As we approach the 2013 NFL regular season, many players will be looking to prove their worth during training camp.
For some New England Patriots, making a bold statement will be necessary in order to be key fixtures throughout the upcoming campaign.
While training camp continues to heat up, let’s take a look at a few players to keep an eye on throughout the Pats’ camp.
Cornerback Aqib Talib has impressed many during training camp.
I also think that Aqib Talib may have had the best camp of any player to this point. If not, he’s in the race.— Nick Underhill (@Nick_Underhill) August 2, 2013
By way of Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald, the 27-year-old’s dedication to his craft has thoroughly impressed his peers:
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Talib was tabbed as one of the Pats’ 10 offseason workout award winners, which comes with the famous front-row parking spot. Even though it was the first offseason award Talib has ever received, he began to develop a reputation as a leader last summer with the Buccaneers. His Pats teammates will back him up on that, too, as they haven’t seen any signs of the negative reputation Talib garnered in his first couple of seasons in the league.
In addition, Howe mentioned that Talib’s pick-six on Tom Brady’s final play during one of the squad’s practices was “the signature moment of Talib’s noticeably productive training camp.”
Likewise, Talib's first training camp with the Patriots should result in a more cohesive defensive unit going forward.
If his solid performances in training camp can translate into the regular season, good things will be in store for the Patriots.
On paper, Stevan Ridley looks like the clear-cut choice to start at running back for the Patriots.
Last season, Ridley amassed 1,263 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns. During training camp, however, Ridley has struggled a bit, according to ESPN Boston’s Mike Reiss, via Bleacher Report’s Marc Freshman:
Projected No. 1 back Stevan Ridley fumbled once in a practice-ending goal-line running drill, with defensive lineman Vince Wilfork scooping it up and racing away to wild applause. It marked the second time in the practice that Ridley lost the football (the first time he never seemed to get the handoff clean). It's only the third day of traning camp, but this figures to be a top area on the clean-up list going forward.
Ridley proved last season that he is deserving of the starting job for the Patriots. However, with running backs Shane Vereen and LeGarrette Blount behind him on the depth chart, anything could happen between now and the start of the regular season.
With Brady’s primary target, Rob Gronkowski, injured, one would expect Jake Ballard to be called upon to take over his role.
While the ex-New York Giant is capable of doing so (38 receptions, 604 yards and four touchdowns during the 2011 season), a number of other tight ends are also vying for a role with the team, according to Howe:
Tight ends Daniel Fells, Jake Ballard, Michael Hoomanawanui, Zach Sudfeld and Brandon Ford are in camp because Bill Belichick believes they can bring something to the team, not because they can replace Gronkowski.
Likewise, Howe also noted that while Fells, Ballard and Hoomanawanui have gotten the majority of reps throughout camp, Fells has “materialized as the tight end who could produce statistically.”
With the NFL preseason about to begin, Ballard will have to work hard to prove to the coaching staff that he is the right man for the job.
Surely, this will be a battle worth watching throughout camp.