Yesterday's deadline has come and gone and the roster now stands at 75. Most of the “bigger” names (Terrance Knighton, Donald Brown) were cut earlier in the week, however, we officially learned yesterday afternoon that starting running back Dion Lewis, tackle Sebastian Vollmer, and guard Tre Jackson will (as expected) start the season on the PUP list. Lewis and Jackson are expected to return soon after they are eligible (week 7), while Vollmer’s season is less certain. On Saturday, the final cuts are made. With several interesting roster battles and a preseason bout against the G-men still remaining, here’s my best guess on who makes up the 53 standing this weekend (Susp/PUP do not count against the roster):
QB: Jimmy Garoppolo, Jacoby Brissett
Susp: Tom Brady
Brady has to wait 4 weeks to light the world on fire. Whatever, I’m over it. Probably not. Yeah, definitely not.
RB: LeGarrette Blount, James White, Tyler Gaffney, Brandon Bolden, James Develin
PUP: Dion Lewis
Blount has had a solid camp/preseason and Gaffney provides solid, but not spectacular big back depth. James White is an indispensable piece for the first month and a half of the season and should put up impressive numbers in the absence of Lewis. Hopefully the raw, but explosive DJ Foster can stick around on the practice squad and challenge for a spot next season. Be aware of a potential addition here though, as the Chiefs are shopping Knile Davis and David Cobb was just cut by the Titans. Both could potentially have more upside than Gaffney. They won’t be the last backs to become available either.
TE: Gronk, Martellus Bennett, AJ Derby
I have gone back and forth on Derby and Harbor for a few weeks now, and had Harbor here originally before opting with Derby. His upside just seems higher offensively, and Harbor could be slightly redundant with Develin a lock. As for the first two, good luck defenses.
WR: Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola, Malcolm Mitchell, Keyshawn Martin
Former 2nd rounder Aaron Dobson finally bites the bullet, as Martin beats him out for the final slot here. DA gets healthy in time to avoid the PUP (wishful thinking?).
OL: Nate Solder, Joe Thuney, David Andrews, Jonathan Cooper, Marcus Cannon, Shaq Mason, Josh Kline, LaAdrian Waddle, Ted Karras
PUP: Sebastian Vollmer, Tre Jackson
Without question the biggest concern on the roster. On the glass half empty side, Cannon’s track record is terrible, Thuney is a rookie, Solder has looked shaky at best, and Kline/Mason/Cooper are banged up. Glass half full, Cannon has looked very good (actually, not just comparatively), Thuney looks like a starter for the next 10 years, Solder is working his way back from injury, and Cooper was just spotted at practice for the first time in weeks. All eyes on you, Coach Scar.
DT: Malcom Brown, Alan Branch, Vincent Valentine, Anthony Johnson
Valentine has seemed to emerge as a potential rotational big sooner than everyone thought, making Knighton and potentially Markus Kuhn expendable. Johnson has earned every bit of this spot, and looks to fill the 3rd down interior sub rusher Dom Easley's role from last season. Kuhn will be a difficult cut.
DE: Rob Ninkovich, Jabaal Sheard, Chris Long, Trey Flowers
With Sheard and Nink banged up, Long and Flowers have played a lot this preseason. They’ve been extremely impressive, at times seemingly almost unblockable, whether forcing a holding call or making a play. Last year’s 3rd rounder Geneo Grissom ends up being a tough cut, but his special teams contribution and/or the health of Nink/Sheard could keep him afloat.
LB: Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins, Jonathan Freeny, Shea McClellin, Barkevious Mingo, Kamu Grugier-Hill
After getting another first hand look at Luke Keuchly the other night, I need to concede this pairing is not quite as dominant as the one in Carolina, but Collins/Hightower is as good as it gets after that. Freeny provides leadership, depth, and special teams prowess. Grugier-Hill is very raw, but talented, and McClellin/Mingo are two textbook BB reclamation projects. Very excited to see how this group shapes up, especially when needed most early on this season.
CB: Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan, Cyrus Jones, Justin Coleman, Cre’Von LeBlanc
Cyrus looks like a four-year pro, and acts like a four-time pro bowler. He’s the day one nickel back. Kid has swag. LeBlanc just barely edges out Darryl Roberts and Jonathan Jones in one of the toughest positional battles on the roster.
S: Patrick Chung, Devin McCourty, Duron Harmon, Jordan Richards
Deep and well complementary group here. Still so impressed with how nicely Chung’s second go around has worked out.
ST (Special Teams): Stephen Gostkowski, Ryan Allen, Matthew Slater, Brandon King, Joe Cardona, Nate Ebner
We know how much Belichick and co. value special teams. These are some of the best in the business in hopefully a big time comeback year on the third side of the ball.
I may get all 53; I may miss badly on a handful. Good news is, it doesn’t matter. In Bill We Trust.
We’re onto Houston.