The New England Patriots will hold their first Training Camp July 24th. Between now and then there will probably be a few roster moves, but none will be of much magnitude. There are a few things that the Patriots need to address during Training Camp, and there are a few things to keep an eye on moving forwards.
Gronk is out until at least the season opener. He will have no real training until the the week before the game, so it’s likely it will take him a little while to shake off the rust. The Patriots can’t afford another TE fiasco like they had last year. Many thought that Zach Sudfeld would be a stop gap until Gronk returned from the PUP list last year. Sudfeld fell short of that expectation. Even after a strong pre-season, Sudfeld struggled mightily during the regular season and the Patriots were left with little at the TE position.
The 2 UDFA TEs didn’t have anywhere near as strong of a first impression that Sudfeld had. Both Justin Jones and Asa Watson have dropped easy balls when on the practice field. They are showing why they went undrafted in the first place. I think that the Patriots see that without Gronk they are dead in the water at TE. That’s why The New England Patriots have been in constant contact with free agent TE Dustin Keller. So, look for Keller to be a New England Patriot during Training Camp, especially if the UDFAs continue to struggle.
The WR position going into Training Camp is stacked. The Patriots will carry at most 7 receivers (mainly because Matthew Slater is technically a WR but never sees the field as one). That means that a handful of receivers will be out of a job. The roster locks are obvious: Edelman, Amendola, Dobson, and Slater. After a strong performance in practice I’d put Josh Boyce in there too. Brandon LaFell signing a 3 year deal should mean that he will be on the roster, but nothing is certain. That basically leaves Kenbrell Thompkins, Jeremy Gallon, Jeremy Johnson, Reese Wiggins and Wilson Van Hooser fighting for the last spot. But let’s be honest with ourselves here, Johnson, Wiggins and Van Hooser aren’t going to make it. The real roster battle is between Thompkins and Gallon.
It appears as though there is a problem brewing in New England, which of the very talented and capable secondary players will start? And Where? It’s safe to say Revis, McCourty, and Browner (when back from suspension) will see a lot of playing time. But after that, who is going to be seen floating around in the secondary? Kyle Arrington is a premier slot corner, but outside of the slot he’s pretty terrible. Luckily, there are the very talented, starting caliber corners on the roster. Alfonzo Dennard and Logan Ryan will be battling it out for the starting corner opposite Revis, at least until Browner comes back. After that, rumor has it that Ryan is in a battle with Duron Harmon for starting safety opposite All-Pro safety Devin McCourty. While it’s currently unclear who will be on the field for the first defensive snap of the season, expect to see a lot of rotation with defensive personnel.
What is going on at running back? At the beginning of last year Stevan Ridley was firmly planted as the starting back. He was coming off a monster season where he ran all over the place scoring 12 TDs on his way to over 1,2oo yards rushing. Then, as last year carried on, he struggled. Ridley and put the ball on the ground 3 times which got so bad he was benched. His benching and Shane Vereen’s wrist injury opened the door for RB LaGarrette Blount to steam roll through the back end of the season. With Blount now gone, Ridley’s fumbling habits and Vereen’s health concerns, what is happening in the backfield? There are currently 6 RBs on the roster (and FB James Develin). Aside from Ridley and Vereen, who will see the field in some fashion, there is Brandon Bolden, rookie James White, and UDFAs Roy Finch (love this kid), and Stephen Houston. Vereen, Ridley and White are roster locks, which leaves Bolden, Finch and Houston fighting for what is probably the last spot; and while I love the Roy Finch highlight reel, I think Houston will win the last spot.
If New England Patriot fans know anything, it’ that nothing is set in stone, and things will happen that no one expects. So keep an eye on these things going forwards, there going to be lot of shaking up between now and pre-season.