Patriots 53-man roster projection: Pats have some tough cuts to make

Mark Daniels
The Providence Journal
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The NFL changed the cutdown process this year. On Tuesday, teams will trim their rosters from 90 to 85 players. Next week, on Aug. 24, they will be compelled to cut down to 80 players. A week later, all teams will whittle their rosters to 53 players.

The Patriots have some tough decisions ahead. They started the cutdown process on Sunday and will cut one more player by Tuesday. By the end of the month, some good players will have been cut from the New England roster  and, perhaps, even traded. It also wouldn’t be a surprise if the Patriots were looking to add some depth to some positions, such as offensive tackle.

In this exercise today, we have cut 33 players to get a look at an ideal 53-man roster for the 2021 Patriots. It wasn’t easy but we think this squad would help get the Pats back into the postseason:

Patriots quarterback Cam Newton throws a pass during a practice in Foxboro.

Quarterback (2)

Cam Newton, Mac Jones

Cut: Brian Hoyer / PUP (physically unable to play) list: Jarrett Stidham

Regardless of who is named the starter, Jones and Newton are the two best quarterbacks on the roster. The big question here revolves around Newton. If he’s not the starter, will he want to stay as a backup? He’s a great mentor already and clearly better than Hoyer.

Patriots running back Damien Harris performs a field drill during a recent practice.

Running back (5)

Damien Harris, Sony Michel, James White, J.J. Taylor, Rhamondre Stevenson

Cut: Brandon Bolden, Jakob Johnson

Sure, the Pats could trade Michel, who’s in a contract year. Harris has an injury history, however, so it would be better to stock up on talent. This is a great depth chart. We cut Bolden and the only fullback, Johnson, on the roster. Johnson should stick on the practice squad.

Patriots tight end Jonnu Smith works through a drill during training camp at Gillette Stadium.

Tight end (4)

Jonnu Smith, Hunter Henry, Matt LaCosse, Devin Asiasi

Cut: Troy Fumagalli

With Smith (ankle) and Henry (shoulder) dealing with injuries, we think it’s best to keep four tight ends on the roster. LaCosse is further ahead of Asiasi, who started late because of COVID-19. We wouldn’t give up on Asiasi just yet.

Patriots wide receiver Nelson Agholor makes a catch during a recent practice.

Wide receivers (5)

Nelson Agholor, Jakobi Meyers, Kendrick Bourne, Gunner Olszewski, Kristian Wilkerson

Cut: N’Keal Harry, Isaiah Zuber, Tre Nixon, Devin Ross

We think Harry will be traded or released. He played more snaps than any receiver against Washington and caught one pass for four yards. That’s been his issue — he receives opportunities and doesn’t capitalize. Wilkerson still needs to show more to make this roster. He looked fine last week but needs to cut out the drops.

New England seems to have found a keeper in offensive lineman Michael Onwenu.

Offensive line (8)

Isaiah Wynn, Michael Onwenu, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Trent Brown, Ted Karras, Justin Herron, James Ferentz

Cut: Korey Cunningham, Yodny Cajuste, Will Sherman, R.J. Prince, Alex Redmond, Marcus Martin

The Patriots could probably use more depth at tackle. We’re not in love with the backup depth here. Karras and Herron are clearly the best of the second team. We’re keeping Ferentz around because of his experience. Maybe the Patriots will acquire a veteran backup to reinforce the O-line.

Patriots defensive tackle Lawrence Guy pulls down San Francisco 49er quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo during the game last October at Gillette Stadium. At right is linebacker Ja'Whaun Bentley.

Defensive line (6)

Davon Godchaux, Lawrence Guy, Henry Anderson, Deatrich Wise, Christian Barmore, Carl Davis

Cut: Akeem Spence, Montravious Adams, Tashawn Bower, Nick Thurman, Bill Murray / PUP: Byron Cowart

What a difference a year makes. This group looks stacked. Davis has been a surprise in camp and we think he deserves a roster spot. Spence would be a tough cut. The coaching staff likes him. The Patriots' run defense should be much better in 2021.

Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff is about to be tackled by Patriots linebacker Kyle Van Noy during Super Bowl LIII in February 2019 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

Linebackers (8)

Matt Judon, Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, Josh Uche, Chase Winovich, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Anfernee Jennings, Ronnie Perkins

Cut: Harvey Langi, Cassh Maluia / PUP: Terez Hall / NFI (non-football injury) list: Cameron McGrone

Have we ever seen a linebacker unit in New England better than this one? This group looks dominant. It’ll be fascinating to see how the coaching staff deploys all these talented pass rushers. If they stay healthy, the Pats could have one of the best defenses in the NFL.

Cornerback Stephon Gilmore is poised to cover a wide receiver.

Cornerbacks (7)

Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, Jonathan Jones, Jalen Mills, Myles Bryant, Joejuan Williams, Justin Bethel

Cut: Michael Jackson, D’Angelo Ross, Dee Virgin

Gilmore has to come off the PUP list at some point, right? The Patriots clearly him to continue as their No. 1 cornerback. Depth behind him and Jackson isn’t great. Mills looks like a fine versatile defensive back but we don’t want to see him as the No. 2 corner. Williams squeaks on here because of his versatility, but we want to see more from the 2019 second-rounder.

Patriots safety Devin McCourty has been one of the most reliable players in the NFL during his career.

Safety (4)

Devin McCourty, Adrian Phillips, Kyle Dugger, Cody Davis

Cut: Adrian Colbert / NFI: Joshuah Bledsoe

The Patriots are set here with McCourty, Philips and Dugger. This group has been phenomenal during training camp and that should continue in the regular season.

Patriots kicker Quinn Nordin kicks a field goal during pregame warmups Thursday night at Gillette Stadium.

Special teams (4)

Quinn Nordin, Jake Bailey, Joe Cardona, Matthew Slater

Cut: Nick Folk, Brandon King, Brian Khoury

Nordin would extend the Patriots' 18-year streak of signing an undrafted player to the roster. His leg is awesome. Can he show enough consistency to beat out Folk? We think so. You’re probably not sneaking Nordin onto the practice squad. His potential is really high and is another great find for the Patriots' scouting department. 

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