Patriots Training Camp: Week 1 Stock Report
Zach Sudfeld is the cautionary tale of reading too much into training camp practices, but you can't help but notice players who are performing well and those who are struggling.
Mental errors, unnecessary turnovers and making the same mistake twice are sure to draw the ire of the coaching staff, teammates and fans. Versatility, big plays and executing your assignment will have the opposite effect.
Here are five players who have either exceeded or failed to meet expectations so far during training camp.
Stock Up: James Develin
Develin took an obscure path to the NFL, spending time with the Florida Tuskers and Oklahoma City Yard Dawgz—no misspelling actually—after going undrafted out of Brown in 2010. He has made the most of his opportunity with New England, carving out a niche with his hard-nosed play.
The unique thing about James is he’s a very versatile player. We saw that going back to last season. He was able to line up in the backfield, at tight end, detach from the formation. James is very smart, works very, very hard.
"It’s a credit to him but he’s smart, he’s versatile so he gives you a little bit of flexibility because he can do a number of different things. He can block the force in the running game, he can put his hand on the line of scrimmage and block the force on the line of scrimmage.
He’s earned all of his opportunities with his performance and his work ethic.
With tight end depth lacking and roster spots at a premium, Develin's ability to play multiple positions—as well as special teams—is exactly what Bill Belichick needs. He might not have the receiving upside of Dustin Keller, but Develin brings much more to the table.
When Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen and James White are breaking off chunks of yardage, make sure you give some credit to No. 46 for opening up the holes.
Stock Down: Brandon Bolden
Even if he were to play well during training camp, third-year halfback Brandon Bolden wasn't assured of a spot on the 53-man roster spot. The competition is thick, with veterans and rookies alike vying for only a select few spots.
Phil Perry from CSNNE.com described the tough competition at running back that Bolden has to deal with:
Fourth-year back Brandon Bolden has had a tough camp through the first four days, but he's been a valued special teamer over the years and could be with the team come Week 1 but will have to earn his spot.
Likewise, rookie fourth-rounder James White, who Ridley touted Sunday for impressing early, and undrafted rookies Roy Finch, Stephen Houston and Jonas Gray will all try to carve roles in the Patriots offense.
As Perry alluded to, Bolden hasn't had a great camp so far. He has fumbled multiple times and put the ball on the ground in receiving drills. With contact pretty light at this juncture—try telling that to Brandon Browner—that isn't a good sign.
Bolden's blocking ability, short-yardage prowess and special teams contributions might yet earn him a spot on the roster, but he is making it hard on himself.
Stock Up: James White
While Bolden has struggled early in training camp, rookie James White has taken advantage of his repetitions. Like Bolden, White can contribute as a receiver, runner and specials team player. However, Vereen might be a better comparison at this point in his career.
Oliver Thomas from NEPatriotsdraft.com talks about the mismatches that White creates:
Having those elements already within his comfort zone may very well get White on one of New England’s special teams units, either as a kick returner or perhaps a punt returner, early on. Those elements, though, may also carry over on offense.
They did when White filed into 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills.
Under those settings, No. 28 caught more than a handful of passes from quarterbacks Tom Brady, Ryan Mallett and Jimmy Garoppolo. He found space as a target out of the backfield and beyond, excelling in his matchups against linebackers.
With Bolden, Vereen and Ridley all in their contract years, the New England Patriots' coaching staff will likely want to get an extended look at what it has in White.
White will only cost the Patriots $600,000 next year, while Vereen and Ridley would certainly cost four or five times that. That is one matchup that Vereen and Ridley can't win.
Stock Down: Jimmy Garoppolo
Rational fans knew that Tom Brady would be starting Week 1 for the New England Patriots, but there was always hope that second-round draft pick Jimmy Garoppolo would give him a strong push. If nothing else, he could perhaps unseat Ryan Mallett as the primary backup.
Neither of those scenarios have played out so far in camp. Doug Kyed from NESN.com sums up Garoppolo's progress so far:
Garoppolo completed 2 of 7 passes with an interception in 11-on-11 drills Saturday. The Patriots’ 2014 second-round draft pick completed 1 of 2 attempts in 7-on-7s with another interception, this one off Justin Jones’ fingertips.
The rookie tight end could have hauled in the pass, but Garoppolo’s throw was behind him. Garoppolo has struggled with timing and accuracy over the past three sessions.
He’s holding onto the ball too long, and he’s having trouble leading his receivers down the field. Based on his play in practice, Garoppolo would take a lot of sacks and throw his fair share of interceptions if inserted into a game at this point.
Now that the hype has died down a bit, Garoppolo is starting to come into focus. He is a rookie quarterback from an FCS school. He has a lot to learn.
It sounds like Garoppolo has the right mindset and is taking his lumps in stride. His stock may be down right now, but it might just be a good time to buy.
Stock Up: Brandon Browner
Two things were known about Brandon Browner coming into training camp. He'll be serving a four-game suspension to start the year, and he loves to hit. The latter was on display at practice after he "introduced" rookie James White with a monster tackle.
Mike Reiss from ESPN.com had a vivid description of the hit:
The play that had many buzzing came when cornerback Brandon Browner de-cleated rookie running back James White in an 11-on-11 running drill, with the crunching pads and thud of White hitting the deck audible to the 10,000-plus in attendance. Browner, who at 6-foot-4 and 221 pounds took pride in being part of the Seattle Seahawks’ “Legion of Boom” secondary, then looked to the sky and roared.
On the play, White had attempted to bounce outside to the left side, where Browner was awaiting him with the strong run force. In a credit to White, he held on to the football.
Browner hasn't just been a glorified linebacker. He has looked good in press coverage, although he has been beat deep by the speedier receivers—such as Josh Boyce—on more than one occasion. With Darrelle Revis locking up one side of the field, the New England Patriots should be able to hide Browner's deficiencies with Devin McCourty helping him.
If Browner knows that his back is covered, opposing receivers better keep their head on a swivel.
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