What, you expected anything less?
There’s been good, bad and ugly so far in Foxboro, with some players proving a solid offseason can do a body of work good and others displaying that sometimes, too little attention paid in the winter and spring can mean a summer of trouble. As the players enjoy a Monday off, here’s a look at what you should know so far.
Dont’a Hightower a Hit
When the Patriots selected not one, but two, defensive power houses in the first round of April’s draft, Chandler Jones, selected first, got most of the attention. Now, it’s linebacker Hightower’s turn. He’s been a standout in camp so far, blowing up guys at the line of scrimmage and playing with the kind of ferocity this defense has lacked for years. He looks to be able to contribute early and often this coming season.
Rob Gronkowski a Miss
Not that is should be altogether shocking, given that Gronk appeared to spend the majority of his offseason partying it up, posing for magazines and starring on reality shows, but the 23-year old tight end has struggled thus far. His two drops in yesterday’s practice (one for a Patrick Chung interception, one at the goal line) are certainly not reflective of Gronkowski’s skill level, but they might be a reflection of his lack of attention to his game this offseason. Football is a mental activity; your mind has to be in on it as much as anything else.
Brandon Llyod, Tom Brady Building Chemistry
Llyod himself admitted he isn’t all the way there with Brady yet, but the two seem to be developing a rapport. Their two big connections yesterday had the 14,000 fans in attendance (a record for the Pats) on their feet. It’s been awhile since the team has had a consistent deep threat and despite Llyod more advanced age, he could have enough left in the tank to excite much larger crowds in Gillette all year.
Running Back’s #1 Spot Up for Grabs
It’s a battle of the second-year guys as Shane Vereen and Stephan Ridley battle it out to be Brady’s number one in the backfield. With the departure of BenJarvus Green-Ellis to the Cincinnati Bengals and Kevin Faulk still unsigned, the position is in for a world of change…but who’s the right man for the (number one) job? Place your bets with Ridley. He started to break out towards the end of last season and he seemed to adapt to the Pats system more quickly than Vereen.
Defensive Backs Still Up in the Air
While the front seven have started getting their act together, the other six positions on the Patriots defense are still somewhat in shambles. Or, at least, that’s how it appears. Devin McCourty hasn’t looked much better and Ross Ventrone, that lovable underdog, appears to be in line for a starting position at cornerback. Not the greatest situation, especially given how last season went for the Pats. But this team is not built to stop teams; it’s built to score points. As long as the production can remain high on offense, as it usually does, all the defense has to do is that which they do best – not much of anything at all. And then create a turnover.
Extra Points: Jets Edition
Oh, the New York Jets. Always keeping it classy.
Last week, Jets cornerback (and consummate professional) Antonio Cromartie was asked about the best defensive coaches in the game. He listed Rex Ryan as the best (HA!) and Dick LeBeau (legit) as the second best. No mention of Belichick, arguably the best defensive mind the game has ever seen? Nope.
“Did I say his name?” Cromartie asked, via Newsday. “It’s Rex and LeBeau. I got a one and a two, not a one, a two and a three.”
Welp, considering he can’t remember the names of all his children, not surprising Cromartie blanked on Belichick’s status as one of, if not the, greatest of all time. Regardless, it’s funny Cromartie has to diss the Patriots to get attention for himself. Still bitter about that series sweep last season, eh?
Just a little.