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Monday, July 21, 2014

Patriots Training Camp!!!




Patriots Training Camp Important Questions and Projecting the 53

            Well, the NFL season is finally here. Obviously, the regular season hasn’t arrived yet and won’t for another six weeks or so. But, Training Camp and preseason is the most anticipated time of the year because the lull of the offseason is just too long. Training Camp is very fun to follow because we get to find out what players are shining in practice and what players could be on the bubble. Young players are fighting for NFL careers and veterans are just trying to not get cut during this time of year. It’s always a fun time and here are the biggest questions/thoughts for the Patriots heading into Training Camp.
·         How have the rookie wide receivers progressed heading into their ‘Jump Year’?

o   In New England, the Year 2 Jump always seems to be important for a young player. We saw the jump from Collins in the playoffs last season. While the rookies had their highs and lows during the season, overall they did a very good job for being thrust into the roles they were. Of course there will be growing pains with young guys in a
tough offensive system with a QB who demands excellence. Now, it’s time to find out how these guys have progressed. Dobson, Boyce and Thompkins all could be very big pieces for the offense this year if they are able to make the jump in their sophomore season. The biggest expectations are on Dobson since he was picked very high and showed the most promise last season. He hasn’t fully recovered from the foot injury yet, but hopefully that hasn’t hampered him. We didn’t see a lot from Josh Boyce last year, but the few times we did see him he showed explosiveness. Thompkins had a very good start to the season with some big games (the GW TD vs. the Saints comes to mind), but down the stretch and into the playoffs he disappeared on us. Hopefully all three of these guys can get on the same page with Brady and learn the offense inside and out to be the most productive players they can be. The addition of LaFell could be a big one. Some are high on him, while others are down on him. He put up a consistent 600 yards a season in a conservative offense as the third option. This system can get the most out of some WRs and I think LaFell could be one of those guys. Danny Amendola had a tough first season in New England as he did not meet hefty expectations. Hopefully he can stay healthy this season and have great production in this offense. The wide receivers as a group have a lot of room for improvement and hopefully they reach full potential this season.

·         How the interior Defensive Line is shaping up and the health of the vets

o   Last season the Pats interior D-Line was decimated not even halfway through year. Big Vince was lost with the achilles injury in Week 4 and Kelly the week later to an ACL. From there we saw Jones, Vellano, Siliga and Sopoaga try to patch up the middle but in reality it wasn’t great. While all did a valiant job being thrust into starting roles, the defensive line was a huge weakness on the team. Bill Belichick went out and helped secure the middle by drafting Dominque Easley in the 1st round. So the biggest question for the DL is how Kelly and Wilfork are looking out there and how is Easley looking too? If all three can play a healthy season to their fullest the interior DL looks very solid, but that’s asking a lot especially from two big boys who are in the latter stages of their careers. Outside of those 3, Siliga, Jones and Vellano will be battling it out for spots up on the depth chart and the roster. For this position, the key is health. If Kelly, Wilfork and Easley are all 100% I don’t think we will see any signs of weakness up the middle and teams will struggle to run the ball on the Pats.

·         Who will take the starting spots on the interior Offensive Line?

o   Starting off, I think it’s safe to say Mankins will have his starting spot, but from there everything else is up in the air. Ryan Wendell and Dan Connolly are coming off of really tough seasons in which both struggled greatly. BB went out and drafted three offensive linemen to create some depth and competition at the position. I think Bryan Stork could really compete for Wendell’s job at center if he really impresses at camp. Both Wendell and Connolly have contract numbers that help the team out if they are cut. Connolly will have to battle with Jon Halapio and Josh Kline at the guard spot and even Marcus Cannon maybe if he kicks back inside with the return of Vollmer. I think when it’s all said and done Wendell and Connolly could both be gone or both be here depending upon how the rookies play in TC and preseason. The interior OL was a huge weakness last season and some new faces in there may improve the situation.

