Fall is coming.
The dog days of summer have been replaced by the beginning of NFL training camp, and that’s a beautiful thing when you take a look at the American League standings and the Red Sox. The Patriots? You don’t ever have to look too far down the list to find them. They’ve consistently put out a winning product since 2001, and that’s why they’re the most popular sports team in New England.
So what are we keeping our eyes on as training camp begins?
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What, you thought you’d get through one Patriots article without the “D” word? Hopefully someday. But this is still a real problem. As it stands, Tom Brady is set to miss the first four games of the year. It’s unlikely he serves all four games. (After all, what the heck did he actually do?) It sounds like Team TB12 is going to fight this until the end. But what if the end is still a game or two? All eyes are going to be on second-year quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and how comfortable he looks leading an NFL offense during camp and preseason. The hope is that Garoppolo doesn’t step on the field in Week 1, but as for now they’ve got to prepare like he will.
Who steps up at corner?
Darrelle Revis is gone. Brandon Browner is gone. Kyle Arrington is gone. The Patriots’ best cornerbacks from last year are no longer with the team, which opens up some major questions in the secondary. Yes, Malcolm Butler made one of the greatest plays in Super Bowl history, but prior to that he wasn’t a player who was relied upon much and oftentimes was picked on by opposing teams. Logan Ryan returns, though he has yet to shine through two seasons. Bradley Fletcher and Tarell Brown are new additions and will have an opportunity to win major roles. In other words, hope for a strong defensive line this season.
Fans will get a good look at the Patriots’ first pick in the 2015 draft, Texas defensive lineman Malcom Brown, along with Stanford safety Jordan Richards, Oklahoma defensive lineman Geneo Grissom and Arkansas defensive lineman Trey Flowers, among others. And don’t forget last year’s first-rounder, Florida DT Dominique Easley, who hit the IR last season.