The latest Patriots Training Camp update I’ve gleaned from news coverage, hearing from people who’ve been at practices and my own lyin’ eyes:
*It’s still so early in the process, and everything is changing so much with the roster, that only the most most misguided, pathetic, ill-informed fanboy would waste his time speculating on where guys stand on the depth chart right now. So here goes…
*The major change over the last week has been the emergence of the 1st Round rookies, Jones and Hightower. (Tackleberry’s status is still up in the air.) Into the first weekend of camp, most of the reps for the linebackers playing off the line of scrimmage were going to Mayo and Bobby Carpenter. Belichick talked about Hightower’s versatility, playing both inside and the outside “Jack” linebacker spot in Nick Saban’s system and how it’s a balancing act trying expose him to different things at this level but not throw too much at him too soon. But from the jump he’s impressed everyone with how prepared he is and how familiar he is with the concepts and nomenclature of what the Pats do. In particular his pass/ run read have been veterany to the point where he’s sniffed out and blown up screens on at least 6 different occasions. At this point he looks like a lock to be the 1st & 2nd down Sam, with the jury out on keeping him in for passing downs. Carpenter is at the moment the nickel backer alongside Mayo. I don’t know how good he his against the run, and Mayo is more of a sideline-to-sideline guy than a Patrick Willis run stuffer, so they might need to keep a downhill/attack type LB in the middle to keep from getting Drawed to death. Then again, last year’s D was so bad, it might be refreshing to see a few 3rd down runs against us instead of always giving up wide open 17 yarders on 3rd & 16.
*The conventional wisdom on Jones is that he’s less experienced than Hightower and would need a more time in the incubator before they could give him a real role on the team. But his play in 1-on-1s has shown more polish than anyone imagined and is responsible for more pants tents this summer than Olympic Beach Volleyball. The play that’s gotten more talk than any other in camp was the push/pull move he laid out Nate Solder with. Then on the next rep, he tried a scissor move (no, not that scissor move, pervert… the one where you get your inside arm to the tackle’s outside and use both hands to gain leverage) that almost worked but Solder was able to run him off the play. Still, that’s typical of the kind of moves he’s shown and that ability to win hand battles has earned him the majority of the snaps at the right end spot.
*I honestly thought Andre Carter had a better year last year than the best year Willie McGinest ever had. But it’s possible there’s no room for him on this team. I love me some Andre Carter, but if they’ve got that kind of depth then I pause now to do the Serena Williams Crip dance…
*It’s still not a conventional 4-3 defense. They don’t play a balanced front. They still like to put one tackle in 3-technique and the other in a 1-shade, put one end outside the tight end and put the weakside end in a 5. But they’ve definitely gone smaller on the ends. Brandon Deadrick was that left end spot toward the end of the year and early on in this camp it was Jake Becquette. But they’re moving Becquette inside on passing downs as a Mike Wright-ish rusher and swapping off Ninkovich and Trevor Scott on the left end. By the time you’re reading this it might have changed altogether, but that’s how it’s looking as of the end of the weekend.
*The story of camp so far is the rash of fighting that went on last week. It’s been chippy from the day they put the pads on. But it blew up the night in the stadium they had a practice for the season ticket holders. Solder blocked Spikes after the whistle and Hell broke loose. And in no way, shape or form is that a bad thing. First of all because who knew Solder had a little Mankins in him. And second, because a fight between a guy who carried a 3.82 at Colorado goes up against a guy who majored in Chat Roulette Blow Jobs at Florida, is a fight I want to see.
*The next day two more fights broke out, which caused Belichick to send the whole squad on 3 laps in the 9o degree heat. Then he brought them into a huddle and reamed them out. No one could hear what he said, but I imagine it wasn’t teaching them the Croatian word for “Ubuntu.” Then Brady asked the coaches to step out and he ripped the whole squad a new one. He then went out in 11-on-11s and went 5-for-5 with a touchdown. File that moment away for the next time some clueless pantload tells you he’s a cuckholded pretty boy. This is Tom Brady’s team. He’s Dalton and Gillette is his Double Deuce until he says different.
