The Patriots have been practicing since July 28 and in that time several players have separated themselves while others are still battling for spots on the roster. Below is a projection of the Week 1 roster heading into the first preseason game.
Third-year backup Jarrett Stidham being out until October makes the path easier for the Patriots to keep Newton, Jones and Hoyer, though in fairness Jones and Newton were locks over Stidham regardless. Newton currently projects as the Week 1 starter, but that battle is not over yet. If Jones wins the job, Newton will likely be cut or traded.
Running back projects to be one of the deepest units on the team. Harris had an excellent stretch run in 2020 and Michel looked as good in the last three games of 2020 since he did in his 2018 rookie season. White is a do-it-all back who is one of the best pass catching running backs in the NFL. Bolden will be a special teams contributor and depth option.
The Patriots offense will be tight end and running back heavy, but an injury to tight end Dalton Keene may open a spot for the Patriots to keep six receivers. Olszewski is an All-Pro returner and will be heavily involved in special teams. Harry and Wilkerson were both roster bubble players heading into camp, but so far have earned themselves spots.
The Patriots spent big money on Smith and Henry in free agency and both figure to be large parts of the offense. Asiasi had a quiet rookie year, but has too much potential not keep and see if he can unlock it.
The starting group of Wynn-Onwenu-Andrews-Mason-Brown projects to be one of the best in the NFL. Karras is a solid interior backup while Herron can backup the tackle spots. If the Patriots only keep two quarterbacks or five wide receivers, they could also keep Yodny Cajuste, Marcus Martin or Will Sherman here.
I am as high on Barmore as much as any Patriots draft pick since Dont’a Hightower in 2012. Guy has been a good player for the Patriots for several years and that will continue in 2021. Godchaux and Anderson were early free agent signings who will bolster a porous New England run defense.
Kyle Van Noy
The injury to Raekwon McMillan was disappointing, as he would have made the team either as an eighth linebacker or bumping off one of the seven above. Uche could take the biggest jump of all these players and having Hightower back is a massive improvement for the defense as a whole. Jennings struggled at times in 2020, but he was also put in some unfortunate situations due to lack of depth. Judon is the biggest free agent signing the Patriots made this offseason and so far in camp he has looked like he will make a big impact.
The biggest story is Gilmore and his battle for a contract extension and raise. The 2019 Defensive Player of the Year is coming off an injury, but he is the best player on the team and if healthy still has 1-2 elite years left. Jackson has looked like a number one corner at times, but did notably struggle somewhat after Gilmore was hurt last season, especially in the Monday Night game against the Jets. Jones is a great slot corner and Mills can play both corner and safety. Mills has looked strong in camp so far.
As stated above, Mills can also play at safety. This could be McCourty’s last year, but he still is one of the better free safeties in the league. Dugger has shown immense potential and Phillips is a tough, always-in-the-right spot safety that is an asset to have on the field. Bryant can also play corner as a depth option.
Folk is battling rookie Quinn Nordin for the kicker job. Nordin has a better leg, but Folk has been more consistent. An impressive in-stadium practice last Friday by Nordin has made this a close battle. Bailey is the best punter in the NFL and Cardona is a solid long snapper. Slater and Bethel contribute on multiple special teams units.