New England needs to get fit and learn the playbook but there’s roster decisions and signings to make, too.
1. Two-a-days or no, get back in shape
Patriots players took their physicals and did their conditioning runs yesterday, but that’s not enough to determine who stayed physically fit over the offseason on their own — and who didn’t have the discipline to do so.
There are no more full-practice two-a-days, so out-of-shape players will get a little break at first. But it won’t take long for Bill Belichick to find the ones who are a step or two behind the rest.
Don’t be surprised to see coaches really push players during upcoming padded practices; whatever the rules, Belichick will get his guys ready.
2. Figure out who backs up Brady
There’s no QB controversy in New England ... when it comes to the starter, at least.
The Patriots took a “value pick” during this year’s draft, nabbing Arkansas QB Ryan Mallet in the third round. Mallet was projected to go as early as the first round, but fell due to reported character issues.
The team’s only backup last year was Brian Hoyer, but he didn’t get much time on the field, and his job as Tom Brady’s backup is nowhere near permanent. If Mallet impresses during camp, he could take Hoyer’s job — and Brady’s, someday.
3. Sign a wideout and a linebacker
With the salary cap at $120 million and the Pats’ obligations at a reported $113 million the day the lockout was lifted, they’re in a good position to sign a key player or two before the season kicks off.
Some big names are available at WR, and Bill Belichick has a history of paying for veteran pass-catchers. On the defensive end, Tully Banta-Cain’s release made what was already a need at OLB that much more pressing.
Look for a couple established players brought on by next week.
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