QB (2) Tom Brady, Jarrett Stidham
Tom Brady isn’t going to like losing his pal Brian Hoyer, but the Patriots generally try not to dress three quarterbacks, and Hoyer’s purpose as placeholder from Jimmy Garoppolo to the new heir has been served. Fourth-round pick Stidham has shown more than enough this preseason to earn the one and only backup job, and perhaps the future starting job, whenever Brady sees fit to vacate it.
RB (5) Sony Michel, James White, Damien Harris, Brandon Bolden, James Develin
Notice anyone missing? Rex Burkhead started to play his way out of the gameplan for most of last year and Damien Harris wasn’t drafted for Burkhead and his 3.3 YPC to get in his way. This is going to be a three back attack, and one of the best in the league. James White is one of the greatest overall players in the Brady/Belichick era and should once again lead the team in scrimmage yards. Sony Michel had a postseason for the ages and should retain his job as a lead back, while Harris will help in handling the 134-touch void left by Burkhead and Cordarrelle Patterson. Bolden’s job is in kick coverage, and occasionally kick returning, which gives him the edge over Burkhead. James Develin is a bulldozer of a man and his value to the Patriots makes it difficult to understand why every team doesn’t use a fullback.
WR (7) Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon, N’Keal Harry, Jakobi Meyers, Phillip Dorsett, Demaryius Thomas, Gunner Olszewski
Gunner Olszewski simply did too much this preseason to not have earned a roster spot. Clearly the top option at punt returner, Gunner showed off his receiving ability and willingness to block, and even got out there at cornerback too. Give this man a shot. Demaryius Thomas also showed that he can still be the Demaryius of old, and now feels like a lock. Dorsett proved in preseason Week 3 why his familiarity with Brady is deserving of a roster spot, and it would be surprising to see Belichick force two rookies into Brady’s inner circle so quickly. Those two rookies (Harry and Meyers) should both make the team, though. The undrafted Meyers has played too well for too long at this point, and Harry is the team’s first-round pick. Edelman and Gordon are stars and will be weekly starters.
TE (2) Matt LaCosse, Ryan Izzo
(Suspended: Ben Watson, Lance Kendricks)
These are the only two tight ends who have somewhat gotten their names out there in the preseason, and will hold down the fort until Ben Watson returns. The Izzo catch in game three versus Carolina is one of the most notable plays of the preseason in New England, and might have been enough to separate himself from the rest of the pack.
Offensive Line (9) Joe Thuney, Ted Karras, Shaq Mason, Dan Skipper, Marcus Cannon, Isaiah Wynn, Hjalte Froholdt, Korey Cunningham, Jermaine Eluemunor
(PUP: Yodny Cajuste; NFI: David Andrews)
Elite center David Andrews is expected to miss the entire season with blood clots in his lungs, which is an incredibly worrisome story and a devastating blow to the Patriots line. It was no surprise, then, to see Belichick swing a couple of trades a day after the news hit, acquiring Cunningham from Arizona and Eluemunor from Baltimore. Both can play on the inside, adding additional depth to help out Mason, Thuney, Froholdt and Karras, who is expected to shift to center. Wynn has looked good in the preseason after missing his rookie year with a torn ACL and could fill the other tackle position with Marcus Cannon. Skipper has been a preseason standout and should make the team as a reserve.