With two preseason games down and a third Friday night in Carolina, it’s getting closer to crunch time for Coach Bill Belichick in terms of shaping the final roster for this year’s New England Patriots.

The third preseason game is an important one for players on the bubble fighting for jobs, as Belichick will ultimately reduce his roster from 90 to 53 on Sept. 1 by the 4 p.m. deadline.

Belichick will factor in Julian Edelman not counting against the roster the first four games while he’s serving his four-game suspension.

He’s going to have some interesting decisions to make. That being said, here’s our most-recent crack at projecting the 53-man roster.

QUARTERBACK (2)

Making the team: Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer

Falling short: Danny Etling

Of note: After having his reps somewhat scaled back during training camp, Brady saw his first preseason action against the Eagles last week. While he may have lost several of his receivers either to injury or free agency, Brady still managed. He relied on his old standbys to get the job done, picking apart the Eagles in the half he played, throwing for 172 yards and two touchdowns. Hoyer remains an able-enough backup. As for Etling, we still can’t justify having him take up a roster spot. He’s practice squad at best.

RUNNING BACK (5)

Making the team: James White, Rex Burkhead, Jeremy Hill, Sony Michel, Brandon Bolden

Falling short: Mike Gillislee, Ralph Webb

Of note: Injuries have been a major story with rookie Michel taking a seat, having fluid drained from a knee that’s given him trouble throughout his career. Burkhead also missed time the past few weeks, reportedly with a minor knee problem. Burkhead, however, returned to practice this week on a limited basis. He’s a lock, along with White and Bolden. The competition between Hill and Gillislee hasn’t been much of one. Hill has clearly been better. Does Gillislee stick because of the injuries to Michel and Burkhead? Maybe, but right now he doesn’t make it. Webb had a nice opening game, but he’s a practice-squad candidate.

FULLBACK (1)

Making the team: James Develin

Falling short: Henry Poggi

Of note: Develin remains an important piece of the offense from a blocking perspective as well as his ability to line up as a tight end if the need arises. Poggi has gotten some snaps during the preseason. It’s tough for anyone to match what Develin brings to the table.

WIDE RECEIVER (5)

Making the team: Julian Edelman, Phillip Dorsett, Chris Hogan, Matthew Slater, Cordarrelle Patterson

Falling short: Devin Lucien, Braxton Berrios, Riley McCarron, Eric Decker, Paul Turner

Of note: Beyond Edelman, who won’t count against the roster during his suspension, it’s a bit thin with this receiving corps. Hogan is a given, and so is special teams captain Slater. Dorsett has flashed in practice, though we’re still waiting for him to splash in games. Patterson has been a pleasant surprise as a receiver. He’s dazzled with his awesome skills. Decker, on the other hand, has been non-existent. There’s still time for him to get with the program, but for now, he’s on the outs. There was some hope for Berrios and McCarron snagging a spot, but they look like practice squad candidates. Ditto Lucien.

TIGHT END (3)

Making the team: Jacob Hollister, Dwayne Allen, Rob Gronkowski

Falling short: Will Tye, Ryan Izzo

Of note: This is one group that has seemed pretty locked in. Allen was dealing with an injury that kept him out of the Eagles game, but he’s been back at practice. It looks like the Patriots will bite the bullet with his $5 million cap hit. Hollister has been doing extra work with Brady to try and better their chemistry. He’s in, while Gronk is Gronk. As for Tye and rookie Izzo, one might end up on the practice squad.

OFFENSIVE LINE (8)

Making the team: Trent Brown, Joe Thuney, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Marcus Cannon, LaAdrian Waddle, Cole Croston, Ted Karras

Falling short: Luke Bowanko, James Ferentz, Ulrick John, Jason King, Brian Schwenke, Matt Tobin

Of note: Losing Isaiah Wynn to a season-ending Achilles injury against the Eagles was not ideal to say the least. With Brown and Cannon the likely starters at left and right tackle, Wynn looked to be headed for a role as the backup swing tackle. Waddle, who did a good job filling in for Cannon last season, will hold down that role now. As for the other backups, Karras has played well, and has versatility across the line. He made our list last time. Benefitting from the opening is Croston. He had a roster spot last year. He also has versatility to play guard and center. He gets the nod over John and Tobin, who are other possibilities given they are more noted as tackles.

