Training Camp: What Needs To Happen

Training camps are right around the corner. With rookies getting ready to show their stuff, and veterans knowing they have to prove they belong, camp figures to be an interesting mix of team building and competition. Each camp should have goals. Here are three for the Patriots.

1. Build chemistry.

Unless you spent the last few months living under one of the endless piles of construction materials littering the landscape outside of Gillette Stadium, you already know the Patriots had arguably the most active and productive offseason in the NFL. But as New England VP of player personnel Scott Pioli himself has so often said, there is a big difference between collecting talent and building a championship team. The Patriots have won as the best team in the past. Now they have a chance to win as maybe the most talented team in the league.

Free agency brought versatile Pro Bowl linebacker Adalius Thomas, big-play receiver Donte' Stallworth, backup running back Sammy Morris, experienced tight end Kyle Brady and big-bodied pass catcher Kelley Washington. The trade winds carried in All-Pro big-play receiver Randy Moss and all-effort slot receiver Wes Welker. And the draft landed versatile safety Brandon Meriweather.

That's a lot of additions for a team that was just a first down away from another trip to a Super Bowl last fall. The trusted veterans in the locker room remain, but there will still be an adjustment period this summer and fall as all the new faces fall into their roles with Bill Belichick's team.

2. Settle into roles.

Speaking of roles, Belichick is a big believer in playing the season from week to week and putting all his players in the best position to succeed each week. The Patriots will once again do that in 2007 and utilize every body on the roster, but with all the new faces and players returning from injury it's worth watching how the team's various roles play themselves out throughout the summer.

The receiving corps and the secondary top the positional groups that head into camp with plenty of questions to answer in terms of who will be doing what when the season opener rolls around.

3. Prepare Laurence Maroney for a healthy season carrying the bulk of the rushing load.

As a rookie Maroney spit time with starter Corey Dillon. The sophomore will have no such veteran luxury this fall as Dillon was released during the offseason, taking his team high 199 carries, 812 yards and 13 rushing touchdowns with him.

Maroney limped through chunks of his rookie campaign with knee, rib and shoulder injuries. His production came in bunches, including a breakout Week 4 game in Cincinnati that included 125 yards and two touchdowns. It's not clear whether he'll be ready to open training camp as he continues to rehab from offseason shoulder surgery but he must be healthy and ready to shoulder the load by September if the Patriots hope to maintain any sort of balance on offense as others on the roster (Sammy Morris, Kevin Faulk, Heath Evans and Co.) are anything but every-down options. Right now it's Maroney or bust for the Pats ground game.

CAMP CALENDAR: Training Camp opens July 27.

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