Per yesterday’s post, there’s a lot to keep an eye on as we get deeper into camp (and closer to the preseason). Some things I’ll be watching for today:
Can Gronkowksi recover?
Every player has a bad practice or bad game; Gronk’s case of the dropsies on Sunday could be nothing more than an isolated event. But throughout the offseason, Gronkowski’s antics, while not completely unwarranted considering he has just as much right to fun as anyone else, were at least a little concerning. After having two fantastic years in the league, Gronkowski has never been a bigger star, but it’s easy to get caught up in the hype machine. Here’s hoping the big man can settle back into football and continue to progress at the elite level he’s accustomed to playing at.
Julian Edelman’s Role
Edelman has literally done it all for the Patriots, and it’s kind of fun seeing where he’ll end up next. He was arguably the best defensive back the Pats were fielding by the end of last season and he had great success in the return game. So far in camp, Edelman has continued to get a lot of reps on special teams, but is that where he’ll stay? Or will Bill Belichick try him out again on defense full-time? Or will he get another shot at wide receiver? It’s unlikely considering there’s a pretty full slate of guys at that position already, but given Edelman’s work ethic and penchant for surprises, it wouldn’t surprise me.
The Defense’s Growth
Fair or not, this is a group that really needs to show improvement every practice. There is more talent at the position than there’s been in awhile, but they are still not built to stop a team; they’re built to stop the bleeding long enough to get a win. And if that’s the mentality (as it seems to have been the past two seasons), there is no wiggle room for this unit. They have to make strides. Not as big as the ones the offense is making, but still big. Dont’a Hightower has been a standout and Vince Wilfork continues to show why he’s one of the best defensive tackles in the game, but can the defensive backs step up their game? Can they make improvements? They’re going to have to.
Hernandez the Great
If there’s one player who’s been getting almost as much love as Hightower in camp, it’s third year man Hernandez. He’s technically a tight end, but the guy can really do everything; he blocks, he runs like a receiver, he can play H-back. Even quarterback Tom Brady has been complimentary, telling Pat Kirwan and Tim Ryan on Sirius XM’s “Movin’ the Chains,” that Hernandez has “really gained a lot of body control, and he’s really become a dependable player in our offense. You get those 1 on 1 matchups, and he got a lot of those last season and made a lot of yards after the catch as well, because he’s tough to guard 1-on-1. He’s really become someone that our offense can really trust.” Not bad. Not bad at all.