Considering the intense microscope the media places on the NFL, four days of training camp might seem like an eternity. Of course, only a small fraction of camp has occurred, so every snap judgment must be placed in perspective.
Still, the commencement of "real football" season is here, as the roster-evaluation portion of the offseason is in full swing. While the New England Patriots' 53-man core is largely in place, there are still a handful of starting and potentially critical specialty roles up for grabs.
As an expected contender, the Patriots should see fewer surprises and less upheaval than most teams around the league. Nonetheless, the Pats' depth chart is far from infallible, so a few middle-class players will need to distinguish themselves this summer as reliable cogs come fall.
Before camp, I wrote up a list of New England's five biggest camp competitions to watch. With the caveat that preseason could drastically alter the picture, let's take an early measure of how those competitions have developed.