A Far-Too-Early Patriots Roster Preview (Bias Included)

Now that New England’s rookie mini-camp has wrapped up, it’s high time we put together the roster for 2012.

(Is it really high time? No, not at all. But with all these players in Foxboro, the temptation proved too much.)

OFFENSE

Quarterback: Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett.

Notable Omission: None.

Yes, it takes a pair the size of duffle bags to pencil in Brady as starter, but that’s how BSMW rolls. As for Hoyer and Mallett, aka The Tradebait Tandem, one more year in the system should garner the Patriots some kind of reward. We were surprised by Mike Hartline getting cut because he completed over 66 percent of his passes in 2010 (for 3,178 yards) and would have made a solid practice squad addition.

Running Back: Danny Woodhead, Shane Vereen, Stevan Ridley, Brandon Bolden.

Notable Omission: Joseph Addai.

Addai’s a Colt. To heck with him! No, seriously, even at 29, we’re just not sure how much he can contribute. We put Bolden on there because of his production at Ole Miss, his athleticism, his youth, and his bargain price tag.

Bolden went undrafted largely due to “off-field issues,” but come on: the Patriots drafted cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, who allegedly punched a police officer. I mean, we have to say the word allegedly, but by all reports, the dude took a jab at a man in blue.

Can’t imagine that. The only time I interacted with a cop in college I said, “Yes, sir,” about eight times and almost cried.

Fullback: Spencer Larsen, Eric Kettani.

Notable Omission: Tony Fiammetta.

As much as we like Fiammetta (and this interview shows you why), we’re keeping Larsen and Kettani. Larsen’s familiar with Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels from Denver; plus, he was an All-Pac-10 linebacker at Arizona who knows how to hit people. Kettani’s a Navy guy. Coach Bill Belichick loves those guys.

Tight End: Aaron Hernandez, Rob Gronkowski

Notable Omission: Daniel Fells

This one depends on Gronkowski’s return from ankle surgery, but if the lovable dummy can get back on the practice field, it could put Fells in a tough spot. Couldn’t Larsen take over most of Fells’ duties anyway? Seems like too much crossover in responsibilities between fullback and a smaller tight end like Fells.

Wide Receiver: Wes Welker, Deion Branch, Brandon Lloyd, Jabar Gaffney, Julian Edelman, Matthew Slater. (Receiver, defensive back, whatever: Slater’s on the roster).

Notable Omissions: Jeremy Ebert, Anthony Gonzalez, Chad Ochocinco, Donte Stallworth.

We had a different scenario for Welker than signing his free agent tender. He could have held out for weeks, given himself a rest, given other receivers time to get familiar with the offense, and come back for a late-season resurgence. ‘Twas not to be – and the team gets better with him on it.

As we sit now, see ya, Stallworth (a tough cut); goodbye, Gonzalez (no truth to the rumor that his name is Latin for “Glass bones”); and vaya con Dios, Ochocinco. Some have said that Ochocinco could become productive after a full off-season in Foxboro, but we don’t buy it. You know who didn’t have a full off-season back in 2006? Gaffney.

Some receivers get this offense, some don’t. Keeping Ochocinco on the team reminds me of something my father used to say. “Chris,” he’d tell me, “be a good boy and get your old man a beer.”

Wait, wrong one. What he’d say was, “No one needs to practice misery.” As positive a presence as Ochocinco has been off the field, he has dragged down the offense. Time to move on.

Offensive Line: Dan Koppen, Dan Connolly, Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer, Marcus Cannon, Nick McDonald, Matt Kopa, Kyle Hix.

Notable Omissions: Brian Waters (retired, we assume), Logan Mankins (PUP), Markus Zusevics (PUP), Robert Gallery.

We’d love to get the band back together again with Koppen at center. Cannon allows flexibility as he can play both right tackle and guard. McDonald started at center one game last year. He adds interior depth, especially in light of Mankins’ presumed addition to the Player Unable to Perform list.

Gallery provides a nice preseason story as the guy Belichick liked as a draftee out of Iowa, but if Gallery can’t make it in Seattle under his old Raider coach, how is he going to make it here? And seriously, the hair? The tattoos? Wouldn’t he rather become a roadie for Anthrax or something?

Is Anthrax still around? Is it the year 2000 yet? Where are my cassettes? Boy, I feel old.

