After their second preseason game of the summer -- a 20-10 victory over Carolina -- there are some Patriots who are clearly trending upward (for example: Hello, Lil'Jordan Humphrey) and some headed in the opposite direction.
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Let's take a stab at what the Patriots' initial 53-man roster could look like based on all we've seen by closely watching every one of Bill Belichick's training camp practices and two exhibition contests...
Mac Jones, Brian Hoyer, Bailey Zappe
Brian Hoyer was guaranteed $3 million when he re-signed with the team this offseason. This should be the group come September.
New England Patriots
Running back (4)
What the Patriots end up doing with Pierre Strong will be fascinating. Outside of being drafted in the fourth round, he probably isn't deserving of a roster spot at the moment. Does he end up on a reserve list somehow? Does he end up on the team as a game-day healthy scratch, the way James White was in 2014?
J.J. Taylor looks like the better player at the moment, but based on his draft status, Strong will be around in some fashion. We'll keep him active for now.
OUT: J.J. Taylor, Kevin Harris
Wide receiver (5)
DeVante Parker, Tyquan Thornton, Nelson Agholor, Jakobi Meyers, Kendrick Bourne
Though teams are calling the Patriots to see what it may take to execute a trade involving one of their veteran receivers, in this scenario the Patriots keep 'em all. With Thornton (shoulder) getting banged up in the Panthers preseason game, and with Parker's injury history, it's worth maintaining some depth here.
The Patriots could free up a chunk of cap space by unloading Agholor, but he's been one of their best offensive players in recent weeks.
OUT: Lil'Jordan Humphrey, Tre Nixon, Kristian Wilkerson, Josh Hammond
Tight end (3)
Hunter Henry, Jonnu Smith, Lil'Jordan Humphrey
Humphrey has flashed as a receiver. He was discussed as a "tight end-ish" player Friday by Bill Belichick. And he made one of the best special-teams plays of the summer when he downed a punt before it hit the goal line against the Panthers. It had Matthew Slater gushing after the game.
If Belichick is looking for depth at this spot -- particularly since this will be a team that really leans on multi-tight end formations -- Humphrey looks like a better option than anyone else on the roster at this spot.
OUT: Devin Asiasi, Dalton Keene, Matt Sokol
Offensive line (7)
Trent Brown, Cole Strange, David Andrews, Mike Onwenu, Isaiah Wynn, Yodny Cajuste, Kody Russey
Russey quietly had a nice week against the Panthers, holding his own in one-on-ones. Then he got some early run at center when he subbed in for David Andrews on Friday night, playing with other starters in front of Brian Hoyer.
Russey and James Ferentz are trending in opposite directions, so the undrafted rookie out of Houston gets the nod here.
OUT: Justin Herron, Yasir Durant, Arlington Hambright, Drew Desjarlais, James Ferentz, Will Sherman, Chasen Hines (NFI), Andrew Stueber (NFI)
Special teams (7)
Matthew Slater, Cody Davis, Jake Bailey, Joe Cardona, Nick Folk, Brenden Schooler, Justin Bethel
Schooler has consistently received extra kicking-game tutelage, and he appears to already have the respect of Slater. Plus, he's an excellent athlete who showed against the Panthers why he already looks like he's carved out a role as a core special-teamer.
OUT: Tristan Vizcaino, Ross Reiter, Jake Julien
Defensive line (7)
Christian Barmore, Lawrence Guy, Davon Godchaux, Deatrich Wise, LaBryan Ray, DaMarcus Mitchell, Sam Roberts
The Patriots may feel as though they need to choose between the undrafted rookie out of 'Bama (Ray), the undrafted rookie out of Purdue (Mitchell) and the Division II sixth-rounder from Northwest Missouri State (Roberts), but both all three have popped as players who deserve a spot in the Patriots locker room.
Mitchell finished Friday with a strip sack. Ray has been a consistently-disruptive force from the interior as a pass-rusher. And Roberts has now had two preseason games where he's put tape out there that might get him scooped up by a team looking for a project defensive tackle.
OUT: Carl Davis Jr., Bill Murray, Daniel Ekuale, Jeremiah Pharms, Henry Anderson
Matt Judon, Josh Uche, Anfernee Jennings, Ja'Whaun Bentley, Raekwon McMillan, Mack Wilson
Jahlani Tavai had an injury scare midway through camp but looks healthy and then saw early reps with Ja'Whaun Bentley off the line of scrimmage Friday. That may mean the Patriots have a real role for him in mind. But it also could've been an opportunity to see how he fit in with other starters, since from the outside looking in he appears to be on the bubble.
He's not as fleet of foot as others at his position, and he may be someone who could stick on the practice squad without making the initial 53-man roster. Others at that spot -- Bentley, McMillan, Wilson -- appear to be roadblocks to real playing time for Tavai, which is why he's been left off here.
OUT: Ronnie Perkins, Cam McGrone, Jahlani Tavai, Harvey Langi, Nate Wieland
Devin McCourty, Kyle Dugger, Adrian Phillips, Jabrill Peppers, Joshuah Bledsoe
Bledsoe's forced fumble in Friday's game and his knack for very often finding himself around the football could buy him a spot on the initial 53. He also looks like a kicking-game coverage option based on his athleticism and physicality.
OUT: Brad Hawkins
Jalen Mills, Jack Jones, Marcus Jones, Jonathan Jones, Myles Bryant, Shaun Wade
Wade gives the Patriots some size and some depth at a spot that took a hit in both regards last week when it lost both Malcolm Butler and Joejuan Williams to injury. Wade may be one of the last 53-man additions of the summer, but guys like Tavai, Arlington Hambright, Devin Asiasi, Tre Nixon and J.J. Taylor may be able to get through to the practice squad.
Wade was intriguing enough as a prospect last year -- and he plays a position that's valuable enough -- that he may get signed elsewhere if released. His interception Friday showed good burst. The Patriots just might want to keep him off the punt-return team after he accidentally plowed into return man Marcus Jones against Carolina.
OUT: Devin Hafford