·         How is the secondary going to gel (specifically the slot CB and SS)?

o   This is the most improved part of the team and is now undeniably the strength of the team, at least if these guys all can put it together. BB went out and signed Revis, arguably the best CB in the league, and Brandon Browner who was a Pro Bowler in 2012. This secondary is now loaded with talent and now it’s a question of where everyone will fall on the depth chart. Obviously Revis is the number 1 CB, but from there it’s all up to competition. Dennard and Ryan are young budding players that will need to beat out the vets if they want to see legitimate
playing time. The only weakness in the secondary is the strong safety spot. Duron Harmon showed some promise last season that he can fill the void but he still had a lot to prove. The team also signed Patrick Chung so we shall see what he can bring to the table. I don’t see Chung making the team, but a healthy competition for Harmon would be nice. Maybe this is the season the Tavon Wilson steps up and plays like we expected? That would be very nice. Hopefully whoever wins out the SS spot steps up and plays very well in this already strong secondary.

·         What other players can make a leap or prove themselves?

o   Jamie Collins, Logan Ryan and Duron Harmon are all candidates to make a leap heading into their second season. Collins and Ryan in particular showed a lot of promise as rookies and hopefully they build a lot off of it.

o   Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, Dont’a Hightower, Tavon Wilson, and Danny Amendola. Vereen and Amendola would both be very productive players if they could only stay healthy. They need to play a full season healthy to prove they can be important contributors to the team. Stevan Ridley needs to prove that he can hold onto the football and be a horse as the lead back. He did a great job as the lead back in 2012, but had issues last season with fumbles. If he can get past this setback, he can be a beast for the Pats in the run game. Dont’a Hightower and Tavon Wilson need to prove their talent on this team. Hightower had a very good rookie season and regressed a little after being pushed into a tough spot last season when Mayo went down. He has been good but still needs to prove how good he can be as a high selection. He has a lot of talent and now that he will be playing a better suited role for himself I expect a big year from him. Tavon Wilson has shown pretty much nothing over two years. He forced a couple turnovers in his rookie season, but barely saw the field last season. Wilson was a reach as a second round pick and hasn’t proved his worth for that selection. Hopefully he turns it around.

 

53-Man Roster Projection

With all of the young talent on this team and the additions in free agency, finalizing the 53-man roster will be very tough for BB. Here is my pre training camp projection of the 53-man roster:
QB (3) Brady, Mallett, Garoppolo
RB (5) Ridley, Vereen, Bolden, White, Develin
WR (7) Edelman, Amendola, LaFell, Boyce, Dobson, Slater, Thompkins
TE (2) Gronkowski, Hoomanawanui
C  (2) Stork, Wendell
G  (3) Mankins, Halapio, Kline
T  (4) Solder, Vollmer, Cannon, Fleming
DE (5) Jones, Ninkovich, Buchanan, Moore, Smith
DT (5) Wilfork, Kelly, Easley, Siliga, Jones
ILB(3) Mayo, Hightower, Beauharnais
OLB(2) Collins, Anderson
CB (5) Revis, Browner, Dennard, Arrington, Ryan
SS (2) Harmon, Wilson
FS (2) McCourty, Thomas
ST (3) Gostkowski, Allen, Aiken

·         My 53-man roster is pretty straight forward. I think only 2 TEs will make the roster because Gronk is saying he’s 100% healthy and ready for the season.
·         I have Patrick Chung being cut from the roster, because I don’t see him beating out anyone for a spot.
·         I also don’t have any of the UDFA RB’s making the roster because I think the current RBs have too much talent added onto the draftee James White whom I really like.
·         I also have Dan Connolly being cut. I think the drafting of Halapio put Connolly on the bubble; also the team really likes Josh Kline too which makes him expendable with his hefty contract.
·         I really like Jeremy Gallon but with all of the WRs already on the roster I don’t see him making the cut. Hopefully he can make it onto the practice squad.
·         I see Bryan Stork possibly beating out Ryan Wendell for the starting spot but I think Wendell makes the team anyway.

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