DEFENSE

Defensive Line: Brandon Deaderick, Vince Wilfork, Kyle Love, Gerard Warren, Jonathan Fanene, Chandler Jones, Myron Pryor, Trevor Scott, Marcus Forston.

Notable Omission: Ron Brace.

So, who mans the right defensive end spot? Not Brace, who gets pushed back more than a dental appointment. The Pats could have Warren and Fanene keep that spot warm until Jones can take over. Pryor returns as an interior pass-rusher (sorely missed last year, along with retired Mike Wright), while undrafted rookie Forston’s huge potential gets him on the roster. If cut, Forston would surely get scooped up before making the practice squad.

Linebacker: Jerod Mayo, Rob Ninkovich, Brandon Spikes, Dane Fletcher, Dont’a Hightower, Jake Bequette, Jeff Tarpinian, Tracy White.

Notable Omissions: Bobby Carpenter, Markell Carter, Jermaine Cunningham.

Not sure why some fans have gotten excited about Carpenter. The 2006 version didn’t pan out – no reason to expect much from 2012. Cunningham made one noteworthy play in his New England career, a kinda-sorta brush of Peyton Manning’s elbow that may or may not have caused an interception vs. the Colts in 2010.

Carter’s a tough cut. According to him (interview here), he’s up to 275 pounds. He also had his sister move in with him because his proximity to Boston gives her access to top medical care as she fights Lupus.

Damnit. Now we feel like jerks. Reminder: Put Carter on the practice squad.

Cornerbacks: Kyle Arrington, Devin McCourty, Ras-I Dowling, Alfonso “Fists of Fury” Dennard.

Notable Omissions: Sterling Moore, Will Allen.

It speaks to the potential improvement of this group when two players who would have started on last year’s squad don’t quite make this year’s. Although we’ll probably wish the Pats had Moore once Dowling gets hurt. (For my next impression – Eeyore!).

A few “ifs” with this crew: if McCourty can start looking more like his 2010 self and less like the kid who succumbs to peer pressure on every after-school special (“What’s going on? What’s happening to me?”); if Ras-I “The I Is For Injured” Dowling can stay healthy; and if Dennard can avoid getting into a fight with a lawman (seriously, 20 paragraphs later, I still can’t believe that), then this looks like a solid group.

Safety: Patrick Chung, Steve Gregory, Josh Barrett, Tavon Wilson.

Notable Omissions: Sergio Brown, Nate Ebner, Malcolm Williams.

Barrett, a regular contributor last season, returns as a special-teamer after the addition of Gregory. As far as Wilson goes, we have no idea if he’ll play well, but we know his second-round status (and the ensuing post-draft media conniption) will keep him on the team for at least one full season.

As much as we love Ebner and Williams (the latter gave an impressive interview in 2011) we’d love them more on the practice squad. If Brown hadn’t committed a horrendous pass interference penalty vs. the Giants last November 6, they would have had a harder time scoring. If New York had lost that game, they would have gone 8-8 and missed the playoffs.

What we’re saying is, Sergio Brown cost New England the Super Bowl. That’s all. No big whoop.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Kicker: Stephen Gostkowski.

Notable Omission: Chris Koepplin.

We mention Koepplin for both his UMass background and his career kicking for the former AFL2 Manchester Wolves up in New Hampshire. Seriously, how cool is that?

Punter: Zoltan Mesko.

Yup.

Long Snapper: Danny Aiken.

Sure.

PRACTICE SQUAD

Ebert, WR; Matt Roark, WR/QB (aka Practice Tim Tebow); Justin Francis, OLB; Jeremiah Warren, OL; Ebner, DB; Carter, OLB/DE; Brad Herman, TE.

We’d enjoy watching the further development of Carter, the transition of Ebner from college rugby player to NFL special teamer, and the growth of a big rookie like Warren (6-4, 325).

As we near the end of this column, I’d like to tell you a story about my grandfather. Every Thanksgiving at the end of the meal, he’d call all of us children around the adult table and ask, “Now, who wants strawberry shortcake?” He may as well have set off a box of fireworks in the dining room. After we’d regulated our heartbeats to levels slightly lower than those of stricken ferrets, my grandfather would lean back in his chair and call to my grandmother in the kitchen. “Mary? Do we have any strawberry shortcake?”

You know what? They never did. And he knew they never did.

The lesson is twofold. One, not everyone appreciates irony. Two, when you get too excited about something, you’re bound for disappointment. So let’s all relax, sit back, and enjoy the summer.

