With much of New England stuck in what feels like a never-ending heat wave, it’s hard to believe that fall isn’t too far away.
No, we aren’t trying to rush the summer away. But the New England Patriots begin training camp this week, which means football season is just around the corner.
The Patriots are full of storylines headed into the 2016 season. Deflategate is no longer one of them, but the after-effects of it certainly are. You’ll see Tom Brady take part in training camp and preseason, but perhaps in a lesser role. And once the regular season begins? He’ll have no role through the first four games while serving his (unjust) suspension.
Fans are welcome to attend camp, and this year they’ll be treated to joint practices with the New Orleans Saints and Chicago Bears. What else can they be on the lookout for?
It’s Jimmy G Time . . .
The glass half-empty folks are headed for the hills. It’s either Tom Brady or bust for that crowd. But for everybody else, Brady’s suspension (albeit utterly preposterous) opens the door for the Patriots – and the rest of the NFL – to get a really good look at what Jimmy Garoppolo can do. It’s no secret that Brady wants to play at least a few more seasons in New England. If Garoppolo can prove that he’s a starting-caliber quarterback in the NFL, the Patriots might consider flipping him to a QB-starved team (there are many of them) at some point. Or, they might trade Tom Br- nah . . . It’ll be extremely interesting to see how Garoppolo does with first-team reps in camp. He’ll be under the microscope exponentially more than he ever has in his life. How will he deal with the pressure both on and off the field?
. . . But he’ll need help
Take away any quarterback’s top targets and his protection and he’s doomed to fail. Hopefully that’s not the case for Garoppolo, but the Pats will begin camp with some key players on the sidelines. Wide receivers Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola, along with running back Dion Lewis will start camp on the Physically Unable to Perform list. Meanwhile, offensive linemen Sebastian Vollmer, Shaq Mason and Tre' Jackson will also be on the same list. They’re eligible to come off at any point during camp. With the way Edelman was hitting baseballs at Fenway Park last week, hopefully he’s not too far away.
Keep your eye on . . .
It’s training camp, which means there will be plenty of overhype after every session. Who should you keep your eye on and why? How about rookie wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell? He shined in minicamp and will continue to get a shot with Edelman and Amendola down. Tight end Martellus Bennett will undoubtedly turn some heads. Offensive lineman Nate Solder returns after an injury-shortened 2015 season. On the defensive end, veteran newcomers Terrance Knighton and Chris Long will get their first taste of Patriots camp, and rookie Cyrus Jones could make some noise not only as a cornerback but as a punt returner.