Winners and Losers from Week 2 of Patriots Training Camp
We're two weeks deep into training camp, and things are beginning to take shape.
While the New England Patriots roster is still in flux, the picture for several players has become clearer—either as standouts, or as candidates to miss the roster bubble.
Let's take a look at a few players whose performances have earned—or lost—them roster spots.
Winner: Stevan Ridley
Stevan Ridley's roster spot was never in question, but his playing time may have been following his continued ball-security issues early in training camp.
Ridley lost two fumbles in one practice back on July 28th and was made to run laps. Ball security has been an issue for Ridley in the past, and it was worrying to see that trend continue through this training camp.
Worrying enough to put Ridley's featured back status at risk? Maybe.
Not enough time has passed since early camp for Ridley to dispel that concern entirely, but he has run hard in camp and preseason games and reminded us all of his immense talent.
Ridley busted loose for a 62-yard run in the Pats' first preseason game against the Eagles, thanks in part to some great blocking. He has been one of the unsung stars in camp, displaying his skills as a power runner and some surprising upside as a pass-catching back. As Bleacher Report lead writer Erik Frenz writes,
Other than ball security, Ridley does everything well. Could be bigger component of passing game this year, if practices hold true.— Erik Frenz (@ErikFrenz) August 10, 2013
Ridley had a breakout season last year, and with a number of key weapons from 2012 departed, he could be poised for an even bigger year in 2013.
Loser: Ras-I Dowling
Ras-I Dowling's injuries are as uniformly timed as the periodical cicada, except they're way more frequent.
Dowling, who had begun to show flashes of his high ceiling early in training camp, regressed mightily in the second week. That has nothing to do with his performance, because he didn't play.
Dowling missed 11 days of practice due to injury, diminishing any remaining hope for the Pats that they might count on him staying intact this season. If he misses any more time, Dowling might be a candidate for the roster bubble.
It's a sad state of being for such a high pick, but the NFL rewards reliable production, not unrealized potential. This is a make-or-break year for a player with too much of the latter and far too little of the former.
Winner: Kenbrell Thompkins (Again)
Kenbrell Thompkins is one of two surprise breakout candidates for the Pats on the offensive side of the ball (we'll get to the other one later).
Plenty of players make highlight reel plays in training camp, but Thompkins has displayed a level of consistency that gives him a chance to be a contributor to next year's Patriots. Mary Paoletti of Comcast Sportsnet had this to say about Thompkins' performance:
Kenbrell Thompkins, I like this kid a lot, undrafted Cincinnati-product has had a better camp than anyone expected and is clearly one of New England's most reliable receivers. So far he sits behind just Danny Amendola and fellow rookie Aaron Dobson on the depth chart, I know it's too early to say what anybody's roles going to be, but Thompkins, I think he looks like a candidate to maybe play a Brandon Lloyd-type role.
Ball-tracking skills, separation ability and route-running intelligence make Thompkins a greater threat than his measurables would indicate. If his strong performance in training camp and preseason continues, he should be a sure thing to make the Pats roster.
Loser: Tim Tebow
Tim Tebow hasn't exactly inspired much faith in his quarterbacking skills.
In his first preseason game as a New England Patriot, Tebow completed just four of 12 passes for 55 yards against a somewhat-less-than-vaunted Eagles defense. While he did manage a touchdown drive and rushed for 31 yards of his own, Tebow didn't look suited to much more than the read-option, and he missed many makeable throws.
The Pats have kept three QBs before, so it's not out of the question that Tebow could make the team—especially with Ryan Mallett suffering a head injury in Week 1 of the preseason. But they'll need to see more from Tebow if he hopes to crack New England's roster. Coach Belichick was (unsurprisingly) non-committal about the issue:
Belichick asked if he plans to keep Tebow on the 53 man roster. "That's not anything we're ready to talk about right now."— Ben Volin (@BenVolin) August 13, 2013
Tebow needs to finish camp stronger than he started it in order to make it to the active roster.
Winner: Zach Sudfeld
Sudfeld isn't Rob Gronkowski, but the Pats may have signed a potential stud off the undrafted-free-agent scrap heap.
Suds has the ability to line up at a number of positions—including as an in-line blocker, out of the flex, and on special teams—but it's his route-running and receiving ability that make him a standout.
He has impressed in training camp, playing largely first-team snaps with the Pats and standing out among a roster full of higher-pedigree players eager to prove themselves. He's usurped Daniel Fells and Jake Ballard as the Pats' top tight end, and it appears his roster spot is all but locked in.
Sudfeld has managed to shake off any injury concerns so far, and he's demonstrated his impressive skills throughout joint practices and early games.
Sudfeld's health is a big question, but if he can stay on the field, the rookie out of Nevada should get more than enough chances to break out this year.
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