The Patriots have so many options for Brady to throw to this year, the final roster cuts are going to be difficult. Brady utilizes so many different positions to the best of their ability, not just the wide receiver. This makes the depth and talent at running back and tight end so crucial as well. However, being a part of Brady’s circle of trust is not very easy for just any receiver.
At the running back spot, it became apparent last year that James White has joined Brady’s circle of trust, and become one of his favorite targets. He seems to be the only definite lock at the position. The addition of Gillislee is very important because he it a multi-talented back. He can ground and pound the ball, but can also catch it effectively out of the backfield. This is what makes him a more valuable back than Blount. Rex Burkhead has also had success catching the ball, both out of the backfield and split out in the slot, and adds to the “fair-skinned” attack the Patriots have built. They also need spots for both Brandon Bolden for special teams (unfortunately) and James Develin at fullback. This leaves running backs Dion Lewis and D.J. Foster on the bubble. Lewis did not seem to be the same Lewis after coming back from his ACL injury, however the team is undefeated when he plays. Foster showed flashes of talent last year in the preseason, and could still be on the practice squad for another year if they wish to keep him.
The tight end position is a little bit easier. It is clear cut that Gronk and Dwayne Allen will be top two tight ends, with Allen being a very good insurance policy for Gronk. The battle for the third spot will be between last years backup Matt Lengel, James O’Shaughnessy from Kansas City, and two undrafted rookies Jacob Hollister and Sam Cotton. If they like what they see from one of the rookies, they could always be kept on the practice squad. This would be especially useful with Gronk’s injury history. That would leave it to Lengel and O’Shaughnessy to battle it out through the preseason for the spot.
Wide receiver is going to be the fight of the century for touches. Brandin Cooks has been killing it in camp, and also complained about his touch count in New Orleans. He will most likely only most touches to recently re-signed Julian Edleman, who extended his contract two more years. The iron man will probably grind out on the Pats til he’s 40, and still register at least 80 catches. He works for his touches and won’t lose any. Amendola took another pay cut to stay with the team, and shouldn’t lose his spot unless he really disappoints. Chris Hogan should also remain with the unbelievable playoff run he had. That leaves the last few spots to battle from between rookie standout Malcolm Mitchell, recent veteran signing Andrew Hawkins, and a sprinkle of rookies and first year players. Not to mention Matthew Slater also needs a roster spot. This could result in the younger guys making a practice squad spot. As long as Malcolm Mitchell does not regress a large amount, he should be the clear cut guy to make the roster. Hawkins might just be another veteran player to battle in the preseason and not make the roster, just like Nate Washington last year.
This might be the most interesting preseason ever. And preseason is almost never interesting. But the battle for offensive spots and touches will make the exhibition matches in August a lot of fun to watch.
Written By: Jake Kobierski (@TheRealKobe83)