On Sunday I had the privilege of visiting the Patriots practice while on a trip to the Boston area. I decided to take detailed notes in order to compare the Pats with the Bills, whose training camp I visit annually, since it i's only 15 minutes down the road from me. While both camps featured football (imagine!), the schedule, set up, and quality of the practices could not be farther apart. Buffalo is laid back, haphazard, unhurried. They spend most of their time working on the same few drills, and every small victory elicits a cheer from the crowd, while mistakes are shrugged off. The Patriots run a tight ship, with numerous drills, an attention to detail and situational football, and an overall sense of urgency and excellence. Players not only knew what was expected of them in each drill, but they also knew how to 1) self-correct a mistake, 2) hold each other accountable, and 3) focus more on football than the fans. Night and Day. More than a basic comparison, however, I'd like to take a look at both team's skill sets and relative quality of depth, with an eye toward both the individual development of younger players and also the overall cohesion of the units. Consider this an amateur scouting report in preparation for opening weekend, from a biased homer attempting to be objective. First off, the news of the day is the return of Crable, Warren, and Seymour, the first practices of Pryor and Richard, and Burgess joining the team. Yes, everyone knows that by now, but it made me excited. I sure picked a great day to drive down from Rochester, NY! I'll mention more about our tardy friends later, when I break down each position player by player. My aim is to spotlight players who stood out to me and explain why others missed the cut. The biggest surprise of the day came early on, when the Patriots first team offense and defense squared off. The Pats opened in a 43, with Green inside and TBC next to him at RDE. I believe Brace was next to Green inside, but I didn't catch who was at LDE. Apologies, dear readers! What intrigued me so much about the 43 was not the fact they were playing a 43 subpackage--they've done that often enough--but rather the strength and versatility of the various 43 personnel they rotated in for subsequent plays. For the first time I remember in the past half a dozen years, we have both a 34 and a legitimate 43--both a heavy, run-stuffing variety, and a potentially explosive pass-rushing kind. Our players fit either scheme fairly well, which makes it easier to disguise what we're doing. The ability to shift fronts this year should give us unprecedented flexibility to mix and match personnel, and I'm super excited for the season. I think I'm going to serialize my posts, with a different position breakdown each day or two. In the morning, in honor of our first preseason game, I'll start with the lines. I'm a huge fan of trench warfare (I always play on the line when friends and I have a pickup game; ironically, I'm 5'7 and a slender 175). This is where the game is decided, and the difference between the Patriots and Bills is astonishing. Buffalo is in for a huge shock if they really truly believe their offensive line will hold up all year. They simply lack athleticism. On defense, they still have Stroud, but the rest of the unit is mediocre, old and injured, or still in unproven, underdeveloped rookie mode. I'm super-impressed with the Pat's lines this year, however, and with some of our newcomers in particular. I look forward to generating some good discussion, and I hope my fellow Pats fans tune in tomorrow for the first installment of what I hope is a fairly interesting and enlightening series. Go Pats!