Patriots Comprehensive Training Camp Preview

Breaking Down the Rookies and Expectations

Malcom Brown (DT) – Brown will be counted on to play right away and he needs to provide some impact as part of a defensive tackle rotation. Brown has experience playing in both 3-4 and 4-3 fronts, so his versatility, size, and athleticism will allow the Patriots to deploy him in a number of different looks. His main impact will be made in the run game this year. What made Brown a unique DT prospect is that he’s shown the ability to both occupy blockers in the run game and/or get off blocks to penetrate. After losing Vince Wilfork the Patriots need his size in the middle of the defense. Brown offers the size, but adds more range and playmaking capability. Look for Brown to rotate with Alan Branch or Sealver Siliga early on, but it won’t be long before Brown is the starter.

Jordan Richards (SS) – The Patriots liked Jordan Richards enough to select him in the second round and that likely means he’ll see playing time early on. Richards is extremely smart, cerebral, and was the consensus leader for the Stanford defense. He possesses a bigger, thicker body that will be limited in deep coverages. Look for Richards to back-up Patrick Chung at the start of the season and work his way on the field as part of specific defensive packages. What stood out to me on film was his ability to anticipate run angles, react early, and his all-out effort in pursuit. Richards can play in the box and closer to the line of scrimmage which should aid the run defense. He has obvious special teams capabilities, but after using another 2nd Round pick on a Safety, if Jordan Richards only plays on Special Teams this season I’d consider it a disappointment.

Geneo Grissom (DE/OLB) – Not sure what to expect from Grissom heading into training camp. His versatility has been talked about at length, but I think that could hinder him heading as he tries to make an impact on an NFL roster. His role was constantly evolving and changing at Oklahoma making it difficult for him to acclimate to a specific position. As a third round pick his roster spot is assured. He’ll likely provide depth as a hybrid Edge Rusher and possibly fill a role similar to that of Akeem Ayers last season. The Patriots could really use the pass rush depth, specifically from one of their young draft picks. Grissom is one I’ll be watching closely this camp because of all the players I scouted leading up to the draft his evaluation is the one I had the most trouble with.

Trey Flowers (DE) – Flowers is another rookie that could see some playing time early on as part of a rotation. While he lacks ideal traits to be a consistent pass rusher in the NFL, Flowers will make his primary impact in the run game. He has incredible length for his size and knows how to use his hands at the point of attack. He’s adept at setting the edge and brings a physical presence to the edge of the defense. We’ve seen some of the Patriots edge players get exploited by outside runs the last few seasons and this is an area where Trey Flowers can help. In my opinion he slots in as the 4th Defensive End in a rotation behind Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich, and Jabaal Sheard.

Tre’ Jackson (OG) – Jackson is the most likely rookie starter out of his draft class. The Patriots enter camp with both offensive guard positions up for grabs. After tabbing Bryan Stork out of Florida State in the 4th Round last year, the Patriots returned to select his fellow lineman this season. Based on his more complete skill-set and previous rapport with Bryan Stork it’d appear that Jackson has the inside track right now. Even if he doesn’t begin the year as the starter, by the end of September he should be firmly entrenched.

Shaq Mason (OG/OC) – Mason is an exciting prospect to watch on film because of the way he devastated people in college. He’s a great athlete for the position and if all the Patriots needed was a run blocker he’d be without question the choice. Mason wasn’t asked to pass protect much coming out of the Georgia Tech triple option offense, so it’s a skill he’ll need to harness during camp. Unlike Tre’ Jackson, he offers more positional versatility and can provide some insurance as a back-up Center. There is a chance both Mason and Jackson start (if they both beat out Ryan Wendell), but right now the most likely scenario is that one wins the starting job and the other is on the game-day roster as a reserve.

Joe Cardona (LS) – I will never ever condone the selection of a long snapper in the NFL Draft, especially one in the 5th Round, but we all saw this one coming. Cardona has been cleared by the Navy and will be the Patriots opening day Long Snapper vs. Pittsburgh.

Matthew Wells (LB) – Wells is a Special Teams Linebacker with great speed. He won’t offer anything to the base defense and has an uphill battle to make the roster. For Wells to stick he’ll have to outperform veterans like Dekoda Watson, Chris White, and even Dane Fletcher.