Now who wants a Super Bowl win?

Email Chris Warner at [email protected]

  • bsmfan

    Someone r/t’d some info that Wes got a 2/8m deal and “wasn’t happy” today. I don’t have any clue of the guarantees with it or the terms but I think that we might have seen the last full season of Wes here.

    • latetodinner

      So you are believing someone’s r/t that Welker may or may not have been offered a low ball offer and is unhappy.  I think your post makes no sense and probably should not have been made because at best it is unsubstantiated and at worst it is just flat out made up.

      • bsmfan

        My bad for not clarifying. It was to Karen Guregian but my Twitter wasn’t loading. Rap now has an article up on nfl.com about it:

        http://www.nfl.com/news/story/09000d5d82929160/article/wes-welker-says-contract-talks-are-getting-worse

        “Welker revealed that the Patriots have lowered the two-year, fully
        guaranteed $16 million offer that they initially proposed. Welker is
        guaranteed $9.5 million after signing his tender.”

        • latetodinner

          Thank you for the clarification…that is more to the quality level of posts you bring day in and day out. I will just write off the first one and give you a mulligan!

        • bsmfan

          Yeah, without the source there, it looked like some garbage internet rumor.

          I just brought it up because I’m getting the impression that he’ll do the Tag thing but could even be traded if the other WR options work.

    • http://twitter.com/theaisleseatcom Andy Dursin

       Awful lot of time for them to negotiate…isn’t it mid July for a deadline? Beyond that though, the reality for him is that the team has loaded up on other talent and options. If he wants to become the highest paid receiver in the game or close to it, the Pats have other places to go now — and other receivers in back of him, that they haven’t had since Moss left.

    • bsmfan

      Pat Kirwan also crafted a modest proposal. Mike Reiss had an article on this:

      Quotes:
      Sirius XM NFL Radio host Pat Kirwan, who writes for CBSSports.com,
      crafts a compromise contract proposal for the Patriots and receiver Wes
      Welker.

      “I think the right deal is a three-year contract,” Kirwan writes.
      “The deal should be $25 million over three years with 2012 as is at $9.5
      fully guaranteed. Then 2013 another $9.5 guaranteed (which is under the
      $11.4 franchise tag but guaranteed now) and in 2014 a $2 million roster
      bonus on the 10th day of the league year and a $4 million salary.

      End Quotes

      http://espn.go.com/blog/boston/new-england-patriots/post/_/id/4722373/kirwan-crafts-a-welker-compromise

  • MarkC

    I guess Andre Carter is a goner???? I’d think he’d be back if healthy though

    • Chris Warner

      MC, Carter wasn’t on the 90-man roster at the time of posting this, so I didn’t include him as a notable omission (same reason I didn’t include Faulk and a few others). While he could make the final 53, I think it’s safe to say Carter will be moving on.

  • latetodinner

    Chris:

    Nice jab at starting a conversation.  Its early and there are probably players not yet on the roster who will make it.  Having said that…the glaring mistakes that you made include:

    - Cutting Addai and keeping 2 full backs.  Won’t happen unless Addai proves to be hurt, slow and of stone hands.  They need a veteran presence at the spot, especially one who can block and catch.  That is Addai.  They will cut one FB and Kettani will end up on the practice squad or back in the Navy.

    - If one of the DB’s prove they can return kicks then I am not sure the Pats keep Edelman over Stallworth or *gag* Ocho.

    - You have Brian Waters retired.  I think he plays which means you will have to cut Hix.  I think Gallery makes the team…especially if you are right that mankind goes to the PUP so cut MacDonald.  Also the team admitted last year that Canon cannot play guard.  So that is out as an option.

    - I will be shocked if they cut Cunningham.  We will have to see if he is making any progress. 

    • Chris Warner

      LTD, how dare you disagree with me, sir! How DARE YOU!
      JK. You make some solid points, although I disagree with a few details. One, Larsen seems to be a keeper, so that’s one fullback. Kettani can play fullback and special teams, which Addai probably won’t do. Also, of all the positions on the football field, would you agree that younger players seem to adapt to the RB spot the quickest? Not as much veteran leadership needed, especially from someone who’s never played for the Pats before.
      Edelman is the most productive punt returner the Pats have had since a young Kevin Faulk. Also a fine backup slot guy. Don’t see Stallworth staying over him (again, special teams a factor). As for Ocho, it’s best for all concerned if he moves on. Lest we forget the “JG Scale,” where you’re either Joey Galloway or Jabar Gaffney: you get the offense, or you don’t. 
      I’ll be shocked if they don’t cut Cunningham. Three pass-rushing rookies, plus Fanene, plus the return of Myron Pryor make for a tight fit on the roster for a player who DNP-CD’d his way through the latter part of 2011.
      Thanks for writing in. 

