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Thoughts and Storylines Heading into Patriots Training Camp

Tomorrow morning, fans will break the bolts of the cages keeping them out of the Patriots’ practice facility. For over a year, New England has practiced in silence, forced to create their own energy. When the sun rises and the field is set, Patriots football will officially be back.

Bill Belichick Addresses the Media

As expected, Bill Belichick did not reveal too much at the podium today. When asked on the statuses of Stephon Gilmore and N’Keal Harry, Belichick quickly  defused the topic, stating, “We’re not going to talk about contracts and personal situations.”

Is there a Quarterback competition? According to coach, “Every one of us has to go out and establish our level of performance in whatever our role or capacity is. It’s a new season… We all have a lot of work to do. That includes all of us… It’s pretty much a clean slate.” 

Notable Players Starting Training Camp on the PUP List

QB Jarrett Stidham

OLB Kyle Van Noy

DE Chase Winovich

T Trent Brown

DB Stephon Gilmore

It is unknown why Van Noy and Brown are starting on the PUP list. Although players placed on the PUP list count towards the 90-man roster, they can not practice until taken off the PUP list. They can become activated at any time. It is actually a good sign to see Stephon Gilmore’s name on the PUP list as he has reported to camp. However, Gilmore could be milking the injury due to his contract dispute. Jarrett Stidham and Chase Winovich, on the other hand, cannot afford to lose time on the practice field…Here are the most intriguing training camp battles other than Cam Newton vs Mac Jones.

Training Camp Battles

Battle #1: The Strong Safety Position

Also known as, Adrian Phillips vs Kyle Dugger. Phillips: a 29-year old veteran who led the Patriots in tackles in 2020 at 109 (5th amongst safeties). Phillips started in 2020, playing 73% of defensive snaps. He brought a strong leadership presence and a toughness the team desperately needed.

Kyle Dugger: one of the brightest young talents on the Patriots roster entering his sophomore season. Dugger displayed a much higher ceiling than Phillips; making several key tackles in the backfield (5th on the team in tackles), while showing serious potential as a future pro bowl safety linebacker hybrid in the NFL. It is expected that Dugger will earn more than 51% of defensive snaps compared to last season. While Dugger looks to be the safety of the future, Adrian Phillips will not be out of this fight.

Battle #2: WR2

This will be a battle between Jakobi Meyers and Kendrick Bourne. The two receivers fit a similar makeup to Bill Belichick’s liking. Counting similarly in size, lacking in elite speed, Meyers and Bourne excel at reading leverage and getting open. Jakobi Meyers is the new undrafted gem courtesy of Bill Belichick while Kendrick Bourne is the new toy that Belichick has tried to acquire for the past two years. This will likely become a healthy competition as the two should both see significant playing time.

Battle #3: Power Running Back

The Patriots continue to spend every offseason investing in the backfield. The running game was by far the team’s strong-suit in 2020. The Patriots have retained James White, said goodbye to Rex Burkhead, hello again to Brandon Bolden, and welcome to Rhamondre Stevenson. The true competition will begin with Stevenson vs Sony Michel. The Patriots selected Stevenson in the 4th round of the NFL draft while declining to pick up Michel’s fifth year option.

The two backs play as similar North-South running style. Stevenson, a bigger back, may show more of an upside at cheaper price. The Patriots would benefit from a Michel trade if they can get value for him. All in all, It is put up or shut up time for Sony.

Battle #4: Third String QB

As previously stated, it does not help Jarrett Stidham’s roster spot landing on the PUP list. While all eyes will lock onto every Mac Jones and Cam Newton throw, Belichick will be watching Stidham and Hoyer very closely. Jarrett Stidham seemed to have lost significant trust last year, rarely seeing any playing time in a lost season.

Brian Hoyer however, arguably cost the Patriots a vital win vs Kansas City in 2020 with sickening turnovers and mental errors. Does Bill Belichick value an experienced veteran who knows the playbook? Or a young backup looking to revitalize his career? Maybe neither.

Battle #5: Edge

The Patriots and their revamped defense will feature many players who can get to the Quarterback. It will star Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, and Matt Judon at the Linebacker position, all three guys who can set the edge. However, the starting edge position is not close to being set in stone. Does Lawrence Guy start on the edge or shift to defensive tackle? Does Josh Uche take the starting job or stay put at Linebacker? Henry Anderson could either churn out to be an underrated Bill Belichick signing or not even make it to late August.

The biggest piece to this battle is Ronnie Perkins. The rookie out of Oklahoma was taken later than his projection, displaying an elite ability to pass rush and defend the run. Chase Winovich has only proven to do one of those things well. If Perkins can translate his skills to the NFL level, it could drive Winovich out of Foxboro.

While rookies reported on the 20th and veterans reported on the 27th, training camp officially opens for the Patriots on Wednesday, July 28th at 9:45am.

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