Originally written on NESN.com  |  Last updated 8/21/13
When constructing a 53-man roster projection for the Patriots, it’s natural to look back at past years to determine how many players Bill Belichick will be looking to keep at each position. Last year, the Patriots ended the season with 11 defensive backs, six linebackers and 10 defensive linemen. That’s been the standard number of players at each position many assume the Patriots will be keeping this year, as well. Aqib Talib, Kyle Arrington, Alfonzo Dennard and Logan Ryan are near locks at cornerback, while it would be worth holding onto Marquice Cole and Ras-I Dowling, as well. Devin McCourty, Adrian Wilson and Duron Harmon are near locks at safety, while Steve Gregory and Tavon Wilson will likely also stick around. Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes, Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins, Dane Fletcher and Steve Beauharnais will likely be the six linebackers and Vince Wilfork, Tommy Kelly, Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich, Marcus Benard, Jermaine Cunningham, Michael Buchanan, Justin Francis, Marcus Forston and Cory Grissom were my guesses at the defensive line. When compared to the other 19 teams that ran a base four-man front in 2012, the Patriots kept an extra defensive lineman and two extra defensive backs. The other 19 teams had a mean average of 8.95 defensive linemen, 6.58 linebackers and 9.58 defensive backs. If you’re going by mode average, 10 teams kept nine defensive linemen, eight teams kept six or seven linebackers and 11 teams kept nine defensive backs. The Patriots could decrease the number of defensive backs and defensive ends they carry this year, though, due to the versatility the team has in their defense. This isn’t just players that can line up in both a 4-3 and 3-4, either. They’re players who can play entirely different positions in the same scheme. In the front seven, Ninkovich can play either defensive end (his starting role) or strong-side linebacker (his starting role in 2011). Cunningham, Francis and Benard can play defensive end or defensive tackle. Collins can play defensive end or outside linebacker and McCourty and Cole can play cornerback or safety. If a starting linebacker or two starting cornerbacks went down with injuries, it’s likely Ninkovich and McCourty would move to those respective positions. If one of the starting defensive ends went down, it’s possible Collins would move down to play that position. And since the Patriots use a defensive end at defensive tackle on third downs, the Patriots could even save space on the roster by keeping just three defensive tackles. There are plenty of players who could be saved this year if the Patriots can find ways to cut corners due to versatility. The team could keep five running backs, five tight ends (if Rob Gronkowski starts the season off the PUP list), nine offensive linemen or even three quarterbacks. LeGarrette Blount, Brandon Bolden, Daniel Fells, Michael Hoomanwanui, James Develin, Josh Kline and Brice Schwab have all played well this summer and could be considered for roster spots if there is room. The positions in which the Patriots carry extra players are defensive end and safety. Most teams keep just five defensive ends on their 53-man rosters and four safeties. The “extra” players New England kept around last season were Jake Bequette at defensive end and Nate Ebner at safety. Bequette barely played, but it would have been rare to cut a third-round rookie. Ebner played in 15 games as a special teamer. Going into the 2013 season, the Patriots are experiencing injuries at guard, cornerback and now defensive end. Due to Cole and McCourty’s versatility, the team could elect to carry just four safeties on the roster while also technically carrying seven cornerbacks (including McCourty). The team could also go down to just four or five defensive ends since Collins or even Hightower could play in that role in a pinch. There’s a reason Belichick likes having players with versatility on the roster. It allows the Patriots to play the best 11 players at any given moment and it could allow some flexibility with the roster. With so many players who can play different roles, it also allows Belichick to keep around special teams-only players like Matthew Slater, Steve Beauharnais or Ebner. Have a question for Doug Kyed? Send it to him via Twitter at @DougKyedNESN or send it here. Filed under: Doug Kyed, New England Patriots, Top Stories
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Report: DeAndre Jordan 'on verge' of accepting Mavs' offer

A-Rod, Yankees settle dispute over home run milestone bonus

Report: Robin Lopez, Knicks finalizing four-year deal

Becky Hammon will coach Spurs' Summer League team

Jimmy Butler on Derrick Rose: ‘I don’t think we have any issues’

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Yankees get A-Rod's 3,000th hit ball for $150,000 donation

Report: DeAndre Jordan 'torn' between Clippers, Mavericks

Russell Wilson 'would definitely consider' playing for Mariners

Lakers apologize for first, get second meeting with Aldridge

Mike Scioscia: Josh Hamilton should apologize to Arte Moreno

Sacramento Kings continue to be an utter disaster

Are the Angels now the worst organization in baseball?

Five reasons the Browns should play Johnny Manziel

Blue Jays need rookies to keep producing for success in 2015

WATCH: Sean Doolittle gets cup check from teammate

University of Florida developing high-tech smart mouth guard

Pat McAfee is the best punter in NFL history

Mets coach on slump: The only thing left is human sacrifice

MLB teams who will continue to surprise in second half

2015 Women’s World Cup Final: The Rematch

Answering the five biggest questions in NBA free agency

Report: Mavericks sign Wes Matthews to four-year contract

Dwyane Wade celebrates deal with tea, painted toenails

NFL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Russell Wilson 'would definitely consider' playing for Mariners

Solo, Rapinoe among USWNT stars up for World Cup awards

LBS on Sports Jeopardy! Here's how how it went

College football's 35 most patriotic helmets

A brief history of non-star All-Stars

With Love retained, the Cavs can take care of LeBron

Grading the deal: Davis commits to Pelicans

Obama Administration: Change name if Redskins move to D.C.

Deciding what the All-Star Game means

Odell Beckham Jr. offered professional baseball contract

Orioles keep finding a way to win

Lloyd sends USWNT to World Cup final

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.