Training camp is fast approaching for the Patriots, and that means it is now time to fully get back into the football mindset (if you haven’t done that already). This piece is the first of hopefully a couple “Training Camp Preview” pieces, in which I will highlight players I think will be important to monitor throughout training camp, list some positional battles that may be interesting, and state some overall expectations that I have for camp.
In this first piece I am going to give you four players I think will be important to keep an eye on during camp (because five players is too cliche).
1. Aaron Dobson
With Donald Jones getting cut by the team today, Dobson becomes even more important to the Patriots success for this coming season. While Jones certainly is no Randy Moss, he was getting a lot of the first team reps during OTA’s, and he had flashes of talent in 2012. Dobson will now most likely have to replace Jones on the first team, and he will have to show that he belongs. Dobson has a lot of talent, and as I said earlier today when Jones was released, Dobson has all the physical tools needed to become a big-time receiver in this league. If Dobson is able to gain some sort of chemistry with Brady in camp, I think he will provide a lot of excitement and a lot of “explosion” to this Patriots offense.
2. Adrian Wilson
Because of Gronk’s surgeries, and Hernandez’s legal problems, most of the focus this offseason has been on the Patriots offense, and how they will adjust to the absence of Hernandez and Gronk (for a little while). But a lot of people have overlooked the defense. Over the last couple of years, the Patriots defense has been…awful…putrid…despicable, but I think this year will be a different story for this unit. One of the main reasons I say this, is because of Adrian Wilson. This signing was easily my favorite move of the offseason by New England, and I am excited to see how he fares in camp. Wilson is a very physical safety, and is the perfect complement to Devin McCourty in my eyes. Wilson brings a Rodney Harrison type influence to this Patriots team, and that is something they desperately need. If Wilson shows that he is able to pick up the Patriots defensive playbook, and shows that he can react to it well on the playing field, my optimism for this Patriots defense will be sky high heading into the regular season.
3. Kenbrell Thompkins
I have been hearing a lot of good things about Thompkins throughout this offseason, and I am excited to see more of him over the next few weeks. I have watched a good deal of highlights of Thompkins from his college days, and I am very hopeful of what he can accomplish with the Pats. He has a lot of potential as a receiver, and between him, Dobson, and Boyce the Patriots may have found the solution to their outside receiver problems. However all three of these guys, specifically Thompkins, have to first prove themselves in training camp. If they are able to impress the Patriots coaches, I think that all three of them will find themselves with a decent amount of playing time in 2013. Thompkins has the chance of becoming the latest undrafted gem in Bill Belichick’s tenure with the Patriots, and if he works his butt of in camp, I think that he will. Players like Thompkins really have to work to get to where they want to be, because of the fact that they went undrafted. These are the kinds of players that end making the team, and making a positive impact on the team. Belichick has done this countless times in the past (Green-Ellis, Wes Welker, Danny Woodhead) and Thompkins may be the latest in this group of undrafted “stars”.
4. Ras-I Dowling
With Alfonzo Dennard’s murky situation with the law, and with the NFL, Dowling may be called upon to play some of his minutes. If he is called upon to do this, he as to be ready, and more importantly he has to be 100% healthy. The one major flaw that we have seen in Dowling’s game, is his inability to stay healthy. Dowling has very good coverage skills, and when he was actually on the field in 2012 he played pretty well. Dowling was a second round draft pick in 2011, and he has yet to live up to that selection. If he manages to stay healthy, then I think that 2013 could possibly be a breakout year for him. But he must stay healthy, and that will be the main thing I will want to see from him in camp. If he appears healthy, and is moving well, then I won’t be scared to death of Dennard missing some time (instead I will only be scared half to death).