New England Patriots Links 6/12/12 - Mandatory Minicamp Begins Today

Tom Brady will look to amp up the intensity level during this week's practices, to set the tone for the final break before Training Camp.

Mike Reiss shares what's on his radar as the Patriots begin the last series of practices before the start of Training Camp.

Belichick's explanations. For the first time since the NFL draft, Belichick will hold a news conference with reporters and there is a lot of ground to cover. For example, this will be the first chance to hear Belichick's explanations for his coaching staff shakeup and additions, why the team cut receivers Anthony Gonzalez and Chad Ochocinco, if he expects Waters on the club, and what it means to have Gronkowski locked up through 2019, among other topics.

How's it coming together in the secondary? Over the last three weeks, a variety of combinations have been used in the defensive backfield. Devin McCourty, who played safety in sub packages late last season and in the playoffs, has been exclusively at cornerback, while second-year cornerback Ras-I Dowling is back in the mix after playing just two games (both starts) last season because of a season-ending hip injury. The club looks like it has a lot more depth at cornerback and each practice gives the coaching staff a chance to assess the best fits. Ditto at safety, where Patrick Chung remains the constant, with free-agent signee Steve Gregory, rookie Tavon Wilson and veteran Will Allen showing up at different times in recent weeks.

Rookies and their retention. At this point, rookies have been with the club for six weeks and have had a lot thrown at them. This is the culmination, all the individual parts coming together over the three-day camp. How will they respond? This could be a good gauge to see how first-round draft choices Chandler Jones and Dont'a Hightower, and their fellow rookies, are handling the jump from college to the NFL from a retention standpoint. The youngsters haven't looked out of place to this point.

Jeff Howe gives us five things to watch at Patriots minicamp and notes three practices will be open to the media.

1. Consistency Is Key: The chance to watch three consecutive practices is valuable in understanding how the Patriots view certain players. While it stuck out that players such as running back Shane Vereen and cornerback Devin McCourty got a lot of reps at their positions during organized team activities, only three of the Patriots’ 10 OTAs were open to the media. Therefore, certain players could have been used in completely different roles during the private sessions. Minicamp will offer a glimpse at how the coaches believe the players have progressed during the nine weeks of offseason workouts.

2. Offensive Rhythm: Tom Brady got into a nice groove Thursday with Wes Welker, Deion Branch and Julian Edelman, and Brady also has worked closely with Brandon Lloyd during OTAs. It’s obvious how much Brady trusts Welker and Branch, but the quarterback hasn’t been able to find that type of rhythm with a third wide receiver in years. That’s why the Patriots signed Lloyd and two of Brady’s other recent favorites in Jabar Gaffney [stats] and Donte Stallworth. It’s time to see how much they can stick out during minicamp.

4. Special Teams Standouts: The depth charts are crowded at wide receiver and cornerback. While the players are carving out a hierarchy at each position, the wild card comes on special teams. That’s why Matthew Slater has been on the roster since 2008, and Edelman has been one of the NFL’s better punt returners when healthy. It’s also how Kyle Arrington stuck around before becoming a starting cornerback. The Patriots have given Stallworth a chance as a kick returner, and cornerbacks like Sterling Moore, Alfonzo Dennard and Will Allen will need to display value on special teams to make the squad. That’s why it’s worthwhile to see how many opportunities certain players earn when they’re working through a crowded depth chart.

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