It’s unofficial depth chart season, and one of the first teams to unveil it’s non-binding hierarchy of players has dropped several newcomers into key roles.
Gilmore’s status is hardly a surprise; he was a big-money free-agent acquisition. If he wasn’t instantly the starter across from Malcolm Butler, that would be a problem.
Harris made it to the No. 1 spot after arriving after the end of the offseason program. While not designated as the middle linebacker, that’s undoubtedly his spot, with Dont'a Hightower and 2016 sixth-rounder Elandon Roberts the apparent starters on the outside.
Ealy came to New England via trade from the Panthers after a disappointing 2016. In a contract year, he hopes to recapture the three-sacks-in-Super-Bowl-50 form before he hits the market.
On offense, former Saints receiver Brandin Cooks appears as a starter in front of Chris Hogan. Malcolm Mitchell, a pleasant surprise in 2016 as a rookie, is listed as a third-stringer. On the other side, it’s Julian Edelman followed by Danny Amendola. (It’s unclear which three would be on the field when the Patriots go with three, putting one of them in the slot.)
Former Bills running back Mike Gillislee is listed as a starter, too, along with running back James White. Former Bengals running back Rex Burkhead is No. 2 behind Gillislee. (It’s unclear which back would be the one back on the field, if/when the Patriots deploy only one.)
Throughout August, coaches will say that these depth charts mean nothing. Even though they surely mean something. For the Patriots, with new veterans taking up five of 22 starting spots, it means that changes have come to the defending Super Bowl champions — changes that could propel them to their sixth title in 2017.