Coming into every season, there are some Patriots players firmly on the roster bubble. Training camp and preseason play ultimately decide their future on the roster. In this article, we identified five returning Patriots on the roster bubble.
Rex Burkehead, RB
We thought we’d start with a surprise player on the list. In a perfect world, Burkhead would never be on the roster bubble. When Burkhead is healthy he’s arguably one of the best running backs on the roster. So why do we think he’s on the roster bubble? Let’s take a look at the running backs on the roster (alphabetical order): 1.) Brandon Bolden 2.) Damien Harris 3.) James White 4.) J.J. Taylor 5.) Rex Burkhead 6.) Sony Michel. Theoretically, the Patriots could just cut Taylor and keep the same backs they did last year. But there’s a problem that comes with that decision. After spending a 2019 third-round pick on Harris in 2019, they need to get him carries.
Barring any injures, it will be difficult to split snaps between Harris, White, Michel, and Burkhead. Cutting Burkhead also saves you a few bucks, not a ton, but if there’s a money crunch at some point that could factor in. Lastly, there is a concern when it comes to Burkhead’s availability. He’s been plagued with injures since joining the Patriots. We know the Patriots like to keep plenty of running backs on the roster, so we still think Burkhead has a strong chance to make the team, but if there’s a surprise cut to be made at the position we think it will be him.
Terrance Brooks, SS
It’s good the Patriots are so loaded at secondary. But it’s inevitable that eventually, all the depth leads to good players being on the roster bubble. That’s the exact situation Terrance Brooks finds himself in. Brooks is part of a deep strong safety group. We took a look at the safety depth here. Brooks stepped in nicely last season when Chung went down with an injury. He also plays a big role on special teams. On a team with fewer safeties, Brooks would be a near-lock to make the roster, but the addition of Adrian Phillips puts Brooks behind the eight-ball. Phillips offers you everything Brooks does but better. Phillips can play both strong and free safety positions. He’s also a star special teamer.
On top of all that, Patrick Chung was given an extension which makes him unlikely to be cut. The Patriots also selected Kyle Dugger in the second round of the draft, making him a roster lock. Chung, Phillips, and Dugger are all ahead of Brooks on the strong safety depth chart. Unless Brooks can get some action at free safety or he beats out Phillips, he’ll have some trouble making the roster.
Jermaine Eluemunor, G
Last August, the Patriots received Eluemunor and a sixth-round pick from the Ravens for a fourth-round pick. Eluemunor didn’t get much playing time this past season. This year, Elumnar finds himself competing for a roster spot. After deciding to keep Joe Thuney on the franchise tag, the starting guards are set. Thuney and Shaq Mason will be roster locks.
Eluemunor has a lot of competition for the backup guard positions. Hjalte Froholdt, the Patriots 2019 4th round draft selection, is back after missing his rookie year with an injury. The Patriots also added guard depth in the draft. The Patriots selected guard Michael Onwenu, center/ guard Dustin Woodard, and Justin Herron who projects to move to guard in the NFL. Eluemunor will be battling all four-players for two or three roster spots. Eluemunor will have to prove his value is greater than the upside of the second year and rookie players.
Deatrich Wise Jr., DL/ EDGE
There was hope that Wise would help fill the void left by Trey Flowers last season. That didn’t end up panning out. Rather than having a breakout year, Wise saw his role diminishing as the year went on. The Patriots scheme doesn’t necessarily fit what Wise does best. We’ve seen flashes of good potential from Wise. In his rookie season, he finished with 5 sacks and 19 quarterback hits. But the consistency has lacked, and the Patriots are loading up with younger more dynamic edge players.
Chase Winovich, Josh Uche, and Anfernee Jennings are some of the recent draft picks the Patriots have made to get edge help. The Patriots also have underrated veteran John Simon at the edge spot. Brandon Copeland, signed from the New York Jets, is another veteran we like that could play on the edge. The edge position has a lot of bodies, and Wise is a little undersized to strictly play on the interior defensive line. Wise needs to have a strong preseason in order to make the team.
Matt Lacosse, TE
The Patriots’ tight end production last season was one of the worst in the NFL. Lacosse suffered several injuries throughout the season, but even when playing he wasn’t effective. He ended the year with 13 catches for 131 yards and 1 touchdown. While the Patriots didn’t sign any tight ends in free agency, they double-dipped in the draft. Both Devin Asasi and Dalton Keene will be roster locks. It’s possible the Patriots roll with only two tight ends, but because both are rookies it might be nice to have a third on the roster. That would leave a roster battle between Lacosse and Ryan Izzo. Lacosse should have the edge, but he’ll need to show some improvement this summer.
Undrafted free agent Jake Burt could create a wildcard situation if he’s able to make the roster as the third tight end. With that being said, we don’t see that as a likely situation. The lack of depth and experience at the tight end position will make it hard to move on from Lacosse.