The Patriots get back to work here at Gillette Stadium on Saturday morning and now is when the work really starts. The pads come on for the first time today and as Bill Belichick so aptly put yesterday, now is when the evaluation begins.
The team had a pair of shorts and shells practices the first two days of training camp to get things started but the intensity was dialed down a bit. Today, that should change. Here are a couple of things to watch for today as the team ratchets up the tempo and intensity:
Will Rob Ninkovich Show Up? We’ve been hearing the rumors about Ninkovich possibly going to retire and the only official word we’ve heard from the Patriots is that Nink is dealing with a personal issue.
If Ninkovich indeed does decide to call it a career it will be a definite blow to the defense. Although he’s dealt with a suspension and some injuries a year ago which affected his production, Ninkovich remains one of the best Patriots players at crunch time. He’s always been at his best when the games are on the line.
He may have lost a half-step last season but he’s still a stalwart on the defense and a versatile one to boot. He can line up as a defensive end, as a linebacker and even serves as the team’s emergency long snapper in a pinch. We’ll be watching for the players coming out on the field this morning to see if he’s back….If he does retire, it would leave Kony Ealy and Trey Flowers as the probable starters with rookie draft picks Derek Rivers and Deatrich Wise with veteran Geneo Grissom.
How will the Power Running Game Look: The Patriots parted ways with LeGarrette Blount this spring and brought in Rex Burkhead and Mike Gillislee. Those are the two backs that are expected to pick up the slack of Blount’s departure and provide the team the heavy running between the tackles that they’ll need to keep defenses honest in 2017.
James White and Dion Lewis are the primary passing back options along with D.J. Foster and veteran Brandon Bolden who can jump in for the occasional carry but the new players are the ones to watch today.
With the pads coming on today, Burkhead and Gillislee are the guys to watch. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the team open in some sort of goal line drill today to set the tone for the day. UDFA rookie Leshun Daniels is a dark horse to make the roster and he is also in that power back role. It will be curious to see how he performs as well.
Can the Young Players Keep up the Pace? We wrote about how Austin Carr had turned heads in the opening days of camp with some nice catches and showing good hands. Of course, Bill Belichick pooh-poohed the entire episode during his Friday presser but the fact remains that Carr didn’t do anything to hurt his chances during the first two days of camp.
Besides Carr, the Hollister twins, Rivers and Deatrich and others in their first Patriots training camp will be guys to watch now that the heat gets turned up.
As Belichick said, the teaching part will continue but now the evaluations begin. He should be making his way to the podium shortly and after that Saturday’s practice will begin.
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: 53 Man Roster Projection Austin Carr Bill Belichick Deatrich Wise Derek Rivers Kony Ealy LaGarrette Blount Mike Gillislee New England Patriots Rex Burkhead Rob Ninkovich