TRAINING CAMP GOALS
1. The primary goal for coach Bill Belichick's
team this summer will be to construct the foundation for what can be at
least a competitive defense. Despite advancing to the Super Bowl last
February, New England was almost historically bad on defense during the
regular season. The primary weakness came against the pass. As such,
the Patriots added players through both free agency (Jonathan Fanene,
Steven Gregory, Trevor Scott) and the draft (Chandler Jones, Dont'a Hightower, Tavon Wilson, Jake Bequette) with an eye on improving the
overall talent on that side of the ball. Training camp will give the
new veterans a chance to get acclimated to New England's varied
schemes, and the rookies to prove that their potential could be an
asset from the get go. If the defense doesn't come together early it
could be another long season on that side of the ball.
2. Figure out the running game. As long as Tom Brady stays healthy, it's clear the Patriots are once again going to
have one of the best offenses in the game. They will score a lot of
points, with the primary action coming through the air. But this summer
the offense will be looking to define the roles of the various players
in the team's backfield committee. Gone through free agency is
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who had 24 touchdowns over the last two seasons
and never fumbled in his four years in New England. Former Colt Joseph Addai has been added as a veteran presence, but the biggest impact
could come from second-year players Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen.
Ridley needs to overcome a fumbling issue that developed late in his
rookie season, while Vereen could be a surprise impact player after
doing little a year ago.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Defensive end/outside linebacker Chandler Jones.
Not only did Belichick finally take an edge pass rusher in the first
round, he actually traded up to get Jones. Having lost Mark Anderson's
10 sacks to free agency and with Andre Carter and his 10 sacks from a
year ago currently still a free agent, the Patriots will look for the
potential-filled Jones to have an immediate impact on the edge of the
front seven. Even with Anderson and Carter combining for 20 sacks, New
England had the NFL's 31st-ranked pass defense a year ago. If there is
to be improvement in this area some of it will have to come in the pass
rush and that will have to come, in part, from Jones.
ON THE HOT SEAT
Linebacker Brandon Spikes. During two seasons in
New England the former second-round pick Spikes has proven two things.
First, is that he struggles to stay on the field. Last fall Spikes
missed eight games to injury. AS a rookie he missed four games to an
NFL suspension. But the second thing that Spikes has proven is if he's
on the field he can be a contagious, emotional, impact player on the
inside of the Patriots' front seven. Spikes will be pushed to be on the
field and play with more consistency thanks to the addition of
versatile first-round linebacker Dont'a Hightower. Spikes could either
become a key figure on the Patriots' defense or see his playing time
diminish in 2012 if he can't prove himself a reliable option for
MEDICAL WATCH: No updates.
TRAINING CAMP NOTES: McCourty Has Good
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