The Patriots 2021 preseason came to a close on Sunday evening with a win over the New York Giants and now it's full steam ahead towards the regular season. The Patriots spent the bulk of the offseason retooling the roster by spending big in free agency and at the NFL Draft in hopes of improving from a 7-9 campaign they endured in 2020 that found them on the outside looking in of the playoffs. With the exhibition season in the rearview mirror, it's now time for Bill Belichick and company to cut the roster down to 53.
The biggest news of cutdown day was the release of Cam Newton, making Mac Jones the Week 1 starter.
Below, you'll find a projection of that opening 53-man roster as we step a bit closer to Week 1.
Rookies will be denoted with a (*).
J.J. Taylor, Brandon Bolden
|FB||Jakob Johnson|| || || |
What a difference an offseason makes, right? The most notable change for the Patriots offense comes at quarterback. In a surprising twist to cutdown day, Bill Belichick cut Cam Newton, leaving Mac Jones as the Week 1 starter. Currently, Jones is the only QB on the roster, but the release of Brian Hoyer was likely a procedural move with him being re-signed after this roster is solidified.
Meanwhile, New England dove headfirst into free agency and inked two of the top tight ends on the market to primetime deals. While Hunter Henry is technically listed behind Jonnu Smith on this depth chart, the two will likely be co-starters throughout the season with the Patriots setting a base offense in 12-personnel. Henry will be a more traditional Y tight end, Smith can be utilized as an H-back in certain situations, giving the Patriots a layer to their offense that has been missing for quite some time.
Elsewhere, the receiver unit has also seen a noticeable upgrade. Again, New England was aggressive and signed both Kendrick Bourne and Nelson Agholor to contracts very early in free agency. Both should slot into the starting rotation while Jakobi Meyers looks to build off a breakout season in 2020 as the slot option, possibly adopting routes left by the retired Julian Edelman. When it comes to this wide receiver position, however, the X-factor is N'Keal Harry. He did make the opening roster and is looking for a Year 3 breakout whenever he heals up from that shoulder injury.
As for the offensive line, Joe Thuney (signed with Chiefs) and Marcus Cannon (traded to Texans) are the two notable departures. That said, the team does have familiar faces poised to take over at their former posts. New England struck a deal with the Raiders to reacquire offensive tackle Trent Brown, who'll now move to the right side of the O-line. Meanwhile, second-year lineman Michael Onwenu is the likely candidate to line up alongside Isaiah Wynn and David Andrews at left guard.
Deatrich Wise Jr.
|Kyle Van Noy|
The linebacker unit was an area that needed some addressing by the Patriots this offseason and they were able to improve that unit with some solid talent. Matt Judon was New England's first big splash in free agency on the defensive side this offseason and the former Ravens linebacker's balanced skillset will make him a fascinating chess piece to follow throughout the year. New England also brought back linebacker Kyle Van Noy after a one-year absence once he was released by the Miami Dolphins. Of course, the Patriots are also getting Dont'a Hightower back after the linebacker opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID concerns, meaning that the defense is getting one of its main leaders back into the fold, which should only help as they look to regain the reputation of being a top-flight defense in 2021. Arguably the talk of camp at that position, however, has been Josh Uche, who is primed for a breakout year.
Jalen Mills is also another figure to watch this season. The cornerback was another one of the Patriots' big free-agent signings this offseason, inking a $24 million contract. In Philadelphia, Mills showed the ability to play both corner and safety. That versatility could be on display during his first season in Foxborough, especially after the club lost Jason McCourty in free agency. On top of Edelman retiring this offseason, the Patriots also saw Patrick Chung call it a career. Chung had opted out of last season and now it'll be up to Adrian Phillips and second-year safety Kyle Dugger to fill his shoes on a more permanent basis.
Elsewhere in the secondary is the situation with Stephon Gilmore. He was officially placed on the PUP list, meaning that he will miss the first six week of the regular season.
|Gunner||Matthew Slater|| |
Mac Jones jerseys now available
If you're a Patriots fan, you need a Mac Jones jersey before the new era starts! Shop the latest Mac Jones game jerseys featuring No. 10. Click here to shop.
We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.