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Roche: Projecting Patriots' 53-Man Roster

BOSTON (CBS) -- The preseason will come to an end on Thursday, and teams will have until 4 p.m. on Saturday to trim their roster down to 53 players.

It's always a dangerous exercise to try to get inside the mind of Bill Belichick, but here is my rough guess at what the Patriots' roster will look like when they take the field for their season opener Sept. 9 against the Houston Texans.

Quarterback (2): Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer
Cut: Danny Etling (Practice Squad)

Not much to say here other than Brady looks like the same old Tom Brady. Getting on the same page with any wide receiver not named Chris Hogan may be difficult for the first month, but Phillip Dorsett showed a lot in preseason game No. 3 as far as building trust with Brady.

Hoyer is a capable veteran back-up, while Etling should be heading to the practice squad.

Running Back (5): James White, Rex Burkhead, Sony Michel, Jeremy Hill, Brandon Bolden
Cut: Mike Gillislee, Ralph Webb

I thought Hill did a good job in the preseason. He was asked to drop 10 pounds during the spring and did it, going from 235 to 225. He ran the ball well and showed the ability to catch the football, and also contributed on special teams.

There are no worries about White and he should be featured a lot in the first month without Julian Edelman. Fingers crossed that Burkhead can stay healthy, and the same goes for Michel, who returned to practice on Monday.

Fullback (1): James Develin
Cut : Henry Poggi

The Pro Bowler returns.

Wide Receiver (4)- Julian Edelman*, Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett, Cordarrelle Patterson, Matthew Slater (Special Teams)
Cut: Riley McCarron, Devin Lucien, Braxton Berrios

*Edelman doesn't count for first four games due to his suspension

This is a fluid situation. We may see a trade and/or waiver claims when it comes to this position after watching Brandin Cooks and Danny Amendola leave during the offseason, followed by the preseason releases of Malcolm Mitchell, Kenny Britt, Jordan Matthews and Eric Decker.

Dorsett and Patterson are getting better, but we will see lots of passes to Gronk, White and Hogan in the first month.

Tight End (3): Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen, Jacob Hollister
Cut: Will Tye, Ryan Izzo

Hollister has a chance to be a contributor on offense if he can progress. He showed that he's got good hands and can take a hit in the preseason. Now he just needs to carry that into the regular season.

Offensive Line (8): Trent Brown, Joe Thuney, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Marcus Cannon, LaAdrian Waddle, Ted Karras, Matt Tobin
Cut: Ulrick John (bubble), Cole Croston (bubble)

It was tough to see Isaiah Wynn go down and land on the IR. I was looking forward to watching his progress and how Dante Scarnecchia was going to use his versatile rookie. Trent Brown has been a consistent, solid performer from Day 1 and should be fine protecting Brady's blind side.

Shaq Mason has been steady along the line for years and was rewarded for his hard work with a contract extension on Monday. A core of Mason, Thuney, and Andrews have been rock solid, and getting Cannon back to start the season would be huge.

Defensive Line (10): Trey Flowers, Lawrence Guy, Malcom Brown, Adrian Clayborn, Deatrich Wise, Derek Rivers, Danny Shelton, Adam Butler, Geneo Grissom (ST), Keionta Davis (ST)
Cut : Vincent Valentine

Lots of depth here and veteran Adrian Clayborn has been impressive. I'm a fan of Butler, and it will be interesting to see Wise follow up a promising rookie season. Rivers is very intriguing too after missing his rookie campaign due to injury, and could provide a major boost to the pass rush this season.

Linebacker (5): Donta' Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, Ja'Whaun Bentley, Nicholas Grigsby (ST), Brandon King (ST)
Cut: Marquis Flowers, Elandon Roberts

The Pats are a different team with/without Hightower and I don't care how he's looked in camp. Bentley hasn't looked like a rookie and has been the surprise of camp. He looks like he's locked down a starting spot with his speed, instincts and pass coverage.

Defensive Backs (13): Stephon Gilmore, Eric Rowe, Duke Dawson, Jason McCourty, JC Jackson, Keion Crossen, Jonathan Jones (ST), Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, Jordan Richards, Nate Ebner (ST)
Cut: A.J. Moore,Cyrus Jones, Ryan Lewis, Jomal Wiltz, Damarius Travis

The Pats played Jason McCourty at safety Friday night against the Panthers, a sign that they want to make it work and find a spot for the veteran defensive back. Time has simply run out for Cyrus Jones, a second-round pick just three years ago. Crossen is on the bubble to me and his spot could depend on trades and waiver claims.

New England's top three safeties are a major strength of the team and getting Ebner back for special teams is tremendous.

Special Teams (3): Stephen Gostkowski, Ryan Allen, Joe Cardona
Cut: Corey Bojorquez

We were expecting a punter battle between Allen and rookie Bojorquez in camp, but the job clearly belongs to Allen, who has made all of the punts this preseason.



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