By: Russ Goldman
Patriots Training Camp will be open to the public starting on Thursday July 26th, and there is certainly plenty to watch with several position battles, and many new faces to the team. However, there is a group of players that I am going to watch very closely for several reasons, but ultimately I want to see how they fit into Patriots puzzle. Here are the ” Ten Players I Am focused On At Patriots Training Camp”.
10. Joesph Addai – This former Colts running back is entering his seventh season, and the question I have is how much does he have left? Over his career he has averaged a little over four yards per carry which is solid. However, last season he had 3.7 yards per carry.
This a no brainer to bring him to camp to see what he can offer. He might be a third down or short yardage option. He also could be veteran insurance in case one of the younger backs go down. I will be watching to see what Addai has left in the tank.
9. Jonathan Fanene – This thirty year old former Bengals defensive end could be an intriguing player on the defensive line. He is six foot and four inches tall, and weighs 285 pounds. Last season he had six and a half sacks, and that is encouraging for this position of need for the Patriots.
Fanene doesn’t seem like a player that is going to just take up space. I will be concentrating on what kind of burst he has from the outside to get after the quarterback.
8. Trevor Scott- This twenty seven year old defensive end comes from Oakland, and showed me the ability to get after the quarterback in a few games I watched of the Raiders last season. In 2009, he had his best season of production with seven sacks. He could be a serious sleeper in camp, and I certainly will have my eyes on him.
7. Ras-I Dowling – This twenty four year old second year cornerback has tremendous potential as he showed us last season in the pre-season, and in the first couple games of the season. Unfortunately, his season was cut very short with a season ending injury.
Dowling has been injury prone in college and also with the Patriots, and that is a serious concern. However, he gives the Patriots something I have not seen in a long time, and this is a tall corner. He is six foot and one inch tall, and his height could really be a positive against some of the taller receivers in the league.
The Patriots really need a cover cornerback, and Dowling could be that solution down the road. I will be focusing on his ability to stick, and cover his receivers one on one.
6. Jermaine Cunningham – This twenty four year old outside linebacker should have a good amount of pressure on him going into camp, and it is warranted. He showed so much promise in his rookie season, and last season was a bust as he did not play much, and was also injured a portion of the season.
This season is make or break for Cunningham and he could be on the bubble of even making the team. I believe in giving a player a chance to bounce back from a disappointing season. I will be watching him, and hopefully we will see that promise that fans saw his rookie season.
#5 Tavon Wilson – This rookie safety from the University of Illinois will be under scrutiny, because he was drafted in the second round which was much higher than many so called experts had him going. I am more concerned to see if he can play right away, and help with another need position. I will be watching him closely at Training Camp.
#4 Chandler Jones – This rookie defensive end was drafted in the first round out of Syracuse, and there should be many pairs of eyes on him. Jones showed a real burst in college, even though the numbers do not back it up. He has the ability to get after the quarterback, but I think fans need to be a little patient with him. He is still somewhat raw, and this season you could see more production from him in the second half of the year.
Jones I think has the potential to be a three down player, but you might see him in rushing the passer situations in the beginning. I will be watching to see his ability to stop the run, and also get after the quarterback.
#3 Dont’a Hightower – This linebacker possibly could be the rookie that could have the most impact right away. He played in one of the best college defenses in the country last season at Alabama.
If Hightower is good to go from the beginning in the middle of the defense, it could free up Jerod Mayo to possibly push outside, and have the ability to roam more than he does now. I will be watching to see how the Patriots utilize this player in the defense.
2. Brandon Lloyd – This thirty one year old wide receiver could be the missing ingredient for the Patriots offense, as he has shown the ability to stretch the field. The biggest plus for me is that he knows the Patriots offense already, as he played under Josh McDaniels in Denver and in St Louis.
Lloyd has also shown the ability to jump for the ball which we haven’t seen for awhile from a wide receiver. I will be watching him to see if he can bring to the offense the one thing they need that I have heard so often from Patriots fans, and that is a deep threat.
1. Steve Gregory – This twenty nine year old safety that played with the Chargers last season will be the player I will have my eye on the most. Anyone that has listened to my show Patriots Fourth And Two, knows all about my thoughts on Gregory. I have serious concerns about this player as I have watched him a great deal when he was at Syracuse, and also with the Chargers.
He reminds me a great deal of Brandon Meriweather, as in the past I have seen him hit hard, but take bad angles to the receivers. He is not the consistent presence at safety I believe the Patriots need. He is a wildcard, and might shine one moment, and then could get burned the next.
I hope I am wrong about Gregory, but my instincts tell me he will be a disappointment. I will watch him in training camp to see how the Patriots plan on using him. The position of safety is a serious need for the Patriots, and I have serious doubts that Gregory is the solution.
Those are the ten players I am focused on for Training Camp, and I will be following their progress. I will have another article during training camp which I will have my commentary on what I have seen from these players in Training Camp.
If you are looking for some interesting talk previewing Patriots Training Camp, please do check out below the latest edition of Patriots Fourth And Two.