New England Patriots Training Camp: Week 2 Stock Report
While some veteran players are moving up the depth chart due to strong play and leadership, injuries and competition are taking their toll on some of the youngsters.
Here are eight players who have been on the move—four up and four down—at training camp this week.
Stock Down: Bryan Stork
The easiest way to fall behind in training camp is to not be on the field. Rookie center Bryan Stork has unfortunately been put in that position. According to Mike Reiss of ESPN.com, Stork "sustained what appeared to be a lower-leg injury in the fifth practice of camp and hasn't been on the field since."
In his absence, veterans Ryan Wendell and Dan Connolly have been able to put a stranglehold on the center responsibilities that will be tough for Stork to overcome.
Once healthy, Stork will need to show that he was able to use his mental repetitions while injured to continue his development. A strong preseason could still leave him in line for some playing time this year, but it is looking more and more like there will be a veteran presence at the pivot.
Stock Up: Dan Connolly
Veteran Dan Connolly looks like he may have earned a reprieve from salary-cap casualty status—his cap number is $3 million this year according to OverTheCamp.com—with Bryan Stork's injury.
If Stork isn't ready to start Week 1, which was doubtful pre-injury, then Connolly's versatility is needed. Ryan Wendell is an adequate, trustworthy center, but he is too light to be an effective guard. Connolly has enough bulk and movement skills to play either position.
At this point, I'd expect to see Logan Mankins and Josh Kline manning the guard positions, while Connolly sets up as the pivot. If Kline isn't ready, Connolly could man right guard while Ryan Wendell lines up as the center.
Stock Down: Rookie Tight Ends
Behind Rob Gronkowski and Michael Hoomanawanui—neither of whom have been 100 percent healthy this training camp—the tight end depth for the New England Patriots is pretty scarce. Rookie free agents Justin Jones and Asa Watson seemed to be entering a near-perfect situation to make the roster, but neither has taken advantage of their luck as of yet.
Doug Kyed from NESN.com doesn't paint a pretty picture of the TE situation:
It’s easy to judge Jones and Watson because I can compare both players to last year’s undrafted rookie tight end, Zach Sudfeld. Sudfeld looked amazing in organized team activities, minicamp and the start of training camp, and he fizzled out during preseason and the start of the regular season and was eventually released after just three games.
Both Jones and Watson look far behind where Sudfeld was last year, as they should. Jones sat out the 2013 season because he was academically ineligible at East Carolina, and Asa Watson caught just three passes with NC State last season, whereas Sudfeld had injury questions, but he was extremely productive in his senior season with Nevada. Jones or Watson could still improve as the summer wages on, but both players look better suited for a practice squad than a 53-man roster.
At this point it is very possible that Bill Belichick may elect to go into Week 1 with just two true tight ends—Gronkowski and Hoomanawanui—with James Develin as a part-time fill-in. Both Jones and Watson have shown potential, but Tom Brady needs more than that to throw the ball come game day.
Stock Up: James White
Where some first-year players falter, others thrive. As a rookie, when Tom Brady gives you praise, you probably want to keep doing those things (per Jeff Howe, Boston Herald):
He’s got a real maturity for someone who is just getting out of college. He’s made a lot of really great plays out here. We’re all trying to work to get better, and we’re all trying to make improvements. We can all do it.
The young players need to come out here and keep working hard, and he’s one of those guys who has been out here every day so he’s been able to do that. He’s been able to make a mistake, get the correction, come out again and not make the mistake the next day, so it’s been great.
White, the fourth-round pick out of Wisconsin, looks primed to play a significant role on offense. He’s been praised for his maturity and playmaking ability on first, second and third down. At 5-foot-10 and 206 pounds, he can sometimes be tough to locate behind big offensive linemen.
With Ridley and Vereen in contract years, look for White to be given a chance to show New England what it has in him.
Stock Down: Stevan Ridley
With James White looking more and more like a legitimate option on all three downs, Stevan Ridley has to be sweating a little. This is his contract year. His year to shine. His one year in all likelihood to try to secure that life-changing contract. Ridley will have to earn it.
While the uproar surrounding Stevan Ridley's three fumbles may be a bit overblown—nobody is talking about Jamaal Charles' four fumbles or Alfred Morris' five—having a capable backup waiting in the wings won't prompt Bill Belichick to give Ridley a longer leash.
When healthy and hanging on to the football, Ridley is a top-five running back in the league. He is decisive, powerful and elusive enough to gain more yards than he should on any given play.
That said, it looks like Ridley has little to no margin of error heading into the most important season of his career.
Stock Up: Tommy Kelly
After Tommy Kelly missed most of the 2013 season, many wondered if he would be back with the New England Patriots in 2014. Kelly didn't seem to share the doubts. Glen Farley of SouthCoastToday.com had strong comments from Kelly on his work ethic:
I've never been a weak link in my career, and I'm not going to start being a weak link.
I've been working my tail off on the side with my conditioning so I make sure when it's time for me to get out there they see the same player as when I left. Or a better player — that's what I'm shooting for. I'm not trying to come back and be the player I was, I'm trying to come back and be a better player than I was.
With Vince Wilfork more of a space-eater and Dominique Easley still gaining strength, the New England Patriots are in need of a defensive tackle who can penetrate and make plays in the backfield while still holding up against the run. Chris Jones can do the former, but struggled against the run as a rookie.
Until Easley can take over some of the snaps, look for Kelly to handle first and second down while Jones contributes in passing situations.
Stock Down: Jemea Thomas
When I wrote on the first day of training camp that I thought that Jemea Thomas could come in as a rookie and play a big role, I didn't know that I was jinxing him. Thomas hasn't been able to practice after sustaining an undisclosed injury. according to Mike Reiss of ESPN.com.
Unfortunately for Thomas, it is tough to make the team from the training room.
With veterans like Tavon Wilson, Patrick Chung and Nate Ebner already having experience in the defensive system, Thomas needed to be on the field to have a realistic chance of making an impact his rookie season.
Unless Thomas can recover quickly from whatever ailment is bothering him, don't be surprised if he ends up on injured reserve.
Stock Up: Defensive Secondary
If there is one positional group that can't seem to stop topping itself, it is the defensive secondary. The players started strong in shorts and shells and have only got better once they put pads on and started hitting.
Brandon Browner and Darrelle Revis have been absolute menaces to the New England Patriots' quarterbacks. Logan Ryan—who has taken time at both cornerback and safety—Duron Harmon and Devin McCourty haven't been heard from much, but that might be because receivers can't get past the press coverage.
After facing this group all offseason, look for the offense to be battle-tested when the regular season begins.