Relevant Observations from Patriots 2010 Training Camp
There have been some training camp articles already this year, but none that really went into detail about the players and how they are progressing.
Rookie Sensations Thus Far
With a lot of veterans either hurt or holding out of camp there have been many rookies getting reps with the first team.
The Patriots 2010 rookie class may be one of the best in recent years, but going to have to wait until the end of the season to say just how great they really are.
Standing at 6'6 and 265 pounds, Rob Gronkowski will be a defensive coordinator's worst nightmare because going into the draft all the scouts were saying that he has soft hands, can block well, and has the speed to be a matchup problem.
Thus far, he has been good as advertised catching everything thrown his way and has become Brady's go-to guy in the red zone. So far in camp, Gronkowski has run over safety Patrick Chung and has gotten by all our safeties for TD's.
Haven't seen much video of him blocking in camp in full pads, but he has the size to do so and should be an interesting thing to keep an eye on in the preseason.
Coming out of college, Hernandez was one of the more spectacular tight ends to watch and his stock plummeted all the way to the fourth round which I thought was pretty low for someone of his caliber.
He runs smooth routes and makes an effort to go after the ball, he has laid his body out more than once in camp so far to make the catch.
Just like Gronkowski, Hernandez has been harassing our safeties for touchdowns. Hernandez has a dropped a pass here and there, but nothing to worry about because he catches the ball more times than not unlike Ben Watson.
With the big plays and impressions these rookie tight ends are making, Alge Crumpler seems like the dark horse to start and the offense this year might even see more double tight end formations.
Taylor Price is part of the Patriots' future at WR. Price has soft hands and the speed to be a deep threat or a dangerous slot receiver.
He not huge or anything at 6'0 and 205lbs, but he is an underrated blocker. I saw his highlight from college and in one play he took out a defensive end and a linebacker.
So far in camp, Price has showed the soft hands he was known for and will be fighting for the 4th or 5th position on the depth chart. Brandon Tate will make this difficult for him and is not likely to just give up his job.
So far, with every fan that I have argued with about Brandon Spikes they all have brought up his dreadful 40-yard dash time, but the funny thing is that they never acknowledge his instincts or physical playing style.
Spikes has been making a lot of noise in run defense in camp, Spikes has read many plays and acted on them with most ending up with tackles behind the line, the defense has been stingy in red-zone run defense.
Spikes has been having some trouble in pass coverage because he tends to hold onto his receiver too often.
BB is also letting Spikes do pretty much anything he wants with techniques, Spikes doesn't really need help with techniques in run defense because he has been superb so far and has even stuffed Fred Taylor on the goal line, but he could use some for pass defense even though he has broken up some passes in camp.
BB has stated that Jermaine Cunningham has made the switch from 4-3 defensive end to a 3-4 outside linebacker smoothly so far. Cunningham has shown his athleticism, pass rushing skills, and physical nature.
He has been playing opposite Tully Banta-Cain for all of camp so far with Derrick Burgess a no show and likely to retire, the release of Shawn Crable, and limited progress with Rob Nikovich.
Devin McCourty has had his ups and downs in camp so far. McCourty has been beat deep for touchdowns by Moss, but that's expected from a rookie and one of the greatest WR's to play the game.
Moss hasn't always gotten the better of McCourty though, McCourty has stayed stride for stride with Moss and broken up plays on the ball. McCourty has even jammed Moss at the line on one play.
As of right now, McCourty has been getting reps playing opposite Leigh Bodden on occasion and has also played the nickel corner. McCourty has a chance to play for a starting role, but at the worst he will be a physical nickel corner.
McCourty has made interceptions in camp already and has shown some good instincts.
Veterans Not Letting Rookies Make All the Noise
Many second and third year veterans have shown improvement in camp and this 2010 team is not dwelling in the past.
This is why all the walls in the Patriots facility have been stripped of all the posters of former great players and all the Super Bowl ones were ripped down as well so the team can figure itself out and focus on the future.
Darius Butler has a good rookie season and I think he could have a even better sophomore season. Butler could surpass Bodden as the team's number one corner and has been playing very physically in camp so far.
Butler has been staying stride for stride with receivers, making interceptions, and just plain making plays on the ball.