AJ Derby (TE) – One of my favorite picks in the Patriots draft haul. The former QB turned Tight End showed real promise during his Senior Season, specifically catching the ball and stretching the field as a Tight End. Derby is a project and has to have a great summer to make the 53 man roster. He’s already lasted longer than both Tim Wright and Fred Davis, so that makes the uphill climb a little less steep. This is a player the Patriots should be able to get onto their practice squad and develop over the course of the next season.

Daryl Roberts (CB) – No rookie generated more buzz in mini-camp than Daryl Roberts and now he’s significantly raised his expectations heading into the summer. Everyone now expects him to continue that performance in training camp and to ultimately win a roster spot in similar fashion to Malcolm Butler last season. Unlike Butler, Roberts has elite speed and athleticism, which makes the transition to the NFL a little easier. Regardless of how it plays out Roberts has a lot of people excited about the possibilities heading into camp.

Xzavier Dickson (DE/LB) – Dickson faces long odds to make the roster. He faces a number crunch at his position thanks to the off-season signing of Jabaal Sheard and the drafting of Geneo Grissom in the 3rd round. For Dickson to make the roster he’ll have to outperform players such as Zach Moore and Grissom (not impossible). The practice squad looks like a likely outcome for Dickson.

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20 Responses to “Patriots Comprehensive Training Camp Preview”

  1. J H TARBORO says:

    I’m hoping for the best for UDFA TE Jimmay Mundine, he could be a difference maker, a move TE with good speed and wiggle.

  2. J H TARBORO says:

    I believe the LBs/DEs battles in camp will be epic also, these guys will be a major part of our new look team.

  3. Ryan says:

    The cornerback battle in camp should be tons of fun to watch. For youth, we’ve got Logan Ryan and Malcolm Butler fighting for starting spots, followed by Darryl Roberts, Justin Green and Dax Swanson all trying to make the team. Then for experience, we have Bradley Fletcher trying to bounce back from an off year, Robert McClain trying to become a legitimate slot corner, and Tarell Brown and Derek Cox trying to turn back the clock to 2012, when they weren’t injured and were playing quite well. To me, any combination of these players could end up making the team so long as either Ryan or McClain is included, meaning that we have tons of possible 5-6 man roster situations. I can’t wait to see who impresses us.

    • Daniel R. Martin says:

      Is it just pessimism that makes that picture of the secondary seem absolutely abysmal?

      • GM-in-Training says:

        Pessimism is part of it. Experience (remembering the secondary from a few years ago) is also part of it. The Pats used to have a problem getting off the field on 3rd downs. They hadn’t drafted well at CB, and kind of cheaped out on free agents back then. They didn’t have a shutdown corner until Talib showed up by trade, and we really noticed when Talib wasn’t on the field.

        To me, this feels a little different. I think Logan Ryan and Malcom Butler are pretty solid. The Pats parted ways with Arrington because even though he was quick, he got crushed by a tall slot receiver in the super bowl. Arrington was also fairly expensive for what he was. The Pats got rid of Alfonzo Dennard, I guess because injuries and off-field issues made him seem unreliable. Maybe there were hidden problems with those otherwise capable players. OR…maybe the Pats were confident they could put together a better squad without them. I don’t know what the Pats are paying Tarrel Brown, but I’m pretty sure a couple of the more expensive veterans won’t make it to the end of camp. I think the Pats’ strategy is get a handful of veteran CB who were good in 2013 but had a down 2014 so they’re affordable, and keep the ones that can return to form. I also think the Pats will add another veteran CB via waiver or trade by late September.

        The unit we get after all of that should be deep and capable, although it’s not likely to have a shutdown corner or a really strong press corner. Combined with a strong pass rush rotation, it might still lead to 12 wins, but I’m less clear on if it can win the biggest games.

      • Ryan says:

        Absolutely abysmal? Definitely pessimistic.

        Still, it’s not good at all. There’s no potential number 1 unless someone really steps up, but it’s safe to say that number 2s and 3s should be available. With McCourty anchoring the back, it shouldn’t be terrible, but it’ll require the front seven to make strides. Not much good yet, but there are options.

  4. Daniel R. Martin says:

    So, Easely is listed on PUP list currently. Hopefully it is just a precautionary measure. Otherwise, we’ll be missing two first round picks in three years. The impact of that might not be felt for a couple of seasons.

    If Brady’s suspension is upheld he can take the matter to court and play through the proceedings as the matter is adjudicated. That would be great. I don’t know why Goodell is taking so long to issue a ruling. I can’t help but to feel as though that doesn’t bode particularly well.

