsin hardly played as a rookie but is in line for a more prevalent role if he can sustain momentum.
Dion Lewis: The shortest player on the roster (5-foot-
, he gets up to top speed quickly, catches the ball well and has shown toughness in blitz pickup.
Travaris Cadet: Speedster has been slowed by a hamstring injury but has shown ability to catch the ball and make plays after the grab; also a factor in the kicking game.
Brandon Bolden: A core special teams player who is the team's biggest back at 220 pounds.
WIDE RECEIVER (4)
Julian Edelman: Was shut down in the preseason after coming up gimpy Aug. 2 but should be ready to go for the opener as Tom Brady's top option.
Danny Amendola: At this time last year, his injury history was a concern. This year, he has been the most durable, consistent pass-catcher up to this point.
Aaron Dobson: The 2013 second-round draft choice is the team's tallest outside receiver and arguably their top downfield threat.
Chris Harper: Undrafted rookie from California was one of the surprise stories of training camp to earn a spot; also a factor in the return game.
TIGHT END (4)
Rob Gronkowski: He's so valuable to the team coach Bill Belichick decided not playing him in the preseason was the best course of action.
Scott Chandler: At 6-foot-7 and 260 pounds, he is a fascinating complement to the 6-foot-6, 265-pound Gronkowski.
Michael Hoomanawanui: Dependable, steady six-year veteran could take over some fullback-type duties at times.
Michael Williams: Patriots traded a seventh-round draft pick to acquire him from the Lions, who had been playing him at offensive tackle; has potential to be a tackle-eligible type power presence at the end of the line.
OFFENSIVE TACKLE (3)
Nate Solder: Starter on the left side enters the final year of his contract and was named the club's Community Service Award winner.
Sebastian Vollmer: Starter on the right side is arguably one of the game's best at his position.
Marcus Cannon: Swing tackle was signed to a two-year extension and has worked to rebuild his confidence at tackle after a forgettable stint at guard early in 2014.
OFFENSIVE GUARD (4)
Ryan Wendell: Starter on the right side last year, he could flip to the left side this year to replace retired Dan Connolly and also is a fit at center if needed.
Josh Kline: Third-year player from Kent State has proven to be a valuable reserve who can help in a pinch.
Tre' Jackson: Fourth-round pick from Florida State could be a plug-and-play starter at right guard as he has been there since Day 1 of training camp.
Shaq Mason: Fourth-round pick from Georgia Tech has intriguing skill set, playing with great balance and power, but appears to have some work to do in pass protection before he's ready for prime time at left guard.
Bryan Stork: Returning starter was held out of the preseason due to a reported concussion; his injury history was something some teams had concerns with when evaluating him in 2014.
David Andrews: Undrafted free agent from Georgia was a long shot to stick but won over the coaching staff with his effort, consistency, smarts and toughness.
DEFENSIVE END (6)
Chandler Jones: Arguably the team's top pass-rusher, he had a strong preseason and looks ready to wreak havoc again at right end.
Rob Ninkovich: High-motor, 10-year veteran is as steady as they come; the type of high-character player who makes a locker room better.
Jabaal Sheard: Might have been the steal of free agency, as he was disruptive in the preseason.
Trey Flowers: High fourth-round pick from Arkansas has caught the eye for, among other things, his impressive sack of Aaron Rodgers in the preseason opener.
Geneo Grissom: Late third-round pick from Oklahoma runs well and also shows up on special teams.
Rufus Johnson: A first-year player from Tarleton State, the 6-foot-5, 280-pounder is "long, strong and explosive," according to defensive coordinator Matt Patricia.
DEFENSIVE TACKLE (5)
Dominique Easley: If he's healthy, and he appears to be at this time, the 2014 first-round pick can be especially disruptive. A Geno Atkins-type.
Malcom Brown: The team's 2015 first-round draft pick from Texas hasn't looked overpowered and should help as part of a rotation.
Sealver Siliga: A run-stuffing type, he drew two penalties in the third preseason game, which reflects some of his hard-nosed, easy-to-overlook work.
Alan Branch: Nine-year veteran is a big-bodied presence who, when motivated and playing with good pad level, can be tough to move.
Khyri Thornton: Claimed on waivers from the Packers, the 2014 third-round pick currently has the label as an underachiever; will the Patriots' system bring out the best in him?
Jerod Mayo: Healthy again after two injury-shortened seasons, he leads the huddle and is a point person for critical communication.
Dont'a Hightower: The 2012 first-round draft pick is coming off his best season; he's big, tough, smart and physical.
Jamie Collins: One of the game's most athletic players at the position, he has standout traits that make him a perennial Pro Bowler.
Jonathan Freeny: At 6-foot-2, 255 pounds, he's a sturdy backup who factors into the core group on special teams.
Eric Martin: Flashed early in training camp pass-rushing drills to earn one of the final spots on the roster.
Malcolm Butler: He has been at Darrelle Revis' old spot on the left side since Day 1 of training camp and mostly has looked up to the task.
Tarell Brown: Patriots might have gotten a bargain with the nine-year veteran, who wasn't available until the start of training camp because he spent the offseason recovering from foot surgery.
Bradley Fletcher: The Patriots' sturdiest corner at 6-foot, 205 pounds, he's more of a pure outside corner who plays with a physical edge.
Logan Ryan: Third-year man from Rutgers looks like the No. 4 option on the depth chart to open the season.
Devin McCourty: Leader of the secondary who keeps everyone on the same page, he cashed in with a big free-agent contract in the offseason.
Patrick Chung: Starter next to McCourty, he has had his career revived after returning to the club in 2014 from Philadelphia.
Duron Harmon: The top backup to McCourty, he is smart and has a niche role in sub packages and on special teams.
Jordan Richards: Second-round draft choice from Stanford looks like a top special teamer who could work his way into the defensive rotation, as he is advanced at this stage of his career in terms of understanding defensive concepts.
Tavon Wilson: Core special teams player who shows up in the dime defense at the "money" linebacker spot, he had a good preseason/training camp.
Nate Ebner: Core special teams player who has limited value on defense.
Stephen Gostkowski: Recipient of a four-year, $17 million contract extension in the offseason, he's one of the best in the NFL.
Ryan Allen: Left-footed punter received a three-year extension as he enters his third season with the team.
Joe Cardona: Patriots had an opening at the position and invested a fifth-round draft choice in the Navy standout, whose coverage downfield stands out.
Matthew Slater: Perennial Pro Bowler is a team captain whose leadership on and off the field is exemplary.