Following three weeks of Team Organized Activities (OTAs) the New England Patriots will began phase two of offseason workouts, as they begin Mandatory team minicamps starting today and ending on Thursday. These practices will be closed to the public, but open to the media.
While we are still a few weeks away from team Training Camps, we should get to learn a little more about what the team's roster outlook is looking like. Because these practices are mandatory, every player on the roster, injured or not, should be in attendance. Let's take a look at close to 90 players that should be in attendance today:
Punter (1): Zoltan Mesko
Long Snapper (1): Danny Aiken
Minicamp Storylines And A Few Players To Watch, After The Jump!
Injuries, Injuries And More Injuries
The season hasn't even begun yet, but the Patriots are having to deal with concerning injuries to some of their really key players. The dynamic Tight End duo of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, who combined for over 2,000 yards receiving and 20 touchdowns, both missed Team OTAs. Gronk is rehabbing from an ankle injury he sustained in the AFC Championship game, while Hernandez is dealing with an unknown issue.
Another area that injuries are taking toll is the offensive line. Pro-Bowl guard Logan Mankins was sidelined during Team OTAs after he underwent surgery to repair a torn ACL. He's expected to be ready to go by Training Camp. Just recently, it was revealed that starting right tackle Sebastian Vollmer underwent a "minor back procedure" a few weeks ago. No word on the extent of the injury to Vollmer's troubling back.
Other notables that have missed time due to injury are linebackers Brandon Spikes and Tracy White, wide receiver Matthew Slater, and Markus Zusevics.
Crowded Party At Wide Receiver
There's always a position that the Patriots will load up on heading into Training Camp. Last year it was defensive lineman, this year it's wide receivers. New England will head into today's Minicamp with 11 receivers on the roster.
The group used to be bigger, actually. Before minicamps even started, the Patriots had close to 15 wide outs on the roster. Notably, the Patriots cut Chad Ochocinco and Anthony Gonzalez to help reduce the number down to 11. There will be some interesting competition across the board.
The roster locks at WR seem to be Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, Jabar Gaffney, Deion Branch and Matthew Slater. Other wise, it's fair game. That means, incumbent Julian Edelman could be left out, as could be veteran deep threat Donte Stallworth. Certainly something to look at.
PLAYER TO WATCH ON BOTH SIDES
Brian Waters-- A lot has been made about Waters' absence from Team OTA's the past few weeks. Is he retiring or is he not? Well, according to reports close to him, he intends to be at Mandatory Minicamps starting today, and will take his place as starting right guard.
If he is present today, than the Patriots' offensive line looks a lot ore fortified with the presence of a Pro Bowl veteran guard on the right side. If Waters isn't there today, then let the skepticism arise again about possible retirement and let the replacement search initiate. He's not the one to skip mandatory team events
Devin McCourty-- Heading into the 2012 NFL season, we are all a little insure as to what position McCourty will be playing. Heck, I don't even think he knows whether he'll be a cornerback or a safety.
Last season, McCourty struggled to find his stride at corner following a Pro-Bowl rookie season. The coaching staff decided to shift him to "help" at the thin safety spot, to see if he could find himself. Turns out, it was even worse.
With the team adding free agent safety Steve Gregory and safety Tavon Wilson through the Draft, it would seem that McCourty will more than likely get reps at cornerback, alongside reigning NFL-interception leader Kyle Arrington. However, thinks can change and injuries happen, so keep an eye out for where McCourty lines up during these minicamps.