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.)
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.
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.
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.
Long Snapper: Danny Aiken.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org