Patriots Have To Be Feeling Comfortable With Depth At Key Positions


COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — The New England Patriots only subtracted from their roster at last month’s NFL trade deadline, but the team has to be feeling pretty good about its depth as it wades into the second half of the season.

The Patriots’ depth stacks up well at key positions because of midseason improvement from certain reserves. Let’s go position by position.

QUARTERBACK
Starter: Tom Brady
Reserves: Brian Hoyer
Hoyer isn’t as good as Jimmy Garoppolo, but if he had to play for a stretch in a single game, then the Patriots wouldn’t have to alter their gameplan. He’s a backup with extensive starting experience.

RUNNING BACK
Starter: Dion Lewis
Reserves: Rex Burkhead, Mike Gillislee, Brandon Bolden
The Patriots’ running back depth is so good, Gillislee was a healthy scratch in Week 10. This group is stacked.

THIRD-DOWN BACK
Starter: James White
Reserves: Rex Burkhead, Brandon Bolden
Burkhead brings versatility across the board and might have even softer hands than White.

FULLBACK
Starter: James Develin
Reserve: Dwayne Allen
Develin might be the best fullback in the NFL. How often the Patriots would even use a lead blocker if he suffered an injury is a mystery that New England hopes it doesn’t have to solve.

WIDE RECEIVER
Starter: Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan
Reserves: Danny Amendola, Phillip Dorsett, Matthew Slater
Injured reserve: Malcolm Mitchell
Practice squad: Cody Hollister, Riley McCarron
The Patriots’ depth at wide receiver would be a lot better if Mitchell could come off of injured reserve. Perhaps we’ll see him next week when the Patriots return from the mountains?

TIGHT END
Starter: Rob Gronkowski
Reserves: Martellus Bennett, Dwayne Allen, Jacob Hollister
Practice squad: Will Tye

The Patriots’ tight end depth is tremendous. Gronkowski is the best tight end in the NFL, Bennett might be the best backup, you won’t find a better third-stringer than Allen, and Hollister provides upside as an athletic rookie who contributes on special teams. Throw in Tye, who was a starter in 2015 and 2016 with the New York Giants, and this group is pretty ridiculous.

OFFENSIVE LINE
Starter: LT Nate Solder, LG Joe Thuney, C David Andrews, RG Shaq Mason, RT Marcus Cannon
Reserves: LaAdrian Waddle, Ted Karras, Cameron Fleming, Cole Croston
Practice squad: C James Ferentz
Offensive tackle depth was viewed as a concern early in the year. Waddle has quieted doubters as he’s filled in for Cannon over the last two weeks.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE
Starter: Malcom Brown, Lawrence Guy
Reserves: Alan Branch, Adam Butler, Ricky Jean Francois
Injured reserve: Vincent Valentine
Practice squad: Mike Purcell

Brown was back at practice Wednesday, so now the Patriots are rolling five deep at defensive tackle. Jean Francois impressed in his first game with the team.

DEFENSIVE END
Starter: Trey Flowers, Deatrich Wise
Reserves: Cassius Marsh, Adam Butler
Practice squad: Geneo Grissom

This is probably the Patriots’ biggest area of weakness. Having Marsh and Butler as depth is fine but certainly not ideal.

LINEBACKER
Starter: Kyle Van Noy, Elandon Roberts
Reserves: David Harris, Marquis Flowers, Trevor Reilly, Brandon King
Injured reserve: Shea McClellin

The Patriots have depth at linebacker, but they lack top-end starting talent with Dont’a Hightower out. You could do worse than Harris as a backup, though.

CORNERBACK
Starter: Malcolm Butler, Stephon Gilmore
Reserves: Jonathan Jones, Johnson Bademosi, Eric Rowe
Practice squad: Ryan Lewis, Jomal Wiltz

Bademosi played well as a starter before Gilmore went down with a concussion. He couldn’t even get in on defense Sunday night, however. This is an area of strength for the Patriots.

SAFETY
Starter: Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon
Reserves: Jordan Richards, Nate Ebner
Practice squad: David Jones, Damarius Travis

This group has been together for three seasons now, and McCourty, Chung and Harmon all have played together since 2014. Richards has even carved out a niche role for himself as a linebacker. If McCourty, Chung or Harmon got injured, it would cause some reshuffling across the entire defense, but they still would be left with two starting-caliber safeties.

SPECIAL TEAMS
Starter: K Stephon Gostkowski, P Ryan Allen, LS Joe Cardona
The Patriots don’t need depth at the specialist positions.

Thumbnail photo via Scott R. Galvin/USA TODAY Sports Images

Source: NESN

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