DEFENSIVE END (4)

Making the team: Deatrich Wise Jr., Adrian Clayborn, Derek Rivers, Trey Flowers

Falling short: Trent Harris, Eric Lee, Geneo Grissom

Of note: This group certainly came to play against the Eagles. Flowers has been out nursing an injury, but the rest of the guys on the edge, led by Clayborn, wreaked havoc with the Eagles’ offensive line. Clayborn, Rivers and Wise really brought it on a night the Pats had eight sacks. Grissom, who is also a core special teamer, is a tough cut in that regard. He was on four units against the Eagles. But this group is full right now. Can’t shoehorn him in. The guess is he will find a way back into the fold. That’s how it was last season. He had a couple stints on the practice squad before being bumped up to the active roster. Rookie Harris has garnered some attention. He could be a practice squad candidate.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE (4)

Making the team: Adam Butler, Danny Shelton, Malcom Brown, Lawrence Guy

Falling short: Keionta Davis, Frank Herron, John Atkins, Vincent Valentine

Of note: Davis was close to making it. The versatile lineman has been used on the inside as well as on the edge, and that could very well earn him a job with one final push. Even Belichick said he liked what Davis was doing. But Butler has also been impressive. It’s really hard to keep Butler off the roster. For now, Butler stays. Davis is the toughest one out. That might change. Valentine is another. He’s played pretty well. Newly acquired Shelton has been very good. Brown has been a bit underwhelming. It’s possible he doesn’t make it, or gets traded. We’ll see.

LINEBACKER (7)

Making the team: Brandon King, Nicholas Grigsby, Elandon Roberts, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Kyle Van Noy, Dont’a Hightower, Marquis Flowers

Falling short: Christian Sam, Harvey Langi

Of note: Hightower and Van Noy are the givens. Then you have to look at the core special teams trio of King, Grigsby and Flowers. Will Belichick sacrifice any of these players to keep rookie Sam? Bentley has been the more impressive rookie. He’s stood out as a tackler and communicator. He’s not bad in coverage, either. So Sam draws the short straw. Tough break for Langi, who is hurt and not expected back for awhile.

SAFETY (5)

Making the team: Duron Harmon, Patrick Chung, Devin McCourty, Jordan Richards, Nate Ebner

Falling short: A.J. Moore, Eddie Pleasant, Damarius Travis

Of note: There’s one switch from last time. Jordan Richards is back in. Yes, he’s not the best with open field tackles. But it’s hard to overlook the fact he remains a core special teams player, contributing on four units. Belichick loves his special teams guys. That’s why Ebner is so significant, along with King, Slater, Bolden, Grigsby, and yes, Richards. It gives him the nod over Pleasant. Devin McCourty, Chung and Harmon are the main stalwarts at the position.

CORNERBACK (6)

Making the team: Stephon Gilmore, Eric Rowe, Jason McCourty, Jonathan Jones, Cyrus Jones, Duke Dawson

Falling short: Ryan Lewis, J.C. Jackson, Keion Crossen, Jomal Wiltz

Of note: Without Riley McCarron and Braxton Berrios, the need arises for a punt returner. Chung could do it, but Cyrus Jones has been prepping for the job. Plus, it’s too early to give up on the 2016 second-round pick. Jones has looked fine since coming off the PUP list. Rookie Dawson is in, but undrafted rookie Jackson doesn’t make it this time out. He’s close, but what he’s shown in practice, hasn’t translated in the games. As for McCourty, he didn’t have his best moment Thursday night, getting beat in the end zone. But we’re still keeping the veteran. Look for Lewis and or Crossen to turn up on the practice squad.

SPECIALISTS (3)

Making the team: Stephen Gostkowski, Ryan Allen, Joe Cardona

Falling short: Corey Bojorquez

Of note: This might be a fait accompli on all fronts. Obviously, with Gostkowski and Cardona, there’s no competition, so they’re in automatically. For the record, Gostkowski has made all of his kicks, going 4 for 4 on field goals, and 5 for 5 on extra points. As for the so-called punting competition, there doesn’t appear to be one. Bojorquez hasn’t been in either game, so that doesn’t bode well for his chances. Allen, meanwhile has stepped up to the challenge, if there ever was one, and been terrific with his directional kicking. When asked about Bojorquez, Belichick said opportunities have to be earned. Thus far, he hasn’t earned one. We’ll see if gets a shot Friday in Carolina. If not, case closed.