New England Patriots' Biggest Preseason Disappointments So Far

James ChristensenContributor IAugust 28, 2014

New England Patriots' Biggest Preseason Disappointments So Far

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    Elise Amendola/Associated Press

    The New England Patriots' preseason hasn't been all Malcolm Butler, Brian Tyms and Jimmy Garoppolo. 

    Injuries have happened. Veteran acquisitions haven't worked out. Draft picks have been given the heave-ho. While Bill Belichick has a better record than most, not everything he touches turns to gold.

    Here are the five biggest disappointments so far from the Patriots' 2014 preseason.

Josh Boyce

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    Charles Krupa/Associated Press

    While you could say it is disappointing to not see much of fellow second-year receiver Aaron Dobson—out most of the preseason rehabbing his foot—it is even worse for Josh Boyce. The former fourth-round pick has been nearly as invisible while leading the team in snaps played by a wideout.

    Boyce has only eight targets to show for his 111 snaps, catching five for 61 yards. Julian Edelman (70 snaps, 10 targets) and Brian Tyms (93 snaps, 16 targets) have made far more use from their running.

    Returning kickoffs hasn't fared much better, with Boyce only receiving one chance to bring the ball out through three preseason games.

    If things don't change soon, Boyce may be looking at a long season of inactivity—or worse.

Will Smith

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    Stephan Savoia/Associated Press

    Andre Carter (2010 version) and Mark Anderson don't grow on trees.

    Finding one veteran that can come in and apply some consistent pressure has been a hallmark of Bill Belichick recently, but he struck out with Will Smith. The former New Orleans Saint lacked explosiveness rushing the passer in the preseason, looking every bit his 33 years of age.

    Instead of relying on Smith, the New England Patriots will turn to youngsters Michael Buchanan, Zach Moore and Jake Bequette to try to supplement Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich.

    If a veteran appears on the market after teams cut down to 53, don't be shocked if Belichick brings in someone to add some experience to the positional group.

Tight End Position

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    Charles Krupa/Associated Press

    The laundry list of problems with the tight end position is interminable.

    Undrafted rookies Asa Watson and Justin Jones had all the promise in the world. Neither made it past the 75-man cut. D.J. Williams and Ben Hartsock couldn't crack the code. Steve Maneri is hanging on by a thread, but the writing is on the wall. Rob Gronkowski and Michael Hoomanawanui haven't been healthy.

    The acquisition of Tim Wright from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers should dull the pain by giving Tom Brady an Aaron Hernandez-lite type of receiver that can find the seam and wiggle out of tight spaces.

    However, until Gronkowski and Hoomanawanui suit up for real game action, this unit has been a major disappointment.

Jemea Thomas

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    Uncredited/Associated Press

    For a player filled with such a versatile skill set, it was shocking to see Jemea Thomas hit the waiver wire after being released by the New England Patriots.

    I thought Thomas could be a surprise star for New England this year, writing:

    Thomas, however, could end up taking snaps at multiple roles on special teams and defense.

    Replacing multiple higher-priced veterans with a cheap rookie contract is good business, but only if Thomas can hold up where it counts—on the field.

    With Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner, Devin McCourty, Logan Ryan, Duron Harmon and Alfonzo Dennard looking like locks for playing time, Thomas will have to carve out a couple of roles to remain on the active roster.

    His early stint on the sideline during training camp due to an undisclosed injury unfortunately put him too far behind to break into the secondary rotation. You can't play multiple roles from the training room.

    Instead, he'll try to make the 53-man roster for his new team, the Dallas Cowboys. Dallas picked him up off waivers on Wednesday according to Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk, thus ending any speculation Thomas could end up on the practice squad.

Injuries

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    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    Bryan Stork might be the future at the center position, but he hasn't been healthy enough to become the present. His inability to stay on the field is just one of the disappointing injuries that has kept the enthusiasm in Foxborough from reaching a rolling boil.

    Dominique Easley is still progressing from his torn ACL and hasn't seen any snaps in a game situation. Playing in Week 1 hasn't been ruled out, but it is far from a sure thing.

    Aaron Dobson is practicing after a long stint on the PUP list but hasn't been on the field during a preseason game. It appears as if the Patriots are babying his foot to try to avoid re-aggravating the injury.

    Rob Gronkowski is in a similar situation. If there is any concern about the integrity of Gronkowski's rebuilt knee, Bill Belichick should hold him out. With the best player on your team, worry about Week 19, not Week 1.