- USA TODAY Sports- David Butler II
The 2014 season is likely to be a big season for the New England Patriots. After losing Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo, Rob Gronkowski, Aqib Talib among others to critical injuries, the Patriots were predicted to falter at many moments during the season and ultimately miss the playoffs. Those predictions were wrong.
The Patriots have signed many key veterans over the free agency period as well as picking young talent in the NFL Draft to help update their roster. Here is a look at a projected 53-man roster/depth chart for the upcoming 2014 season:
1. Tom Brady
Tom Brady is one of the most successful and accomplished quarterbacks in NFL history and will likely play with the Patriots at an elite level for a few more seasons before father time begins to catch up to him. There's not much to say about the future hall-of-famer other than the fact that pursuing a fourth championship is on the horizon!
2. Ryan Mallett
The fourth year backup likely will not see the field except the preseason and in blowout situations to give Brady a rest.
Garopollo is likely to be the next future franchise quarterback for the New England Patriots but the young and humble QB won't see the field except for the preseason.
1. Stevan Ridley: The most experienced and productive player in a stable of running backs looks to improve on the up and downs of last season. He needs to improve his ball security issues and fast because now that veterans Kevin Faulk, Benjarvus Green-Ellis and LeGarrette Blount are all gone from the Patriots, he must lead the running back corps. Ridley must not forget about the several fumbles that have sent him to the bench and cost the team in the past, he must learn from them and move on because he is one of the top in the NFL.
2. Shane Vereen: After the Patriots were decimated by injuries last year and the wide receiver position struggled, Vereen stepped in and played the Danny Woodhead role, catching passes out of the backfield and becoming one of the better backs in the NFL. Vereen had
3. Brandon Bolden: The third year running back is likely to play more than just a strictly backup role. He will also play a pivotal role on special teams.
4. James White: The rookie is likely to play a special teams role before he will be able to play for the offense.
1. Julian Edelman: Edelman had his best season as a pro in 2013, recording 105 catches and six touchdowns and becoming just the fifth receiver to eclipse the 100 catch mark. Edelman has alot to be proud of and must refocus to prove to everyone including himself that last season's success was not a fluke. Edelman will retain the #1 receiver position on the depth chart and have another solid year.
2. Danny Amendola: Amendola was brought in to replace Wes Welker point blank period. Last season he had 54 receptions for over 500 yards and only two touchdowns, including a game winning touchdown. Injuries, fatigue and inconsistency ruined his chances of becoming a top player in a mediocre offense and earning the trust of Tom Brady. The Patriots put enough trust and faith in him to stick around in New England, so remain optimistic he will improve drastically over the 2014 season.
1. Kembrell Thompkins: Thompkins had an up and down year as a rookie due to inconsistency, drops, injury and lack of trust. Look for him to have a bounce back year in 2014.
2. Brandon Lafell: The Brady-Lafell connection will surprise many people and also help the Patriots in critical moments throughout the season. He likely won't be targeted as much in the beginning of the season, but he may be a missing piece.
3. Aaron Dobson: It was an up and down year for the Marshall product, but if he avoids injury and inconsistency, will likely have a bounce back season.
Matt Slater: The veteran Special teams ace will have a key role as one of few team captains for the Patriots.
1. Rob Gronkowski: Rob Gronkowski will remind the rest of the NFL why he is 'Gronk' and he will return to the place that has helped launch his career as one of the most dominating tight ends in the NFL today. After all, he did miss 18 games during the past two seasons combined and we all know the affect he has on the Patriots offense, particularly Brady. Brady looked very close to calling it quits during the beginning of last season with the issues that the young wide receivers had with inconsistency, lack of execution and drops before Gronk returned to the lineup. The all-pro tight end still holds the NFL record for most touchdown receptions by a tight end in a season in NFL history (17) and will likely work on topping that record.
2. Justin Jones: The rookie tight end who stands at 6'8 and 260 pounds will have a solid year and become a top player in the offense.
3. Asa Watson: The younger brother of former Patriots tight end, Benjamin Watson will have a productive season for the Patriots, starting as a backup but will become a more pivotal part of the offense later in the season.
4. Michael Hoomanawanui: Need to see more consistency from him before I'm convinced he belongs with this offense.
Left: Logan Mankins
Right: Jon Halapio
1. Dan Connolly
2. Ryan Wendell
- Nate Solder
- Sebastian Vollmer
- Brian Stork
1. Rob Ninkovich: The nine-year veteran out of Purdue University had a very solid year after coach Belichick switched him from linebacker to defensive end. He will continue to play a pivotal part of the Patriots defense and his production will increase from last season.
2. Chandler Jones: The third-year pro will have a huge season after showing strides of reaching his prime very early in his NFL career. He recorded a team high 12 sacks, 40 tackles and a fumble return touchdown. He has shown some promise over his two NFL seasons and has had more ups than downs as well.
3. Zach Moore: The rookie will have a solid season, playing primarily a special teams, backup role.
1. Vince Wilfork: The 11-year veteran is coming off an torn achilles heel injury that held him out for most of the 2013 season. After being placed on injured reserve last season, Wilfork likely will show his age and fatigue before he returns to his all-pro form. It takes alot for a superior talent to return to normal following a serious injury, especially one of his age (32) and size (328 lbs).