Our secondary is looking to be in good shape as of right now.
Terrence Wheatley hasn't seen all that much time on the field, but has had his good games and his bad ones when he played.
Standing at only 5'9, Wheatley is obviously is not intimidating by any means, but he has been changing that in camp. Wheatley has been showing aggressiveness at the line of scrimmage and if he keeps it up Wilhite might be on the outs or a special teams player until injuries rack up.
Brandon Tate was injured his rookie year and he should make up for it if he makes it through training camp and preseason with no injuries. Brandon Tate has been called one of the best wide receivers to come out of North Carolina( that means you New York Giants WR Hakeem Nicks) and Hakeem Nicks was a good receiver for the Giants.
Tate is a dangerous deep threat and has made some spectacular catches in camp, even making one handed catches. Tate has dropped some passes here and there, but no wide receivers are perfect.
Tate will be fighting for the 3rd or 4th wide receiver on the depth chart because Moss and Welker are the clear cut number one and two receivers.
Back in college Julian Edelman was a quarterback at Kent State and was selected by the Patriots in the seventh round of the 2009 NFL draft. The Patriots worked him out at wide receiver and the rookie had success.
Now in his second year, Edelman has been working in drills with the running backs the past two days and is a favorite to win third string receiver. Edelman got good experience last year being able to play in the playoffs and made caught two touchdowns in the loss.
Edelman is a receiver that Brady can rely on just like Wes Welker, Edelman has soft hands and runs excellent routes. Brandon Tate and Edelman will battle out for third string receiver and should be a interesting one to watch.
Patrick Chung has had his good and bad days in camp. He has been run over, beaten in the red zone plays, and beaten deep in coverage on normal plays.
Chung has been getting firt team reps next to Meriweather though and Chung has made some interceptions in camp as well. If Chung starts this season, he will bring the physical play we have been missing since Rodney Harrison.
Tyrone McKenzie was injured his rookie year, but going into his second season he is not giving up his roster spot without a fight. He has been a run stuffer so far, but haven't heard that much of McKenzie in pass coverage.
In camp McKenzie has stuffed Fred Taylor and Lawrence Maroney in goal line situations, if McKenzie continues to progress inside linebacker will not be a problem for us for a long time.
Training Camp Surprises
Players coming back from injury, key players not doing well, everything that makes a good surprise.
Even if you are not a Patriots fan you got to have respect for Wes Welker, he is one of the smallest WR's in the game, but is not afraid to go over the middle for the tough catches, block bigger defensive backs, and he has taken a lot of big hits from going over the middle.
As everybody knows Welker had a nasty knee injury after tearing his ACL and MCL. Welker was expected to miss some of the season, but by training camp surprised everyone and was making cuts and running routes.
Welker is back and everyone that is not on the New England Patriots should be scared because in his first three seasons with the Patriots, Welker had over 100 catches and over 1,000 yards in each year.
Brandon Meriweather hasn't exactly had the best training camp so far, the rookie tight ends have been harassing the safeties including Meriweather. Sure he has had some pass deflections, but he is not showing much as of right now, maybe because he is in more of a mentoring stage right now I don't know.
Meriweather just doesn't seem like he is giving it his all, might have to wait until pre season or the opener to see if he has fixed his tackling problem (Meriweather likes to go for the knockout kind of hit instead of just wrapping up the ball carrier) .
The offense gets the better of the defense sometimes, but not all the time. Lately, the offense has been going three and out and got bailed out by Stephen Gostkowski.
Some of this is because the receivers are not on the same page as Brady, not all the receivers, but some of them. Some receivers just straight up dropped the ball or couldn't hang on to it because of DB's in their face.
Moss has beaten Butler and McCourty deep for touchdowns probably due to coverage mistakes by the youngsters, but Butler/McCourty have broken up would be TD's be ripping/punching the ball out of Moss' hands.
Not too many fans know of Kyle Arrington, but he has been a special teams player since joining the team last season. Arrington is a active special teams player and makes lots of tackles, but now that training camp is here her gets to show off everything and not just his tackling skills.
Arrington has shown good coverage skills so far and has played physical at the line of scrimmage like the majority of the corners this year save for Wilhite. Arrington will most likely see the special teams again this season unless injuries start piling up in the secondary.