    • Oppitz says:

      I dont know how much precautionary it could be since he didn’t even need surgery. So the guy is 8 months “resting” his knees and still not feeling right? Not looking good.

      • Daniel R. Martin says:

        I agree. And now Brady’s suspension has been upheld.

      • GM-in-Training says:

        Not sure what to make of Easley. Cautious makes sense. “Football Shape” is a thing. He didn’t make it through last year, so caution makes sense.

        • Daniel R. Martin says:

          Well, as much as I personally think many of us were right to bemoan the Easely selection, we were also obviously wrong about the import of drafting Garappolo. He may well be what salvages a lost season in the twilight of Brady’s career. If Brady can’t put off suspension via lawsuit, could Garoppool go at least 2-2?

  5. I really think those guys are gonna do it for us! Really looking forward to the new season.

  6. Oppitz says:

    I think at least one of those three (Alan Branch, Sealver Siliga and Chris Jones) will not make the roster, right know I’m betting on Alan Branch being the odd man out, but Jones is close.

  7. What’s up mates, fastidious piece of writing and pleasant arguments commented
    at this place, I am actually enjoying by these.

  8. howie horvath says:

    I have a special feeling about what’s happening on the defensive side of the ball. If health isn’t an issue, I think we’ll be at the very top of the rankings by year’s end – even with a weaker secondary (though I believe Malcom Butler will continue to surprise and the new CB Roberts, from Marshall, will contribute right away).

    Think about all the incredibly talented pieces we have in the front 7 if they stay healthy and develop as expected. This and last year’s 1st rounders offer the Pats something that we’ve not had since the days of Richard Seymour…and inside rush. When coupled with a young space-eating Siliga and the veteran Branch the team also looks ready to stop the run, always task #1 in the NFL.

    The bevy of talented young DE/OLB drafted by the Pats coupled with a 2nd year Z. Moore means we have some depth to keep that entire group fresh this season. The now veteran and proven more traditional LB’s could be the best in the league. With this new defensive depth we’re likely to see more frequent blitzes which I think will be near impossible to stop. Dont’a Hightower has only just begun to show his immense ability and true value and Collins has, in my mind, the potential to be the very best NFLer at his position(s) (even though M. Lynch was able to shake him for a critical out and up in the 4th quarter of the SB, Collins was able to recover to catch him). And taking a best case, glass half full view of Mayo, we know what he can do when healthy and he’s certainly well rested;) And just think of the value and improved impact of a better rested Chandler Jones and Ninkovich in 2015. I’m especially excited to think we have a few more LBs that can cover starting with Collins, Mayo, and possibly rookies Wells and Grissom. That’s a necessity in this era’s version of high powered NFL passing offenses.

    And as we all know the Pats have two of the finest, if not finest, defensive minds in Patricia and Belichick now working with more “chess pieces” then they’ve had in a long while. We saw what they did with the addition of Revis and Browner last year.

    Finally, the Pats have this guy named Brady, who’s teamed with Gronk, Edelman, and Coach Daniels on the other side of the ball. He’s got to be “loaded for bear” based on all that’s happened of late. And there is nothing like a determined #12 to insure the other team is playing from behind a good portion of the time which of course, will play very nicely into the new strengths of this re-born Patriots D.

    I for one, can’t wait!!

  9. Nick says:

    Awesome write-up. Thanks. James White ceiling, 90% of Vereen?

  10. Russell says:

    Very well done report, sounds solid. RB-Gaffney and DE Flowers are my big surprise players this year.
    2016 the Patriots will most likely have 3 QB’s on the roster, (drafting a guy 4th-5th round) which will mean one less roster spot next year.
    As far as trades go, Vollmer sounds interesting, but my thought is Chandler Jones, for a 3d and 4th K.C. , Minn., or San Deigo.

    • John says:

      I think Jones does have a chance to be traded, eventually, but not right now. The way the defense is constructed, it would be too large of a loss. They brought in Shead to lessen the snap-load, not just maintain it between two ends/rushers. Besides, the depth beyond Jones, Nink, Jones, is too much unknown. There would be way too much uncertainty between secondary and line.

      That being said, they do have a shot at being special. They are also an injury away from not getting going.

      Love Vollmer, but I could see Cannon/Fleming eventually being suitable to start at RT. Would like to see Solder become more confident/leader/anchor before that happens, though.

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