Patriots 53-man roster projection: 3 QBs is a necessity. And what to do with N’Keal Harry?

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·6 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

The New England Patriots received unfortunate news on Sunday: They will be without quarterback Cam Newton for five days. He accidentally violated the NFL’s testing protocol for players who are not fully vaccinated, and because he missed a test, he will need to go into a five-day re-entry period.

It was a reminder that the Patriots need three quarterbacks for 2021. The Patriots have to manage the stern protocols for their quarterback who isn’t fully vaccinated: Newton. Even if all of the Patriots’ quarterbacks are eventually vaccinated, they can still contract COVID-19, which could result in their absence from the team, though vaccinated players have a shorter timeline for return than unvaccinated individuals.

The 2021 season will have plenty of uncertainties. The Patriots will need to stay deep at the NFL’s most important position.

Quarterback (3): Mac Jones, Cam Newton, Brian Hoyer

PUP: Jarrett Stidham Jones seemed to be closing the gap between himself and Newton heading into preseason Week 2. Newton then dazzled against Philly, even if he was playing against the Eagles' backups. It seemed he was slamming the door closed on Jones for QB1. Now what? Newton will be away, and Jones will get the chance to prove himself with extended work with the top offensive players (and against the top defensive players). It's a huge opportunity.

Running back (6): Damien Harris, James White, Sony Michel, Rhamondre Stevenson, J.J. Taylor, Jakob Johnson

The Patriots have the best problem at the running back position. They have too many talented players. On one hand, the Patriots could (and maybe even should) sell off Michel to the highest bidder to add depth at positions like cornerback or inside linebacker. On the other hand, New England is going to need a bruising and electric running game to power the offense in 2021. Every one of these backs could have a role, as much as fantasy football owners will hate it. Brandon Bolden misses the cut, a tough situation for the special-teams player.

Tight end (3): Jonnu Smith, Hunter Henry, Devin Asiasi

IR: Dalton Keene It sounds harsh, but considering how little promise Asiasi has shown, the Patriots might be wise to trade for a more legitimate backup at the tight end position. New England could easily roster four tight ends, if it feels Asiasi is deserving of more time for development. But the tight end position should be a focal point of the offense, which means they might need a better option at TE3.

Receiver (5): Nelson Agholor, Jakobi Meyers, Kendrick Bourne, Gunner Olszewski, N'Keal Harry

Call me naive. Call me a fool. Call me whatever you want. I thought Harry's strong training camp would translate to preseason success. If he had played well in the preseason, the Patriots would have a tough choice: trade him for increased market value or roster him in hopes he continued to develop. Then Harry looked bad in the preseason and suffered an injury. Double whammy. At this point, the Patriots need to punt on their former first-round pick. They can roster him before putting him on injured reserve (with designation to return). Four weeks into the regular season, the Patriots can see if they can fit him onto the roster -- and then see if they can get him some playing time (which won't be easy with Henry, Smith, Meyers, Agholor and Bourne). While Kristian Wilkerson seemed to be a good candidate for the team, his inconsistencies with drops have likely landed him on the practice squad.

Offensive line (8): Isaiah Wynn, Michael Onwenu, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Trent Brown, Ted Karras, Justin Herron, Yodny Cajuste

The top seven players -- the starters, Karras and Herron -- are locks. And then it gets hazy. Cajuste is a former third-rounder who can play tackle and guard and is showing signs of life for the first time in his career. Marcus Martin appears to be a top reserve for the interior, so perhaps he might return to the team after they stash Harry on IR. The other top competitors include James Ferentz, William Sherman and Alex Redmond.

Safety (5): Devin McCourty, Adrian Philips, Kyle Dugger, Myles Bryant, Cody Davis

NFI: Joshuah Bledsoe McCourty and Phillips are among the Patriots' best defensive players. Dugger is among those with the brightest future. Bryant has the versatility to play both safety and nickel cornerback. Davis will contribute largely on special teams. Any divergence from this assembly of talent would be a surprise.

Cornerback (5): J.C. Jackson, Jonathan Jones, Jalen Mills, Joejuan Williams, Michael Jackson

PUP: Stephon Gilmore Gilmore is dealing with a pesky quad recovery -- and frustrations with his contract. He isn't likely to return to the field until both issues are resolved. So you have to wonder if he might start the season on the PUP list, with roughly two weeks until the Patriots' season-opener. If that happens, the Patriots might trade for a cornerback. But that means adding salary to the roster. If they're going to add another CB's salary, why not just give Gilmore the raise he wants (and deserves)?

Outside linebacker (5): Matt Judon, Kyle Van Noy, Josh Uche, Chase Winovich, Ronnie Perkins

All of these players looked like locks to make the roster.

Inside linebacker (2): Dont'a Hightower, Ja'Whaun Bentley

PUP: Terez Hall NFI (non-football injury) list: Cameron McGrone Anfernee Jennings is a tough player to place, and the Patriots would probably have a hard time cutting him. The same is true of Harvey Langi. Both players have a strong chance of making the team, with Langi having a great preseason and Jennings being a former third-round pick. But are either of them one of the best 53 players? I don't know.

Defensive line (6): Davon Godchaux, Lawrence Guy, Deatrich Wise, Christian Barmore, Henry Anderson, Carl Davis

PUP: Byron Cowart Anderson's spot on the roster doesn't seem quite as safe as I thought it would be. Davis is clearly entrenched in a tough battle with Akeem Spence. And surprisingly, Bill Murray has turned into an analytics darling, with Pro Football Focus grading him well in the preseason.

Specialists (5): Nick Folk, Jake Bailey, Joe Cardona, Justin Bethel, Matthew Slater

The Quinn Nordin experiment was fun, with the rookie showing off an absurdly powerful leg. He's just too erratic. The Patriots need to go with Folk. Cardona, meanwhile, is dealing with a hand injury. Will he be healthy in time to avoid season-ending injured reserve?

1

1