*Also file that moment away when the crew from “Hard Knocks” is trying to piece together interesting storylines about Matt Moore and Reggie Bush. Such a damned shame they’re not in Foxboro, the world will never know.
*Showing more than the minimum 15 pieces of flair:
Jones. He not only put on 10 lbs of solid mass since the draft, I read a Tweet by one writer (it might have been Greg Bedard from the Globe, I apologize if I have that wrong) that said he suspects Jones right now is a starter and there’s no reason expect that to change.
Jermaine Cunningham. He won of the offseason workout awards. He’s in better shape. Playing faster. Making impact plays. And might have found a spot in their Tully Banta-Edgerusher role.
Aaron Hernandez. One word: “Uncoverable.”
Stevan Ridley. He seems to be a lock to be the starting RB. Though to steal a Parcells line, let’s not put him in Canton yet. (Unless he’s touring the Blue Hills Brewery. That Canton would be fine.)
Spencer Larsen. He’s not going to make anyone forget Sam Gash. But the Pats seemed determined to carry a fullback. I think that speaks to adding a lot more screens to the McOffense than we saw in last year’s O’Brienfense. And since Larsen has started games at both FB and LB and can play teams, he strikes me as the logical choice. “The more you do…”
Julian Edelman. Not that he’s been lighting it up exactly. But at the beginning of camp I looked at the numbers and depth chart and got worried he might be the 3rd or 4th best option at everything he does, which wouldn’t bode well for him. But Edelman’s still the top punt returner and has had a lot of looks with the top offense so he looks safe. Unlike…
*Might have to meet with The Bobs:
Deion Branch. I hope I’m wrong. I love Branch and he flat out wins you games. But my friend Lisa was furiously texting me from practice saying he wasn’t warming up or running reps with the 1st unit and had the look of a guy who thinks he’s about to be taken out back behind the barn. (My words, not hers.) Sunday he barely participated. I repeat: I hope I’m wrong, but Branch is starting to have a “Green Mile” look about him.
Dan Koppen. Koppen’s been one of those under appreciated Belichick draft steals no one talks about. But he hasn’t been healthy for years and has routinely been getting abused in solo work. It doesn’t help that he only plays one position on an O-line where the likes of Connolly, Cannon, Wendell, Donald Thomas, Solder and Vollmer can all move around.
Visante Shiancoe. I just assumed there was no place for him here and that the Pats, with Gronk, Hernandez and Daniel Fells… plus a FB, probably… weren’t going to carry a 4th tight end. And he was here as a tackling dummy just because they can carry 90. Then almost immediately he ended up on the bench with a towel on his leg. Not a good look. Then again, maybe I’m just not comfortable with a guy they call “Shank” on the club.
Robert Gallery. He wasn’t having a great camp any way, but quit the day after getting dwarf-tossed by Wilfork. Outland Trophy winner. Perfect 9.0 draft prospect ranking. No. 2 overall pick in 2004. Two seasons later he got switched from LT to guard. Now he quits after 8 seasons of pretending and embraces his inner Bustness.
*The defensive Front 7 has had hand over the O-line for the most part. But 60% of the starting line hasn’t taken a snap, so there’s no reason to save Brady a bed at Mass General yet. I’m still holding out hope Mankins and Seabass will get healthy before Week 1 and Brian Waters is just taking his annual camp sabbatical.
*By all acccounts, the starting free safety job is Steven Gregory’s to lose. The bad news is San Diego’s secondary was atrocious and they pretty much didn’t block the door when he decided to leave. The good news is that Belichick swooped in and grabbed him right away, so he sees something in him. The really good news is that last year FS was the weakest spot on the team. If the Patriots were the Pawnee, IN Parks Department, free safety was their Jerry Gergich. So things can only get better.
*Apparently Belichick called called up to the owner’s office because some player complained to Mr. Kraft that he’d said something sarcastic and condescending to one of the rookies that hurt the guy’s feelings so Mr. Kraft told him he couldn’t do that any more. Wait. That didn’t happen; that was the Red Sox. My bad. They run a nice organization too.
*Belichick did do this, however:
Try it, Bobby V. At this point, what could it hurt? (Thanks to Amanda Swinhart for the kiss picture) @JerryThornton1