Fact or Fiction: Patriots Training Camp Edition
Now that training camp is underway at Gillette Stadium, it’s time to start getting excited about the Patriots’ 2012 season.
With training camp comes a healthy dose of predicting. To help play a round of “Fact or Fiction,” I am joined by fellow BostonSportsRadio.net writer, Kyle Cormier.
Let’s get right into it.
Chandler Jones will emerge as the much-needed disruptive pass rusher.
Jones will quietly break onto the scene in New England this fall. Those expecting him to go out and be a 10-sack type of player will need to wait at least a year or so for him to develop. Once he is comfortable in the system and fills out his frame a bit more, he will have a chance to be a standout pass-rusher.
By Week 5, Chandler Jones will be a starter in this defense. The Patriots didn’t move up in the first round to let him ease into a starting role. I expect Jones to be thrown into the mix early and often. If Jones can seize his opportunity and live up to his potential, I don’t think it’s unrealistic to think that Jones could come close to 10 sacks in 2012.
He’s looked good to me so far in the three training camp practices I’ve attended, winning a lot of his 1-on-1 battles with offensive tackles, including the Pats’ first-round pick of the 2011 NFL draft, Nate Solder. Jones has a nice combination of length and power, and surprisingly, an impressive repertoire of pass-rush moves for a rookie.
Tavon Wilson will show why he was a second-round pick early in camp.
Tavon Wilson has an uphill battle to prove to everybody why the Patriots drafted him way earlier than people expected. This season Patrick Chung and Steve Gregory are the likely starting safeties and Wilson would seem to have a reserve role at best. This pick is going to have to wait for a year or two before we really know if it was the right call or not.
I’ll agree with you here, Kyle. The Patriots like to draft potential in the second-round, not necessarily early contributors. Bill Belichick saw a smart, versatile player with good size and a lot of room to grow. He’ll contribute, but I’m not sure we’re going to see a head-turning performance from Wilson in his rookie campaign.
However it’s worth noting that Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston saw promise in the young defensive back in Wednesday’s practice. “Rookie safety Tavon Wilson…seemed to show up more in Wednesday’s practice (pass defenses, strong blitz off edge).” Reiss added, “In addition to making a few plays on defense, he was on the top punt coverage unit. When young players are worked into the special teams mix early, it’s usually a good sign for their chances to contribute on the 46-man game-day roster.”
Brandon Lloyd will continue to impress as a deep threat.
Lloyd will make some plays down the field, but I feel like he is going to be used in the intermediate passing game more frequently. Fans hoping his presence will feel like that of Randy Moss circa-2007 need to lower their expectations. He can be a home-run hitter for the Patriot offense, but those plays will be few and far between.
I’ve been thoroughly impressed with Lloyd so far in camp. His elusiveness and deceptive speed on the outside is really special. Lloyd has virtually caught every pass thrown his way and he makes it look easy. He clearly has a firm grasp on the playbook having played under offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels for a couple of seasons and his route running looks crisp. I expect big things from Lloyd in 2012, particularly in the deeper half of the field.
Brandon Spikes will miss time due to injury again.
With Brandon Spikes being limited in training camp so far, it appears he might still be struggling to shake his fragile nature. I believe he will be on the field for a good chunk of camp, but it will be a surprise to no one if he misses games early on in the season again. If Spikes cannot make it through the season healthy this year, the Patriots will need to take a long, hard look at their long-term plans for him.
I’m going to blame the lockout for his early ailments last season. Let’s not forget that he missed five games in 2010 for substance abuse, not injury. So I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt here and predict that he stays healthy. Admittedly, it is a little alarming that he’s been limited in practice so far, but I see this as more of a precaution than anything else.
Ras-I Dowling will stay healthy.
Dowling is player that has seemingly been injured his entire football career. I see no one reason to believe he can make it through a 16 game season without missing time. Bill Belichick clearly likes Dowling and wants to play him, but it doesn’t seem like he will ever be able to depend on him.
I have consistently argued that Dowling’s label of being “injury prone” is an unfair one. Excluding his rookie season with the Pats, Dowling’s only injury plagued season was his senior year in college. Maybe I’m being too optimistic, but I think his injury last season had a lot to do with the lockout. I imagine it was tough prior to the start of his rookie season, coming off an injury, trying to train and rehab without the Patriots training staff.
Dowling had surgery to correct the nagging hip injury that landed him on the injured reserve list last season (per Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston). Dowling has had no setbacks and has been a full participant throughout training camp. He stays healthy in 2012.
Devin McCourty will make the Pro Bowl:
I believe McCourty will be a mixed bag in 2012. It is a fair assumption to make that he cannot be as bad as he played last year, or as good as he played in 2010. Expecting him to be a solid NFL starting corner is about as high as my expectations will be for him moving forward. He may have been banged up last year, but with how often he was out of position it makes it hard for me to believe he will be a Pro Bowler again moving forward.
I’m not sure that McCourty will be a Pro Bowler in 2012 either, Kyle. I do think with a full offseason and training camp, McCourty will be able to fix a lot of the issues he had in 2011 and have a “come-back” season in 2012. Better safety play behind him should help a lot too. He was terrific in his rookie season. That kind of talent doesn’t just go away.
Well, that will wrap things up for this edition of “Fact or Fiction.” Thanks for joining me, Kyle. Let’s do it again soon.