Patriots Training Camp Watchlist
The New England Patriots are now just two weeks away from the start of training camp, and with many new players, there is no shortage of things to keep an eye on once the team takes to the practice fields of Gillette Stadium July 26th. Here are some of the major stories to keep an eye throughout training camp, as well as the preseason.
1. On a team that passes as much the Patriots do, the receiver position is always a key to watch. This season more so however because of the new, but familiar, faces who are battling for roster spots.
The one major battle for one, maybe two, spots will be between veterans Donté Stallworth, Deion Branch, and first-year player Britt Davis. Branch will be the toughest to knock off, but the other two have a fighting chance.
2. Cornerback is a spot that the Patriots have not had any stability at since Asante Samuel left via free agency in 2008. The team has now put together a group of corners that certainly has potential, but they need to show they can perform consistently. Devin McCourty and Ras-I Dowling are the expected starters at this time, and both warrant a close eye during camp and the team’s preseason games.
There are even second-level players such as Sterling Moore and seventh-round pick Alfonzo Dennard that bring a lot of intrigue as well. For the defense to start moving in a positive direction, these corners must perform from the get-go.
3. Another key to the defense is going to be the implementation of the high picks into the unit. Defensive ends Chandler Jones and Jake Bequette, linebacker Dont’a Hightower, and safety Tavon Wilson all could see significant time this season.
In practice, it will be telling which units these players line up with on a consistent basis. I would expect all four of them to get some run with the first-team defense at some point during camp. They will all be given opportunities; it is just a matter of what they can do with them.
4. The offensive line, though it has considerable depth, still has a lot of unresolved questions heading into camp. The status of both starting guards in Logan Mankins and Brian Waters is up in the air at this time, and even both starting tackles have their own question marks.
Left tackle Nate Solder enters his first full season as the starter and needs to show in the preseason that Tom Brady does not need to worry about pressure coming from the backside. Sebastian Vollmer, as usual, has his health status up in the air and the team may have to rely on second-year tackle Marcus Cannon a lot more than they would like this season.
Solder, Cannon, and free-agent signing Robert Gallery should all be must watches whenever they are on the field leading up to the regular season.
5. Ryan Mallett’s growth is a hugely significant thing to watch this preseason because there has been such a wide range of reports about him over the past few months. Some think he is showing great signs, while others do not see the growth that he should be having in his second year.
If he is able to perform as he did when he took the field in his first preseason game vs. Jacksonville a year ago, but for all four games, his value will improve greatly. The Patriots then would be able to explore a trade with Brian Hoyer to a team that may need a quarterback late in the game due to an injury to their starter.