It’s been an interesting start to this year’s Patriots training camp and here are some things we’ve learned so far after one week.
1) Trent Brown emerging as the starting left tackle – Through one full week, the Patriots competition at the left tackle position seems to be coming into view, with Trent Brown emerging as the player who appears to have the edge at this point in camp.
He’s surprised quite a few people. Despite his massive size at 6’8″, 359-pounds, he possesses a surprising amount of quickness and speed for a player that big. He’s shown good balance on the edge and also gets upfield in blocking drills.
When asked if he’s ever coached a player as big as Brown, Belichick replied “No” and even praised him last week for how athletic he is.
“Yeah, I’ll say.” said Belichick last week when asked if he felt his athleticism was unique for his size. “Yeah, he’s very athletic. He can run, he can bend, he can change directions, he’s long, and he’s strong and he plays with good knee bend. As big as he is, he doesn’t play necessarily high. He can bend and get leverage on guys that aren’t as long as he is.”
Not a bad start for a player who will hopefully give the Patriots a viable option to protect Tom Brady’s blind side this season.
2) McCourty off to a slow start – Last season cornerback Stephon Gilmore got off to a slow start and it took him a while to get comfortable in New England’s secondary. So far, Jason McCourty has had a tough time through the early part of camp, struggling in coverage and seemingly looking uncomfortable as he tries to get settled into the Patriots’ defense.
The veteran defensive back was expected to anchor the defense opposite Gilmore this season but so far hasn’t been able to distinguish himself as a starter with his new football team. Meanwhile, players like Duke Dawson and Ryan Lewis seem to be coming on, with Lewis having been a surprise player so far in camp.
It’s been interesting to see it unfold and the next couple of weeks will start to tell the tale when it comes to players proving on a day-to-day basis that they belong with this football team. Gilmore overcame one of the most difficult beginnings we’ve ever seen last season before settling into this defense and one can only hope McCourty is able to do the same thing.
3) Deatrich Wise Having a good camp – With the Patriots hoping for a more explosive pass rush this season, Wise appears a player who may be able to do that for them.
He’s had a strong camp so far, pushing Adrian Clayborn and seemingly putting himself in position to be at the top of the rotation at defensive end. Both he and Derek Rivers have impressed so far, with Belichick offering praise for both players during his press conference Wednesday.
“Yeah, nobody works harder than those two guys,” said Belichick. “Nobody. So, it’s hard to find a time that they’re not in this building. They work extremely hard on the field, off the field, their training, preparation, conditioning – you name it.”
“Yeah, they’ve kept that pace since they got here and they’ve certainly sustained it in this year. They’ve made a lot of improvement and they both have upside ahead of them. So, yeah, they work very hard.”
And so far, that work appears to be paying off.
4) Hollister Continues To Stand Out – We all know how valuable Rob Gronkowski is and so far it appears that fellow tight end Jacob Hollister looks to be ready to take the next step in his sophomore season.
Hollister has consistently had bright moments during training camp, making some big plays as he continues to stand out. One area that is worth noting was how valuable having a viable second option behind Gronkowski has been and Hollister appears as though he may be able to provide that this season. Belichick said on Monday that he was pleased with how Hollister has performed thus far.
“Jacob improved a lot last year and he’s gotten off to a good start this year from the offseason program to our spring workouts to the start of training camp,” said Belichick. “He’s still got a long way to go. He has a lot of football in front of him. He didn’t have a lot of experience – had some – but has gained a lot and will gain a lot more. I think he’s got a great future.”
“He works hard, he’s a tough kid, he plays hard, practices hard and has become much better at his fundamentals and techniques at his position.”
That’s good news for a team that could use another weapon to compliment Gronkowski on offense.
5) Dorsett Looks Much Improved – Wide receiver Phillip Dorsett was a little erratic last season, never managing to put consistent plays together in an offense that spent last season without Julian Edelman. Dorsett had his moments, catching 12 passes for 194 yards while averaging 16.2-yards-per-reception, right behind Cooks’ average of 16.6.
So far, he looks much more comfortable and has made some big plays, which is encouraging for a group that is again without Edelman for the first four weeks of the season.
On Wednesday they reportedly cut Jordan Matthews and worked out Eric Decker, with a hamstring injury to Matthews being significant enough that the team opted to move on. That leaves them with just Chris Hogan and Dorsett as incumbents to begin the season while Edelman is out, with the team now in need of another player to emerge heading into 2018.
Kenny Britt is expected to return, while Malcolm Mitchell’s future appears to be in question as he continues to struggle coming back from a knee injury that kept him out last season. Cordarrelle Patterson is also expected to be a factor in the return game and has had some nice moments.
One wild card could be Devin Lucien, who had some solid plays during last year’s preseason but never had a shot due to how deep the team was at the position. But for now, this is a group with a lot of questions and it will definitely be interesting to see how things shake out in the coming weeks.
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