      • latetodinner

        Its what I do Chris :-).

        I like Kettani…I just don’t see how a guy who has not played organized football in 3 years and who has PS eligibility will make this team when they can store him for later. As for Addai…he is only 29. He brings a lot to this team IF (I made it a big IF) he is healthy. As fast as the kids develop the fact is Addai does everything Woodhead does only faster, better and with more power, with the added benefit of being more of a vet. I think he makes the team even without the ST’s especially over an undrafted rookie FA (Boulden) who they can also store on the PS or the second FB. The team has not carried a fullback in 3 years. I don’t see them carrying 2 all of a sudden especially since 95% of the offense will be run out of 1 back sets or 3 WR/WTE sets.
        Edelman may be the most productive Punt returner they have had since Faulk but that is damning with faint praise. They have not had an above average punt returner since Troy Brown. They have already written off KO returns because of the new rules I don’t think Edelman’s skills will get him the back up WR job especially if one of the DB’s can do it as well. I think McDaniels offense was different that O’Briens because of the pressure he put down the field (Moss and Stallworth for example). He now has Lloyd playing the roll of Moss, Welker playing the role of Welker and unlike Obrien who wanted Branch on the other side pressuring the middle to inside part of the field McDaniels wants someone pressuring the other side and if need be deep. So I think Stallworth or *gasp* Ocho both fit that role. Its Gonzales who I think is definitely odd man out and Edelman who is tenuous at best .I could actually see them keeping both Stallworth and Ocho and cutting Branch. Its why this camp is going to be so much fun.
        Lastly on Cunningham. I think they want 4 Edge rushers who can get upfield. I think the loss of last years training camp hurt Cunningham more than anyone else. I want to see what a full camp does for him…let him come to camp healthy and I think he makes the team.

        • Chris Warner

          LTD, you keep wanting to cut Kettani. Why do you hate America? ;-)
          Seriously, I think you have a much higher estimation of Addai than I do. Not sure if he’s faster than Woodhead, nor if he has the between-the-tackles toughness you seem to credit him for. 
          I don’t think Bolden makes it through the waiver wire if cut.
          You make solid points re: WR, just think that Edelman has a spot over Stallworth. Ocho doesn’t have the same speed of yore to be as useful downfield – would much rather see Stallworth in that role if necessary.
          High-class problems. It should be fun.

  • Davey4151

    Just wondering, you didnt mention Donald Thomas, Hmm, I kind of think if coach B didnt like him he would not still be there?

    • Chris Warner

      D4151, I think Coach B might like Thomas, just not as much as the other linemen mentioned. He got a couple of chances to play and showed that he has a long way to go. 
      He could stay, of course, I just think the others on the list have greater potential.

  • jay

    The choice isn’t between Kettani and Addai in Chris’ scenario, it’s between Kettani and Fells and there’s no way they keep Kettani over Fells.

  • bsmfan
  • MilitStrat54

    Problem with only carrying 2 TEs. If they had three last year in the SB, could have better used their two TE set. A hurt Gronk limited its success. In addition, Pats innovative 2TE set should be expanded to a 3TE set. With Hernandez being a hybrid receiver/TE and the Pats using a hurry up offense they could maximize their offensive capabilities while at the same time limiting the opponents defense. Consider…Like the 2 TE set only now they have added options. Can keep all 3 for max blocking protection on fly routes. Fly routes open up the under routes for Welker and wheel routes or Addai/RBs. Any one or all three TEs can slip out or down seams and depending in the defense is in nickel or dime, can use 3TEs to pancake DBs for big run yardage.

    • MilitStrat54

      Only concerns are injury and getting too cocky. Pats need to game plan not only on what they can do, but with consideration of opponent strengths and weaknesses. It would be a mistake to say we are doing what we want just try and stop us. Being the Pats OC could be the “finest” job there is in sports. Good thing this team is not in Dallas, otherwise the owner would try to be the OC and screw it up. Let Josh do his thing, so Brady can do his. Just hope the defense shows up this year. If they do, this team could be special. Very special.

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