2. Tommy Kelly: The 12-year veteran played only five weeks for the Pats last season before an injury ended his season. He was on injured reserve and his presence had a very big effect on the Patriots defense while on the field. The veteran will likely show rust before he reaches all-pro status at age 33, so Kelly has alot to prove.
3. Dominique Easley: The rookie will show promise in 2014, serving as a backup in specific situations before becoming a starter and dominant player.
1. Jerod Mayo: Entering his seventh NFL season with the Patriots, Jerod Mayo must return to all-pro form if he wants to revamp his career before father time comes lurking around. Mayo has always been a big tackler and solid player, but his physical presence or lack thereof has been an issue over the past two seasons. He needs to be more than just a tackler and become a vocal, aggressive and smarter player as one of three team captains for the Patriots. Mayo has an issue in coverage, specifically with covering tight ends and his lack of skills will likely slow him down in the future if he doesn't improve. It will be even tougher for him to improve in 2014 after returning from a torn pectoral injury ended 2013 after five and a half games. His presence was definetly missed as the "quarterback of the defense" looks to make a highly anticipated return to the team that finished 2013 with the worst rushing defense.
2. Dont'a Hightower
Hightower came to New England in the draft a few years ago, and could get a chance this year to finally show his skills, and move up the ranks as an Outside Linebacker.
3. Taylor McCuller
1. Jamie Collins
Collins will move from outside to inside this season, and will be the starter at Inside Linebacker for New England.
2. Josh Hull
Hull is an older guy that the Patriots brought in this off-season, who has the ability to play inside, and has the frame to be a dominant inside linebacker in the 4-3 defense if Collins were to go down with injury.
3. Darius Fleming
The rookie out of Notre Dame is likely to be a backup and potential special teams player.
1. Darrelle Revis: The best cornerback in the NFL will help the New England Patriots team improve as a whole and be a pivotal part of the defense With the Patriots losing cornerback Aqib Talib last season, Revis is the best backup plan they could have thought of. He already has the superior skillset, veteran experience and a chip on his shoulder that helps assure the Patriots he will return to All-pro form in 2014.
2. Brandon Browner: The star veteran safety coined the term "Legion of Boom" during his time in Seattle and has always been a key player on defense as his physical prowess and impact helped lead Seattle to it's first ever Super bowl championship last season. He was a hard hitting safety for the Seahawks and look for him to do the same for the Patriots. Albeit he didn't play in the Super bowl win over the Denver Broncos, look for him to have a chip on his shoulders and help lead the Patriots defense. He won a championship, something the Patriots have not done since 2004, look for him to help the team on and off the field and in big moments look for him to have a big impact from a motivational standpoint as he has a big advantage that can help the team accomplish its goals in 2014.
3. Alfonzo Dennard
Dennard was a solid Cornerback last year and could play a bit next to Revis this year, as well as Kyle Arrington. Dennard should also get a lot of playing time in the nickel with his physical ability matching that position in New England.
4. Kyle Arrington: Arrington, a seven-year veteran cornerback will be productive in 2014 with Darrelle Revis joining the team and helping him grow. Arrington has showed no consistency whatsoever during his five year tenure with the New England Patriots and 2014 may be the season that Arrington starts to play at an all-pro level and become a top cornerback in the NFL. He had one interception and two fumble recoveries on defense and had a crucial onside kick recovery during a game winning comeback during a week 14 victory over the Cleveland Browns. It was the first onside kick the Patriots recovered since 1995.
5.Logan Ryan: The Rutgers University prospect showed promise and pure NFL skills as a rookie last season, and looks to avoid the "sophomore slump" that fellow Rutgers cornerback Devin McCourty fell into during 2011. He is likely to be used in specific situations and may possibly switch to safety next year.
1. Patrick Chung: The second stint in New England may turn out to be one of the best decisions by Bill Belichick since kicking to Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos after winning a coin toss during a week 12 comeback victory in overtime. Stay tuned.
2. Jemea Thomas: The rookie will play a special teams role mainly, before taking snaps as a backup safety late in the season.
1. Devin McCourty: The switch from cornerback to safety has really paid dividends for this Patriots defense. Although McCourty only recorded three interceptions in 2013, he remained a vital and productive player for the team during it's most difficult season since 2008. He has transitioned into one of the best players in the NFL and was named the "best safety in the NFL" according to NFL pro-focus. He will still have a pivotal role on the team in 2014 and will have a solid year entering his fifth season in the NFL.
2. Duron Harmon: Harmon showed skill, talent and was productive when on the field learning from fellow safety and Rutgers University alumni, Devin McCourty. He will have a very productive year in 2014 and will play a pivotal role for the Patriots on special teams also before becoming a top player on defense.
3. Tavon Wilson: Likely to stay with special teams work only.
Stephen Gostkowski (Kicker): Gostkowski bounced back from an highly inconsistent 2012 season and had some huge moments at critical points of the 2013 and will look to become more productive in 2014. He recorded three game winning field goals, including a 31-yard field goal in Week 1 last season, a 34-yard field goal in overtime that helped complete a 24-point comeback against the Denver Broncos and two 55-yard field goals to tie and win a back and fourth game against the Houston Texans.
Ryan Allen (Punter): Punters are people too. When the offense cannot move the ball after third down, the punting unit will come onto the field on fourth down. I don't want to see Ryan Allen kick any punts next year so maybe he can take the year off. He had a solid rookie season and will likely get better but he may have competition come the summer.
Danny Aiken (Long Snapper): Needs to stay consistent in 2014.