The questions were originally put up for debate a few weeks ago. The information brought to us by the 2nd media-friendly OTA is in plain, notes from the 3rd media-friendly OTA is in italics, and bold denotes notes from today's mini.camp.
1) Who's the starting Center?
I, being a habitual fan of underdogs, would like to see Ryan Wendell fight for this one. He showed some great flashes while filling in for an injured Dan Connolly, who was filling in for an injured Dan Koppen. This is probably the hardest position to project. If Koppen looks like he doesn't have it anymore(his 2010 season wasn't great) then it's Connolly or Wendell. I wouldn't blame the Pats if they wanted to see if they could do better than Connolly.
This has yet to be determined, but it still appears to be a battle of the Dans. Whether it's Connolly or Koppen I'd expect Center to be a target position in next year's draft given age and talent concerns.
If there were a depth chart for Center, Dan Koppen would headline it right now.
2) Who's the starting Running-Back?
I like Danny Woodhead, but he's a situational guy. I like Joseph Addai, but he wasn't brought in to start. I like Stevan Ridley, but the Pats drafted Shane Vereen ahead of him for a reason. Anecdotal evidence suggests Vereen has added some muscle ahead of his sophmore season and while it's too early to make much out of it, he was getting some 1st team reps last week.
After Vereen apeared to be getting the 1st team reps, Ridley also got some. If I had to guess on the depth chart I'd say it's Vereen, Ridley, Woodhead, and Addai. If I had to gamble I'd say Vereen who could be a strong 3rd down back and help out in Brady's ruthless no-huddle offense. He was the #1 back for no-huddle work.
Shane Vereen is the main guy right now.
3) Who's the #3 Wide-Receiver?
No, not the slot-receiver. That's Wes Welker. So really, what I'm actually asking is "who's the #2 outside-the-numbers guy after Lloyd?". Jabar Gaffney is a new/old addition, Deion Branch needs to prove he's not getting too old, and Chad Ochocinco needs to prove he isnt clueless.
Well, we now know it isn't Chad Ochocinco. I'd say this is a Branch/Gaffney fight, with Gaffney having the edge given his younger legs. Stallworth has been surprisingly shinning on STs. By the way, all indications are that barring injuries Brandon Lloyd is going to be a damn fine addition to this team. With that said, Pats may look for a 2013 draft pick to be developed into a WR.
It's still Branch/Gaffney.
4) Who's the Right-Tackle?
I felt Sebastien Vollmer is more of a Left-Tackle than a Right-Tackle for awhile. But he's also injury prone. Marcus Cannon was getting some 1st-team reps at Right-Tackle recently and it wouldn't surprise me at all if he overtakes Vollmer as the #2 Tackle after Nate Solder.
If I had to gamble, I'd say Marcus Cannon has the right-edge right now. Vollmer, Zusevics could be candidates for PUP.
Marcus Cannon hasn't been playing any other position. It looks like the sophmores will protect the edges this season.
5) Who's the starting 43RDE/34ROLB?
Well, we know it's not Markell Carter. Trevor Scott is stil getting 1st team reps, but what might happen when/if Andre Carter returns or Chandler Jones gets more NFL-ready?
Curren reports Andre Carter may be back for training camp. Scott, Jones Ninkovich, and Bequette make this an interesting group already. Justin Francis out of Rutgers however could be this year's UDFA to make the final 53-man roster. Expect plenty of NASCAR as Belichick seizes on the new trend.
6) Who's the starting LOLB?
Ninkovich has been seeing a lot more time at the line as a light 43LDE. Hightower, after seeing a lot of time at Mike LB(Spikes has been rehabbing) has finally seen more reps playing in space. I have been saying it and I'll continue to say it; Hightower and Ninkovich could be a deceptive and dangerous duo on the strongside. Different players but they both bring so much versatility there.
Ninkovich is still spending his time on the DLine. Tracy White, who played LOLB in the SB, is still rehabbing.
7) Who's the #2 DT/DE(5-tech)?
No clue. Could be another target position for the 2013 draft.
Myron Pryor looks like a PUP candidate.
8) Who's the #2 Corner-Back?
After Devin McCourt there is a lot to muddle through. Ras-i Dowling is returning from injury for his sophmore season, Kyle Arrington has so far looked much better in the slot than outside the numbers, Sterling Moore came out of nowhere to make some great plays(and not so great ones) towards the end of the 2011 season, veteran Will Allen was brought in, Malcolm Williams is going to compete after a year on the practice-squad, and heck Alfonzo Dennard may even get a chance if he deosn't get arrested.
Devin McCourty is definitely #1. Ras-i Dowling has had some good days and some bad days. Speed hasn't been his problem but a perceived stiffness to his hips, which he had surgery on. It seems to be Dowling vs. Arrington. While Dennard has had positive reviews, I don't expect him to leap-frog ahead of Dowling/Arrington this year. I haven't heard much on Williams, and Allen appears to be more of a slot-CB/Safety. Watch Marquis Cole as he's a darkhorse for depth behind McCourty/Dowling/Arrington/Dennard. Pats seem to go into every season with a former Jet on the 53-man roster.
Right now, Kyle Arrington is playing RCB in base. In nickel Ras-i Dowling comes on and appears to push Arrington into the slot, where Arrington plays best.
9) Who's the 4th Safety?
This position is partly insurance and especially for ST-value. It's the spot after Patrick Chung, Steven Gregory, and Tavon Wilson. I think it's going to be a 3-way brawl between Sergio Brown, FA pickup Marquis Cole(Jets), and draftee Nate Ebner. Whoever has this position will be a core STer.
Positive reviews for Chung/Gregory as the 1st team Safety-tandem and strong reviews for rookie Tavon Wilson. I think it's veteran Will Allen vs. rookie Nate Ebner, with Brown very much on the bubble.
Allen/Wilson figuring out the 3rd Safety spot, looks to favor Wilson. Sergio Brown and Josh Barrett, once statrters in the 2011 regular season, appear to be the 3rd string Safety tandem.
10) Who's the return man?
McCourty, Arrington, Edelman, Welker, Woodhead, Ridley, and Vereen have taken return duties at OTAs. And Donte Stallworth. Right now, it sounds like Stallworth might be the surprise favorite. Very bad news for Edelman if true, as Edelman hasn't been seen working with the D at all. Could be a 2013 draft priority.