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New England Patriots Preseason Predictions

I do love training camp, really.  It's a very relaxed, fun atmosphere, even if Foxborough is on the South Shore. ;-)  But... THERE'S A PRESEASON GAME 5 DAYS AWAY!!!!  WOOOOOOOOOOHOOOOOOOOOOO!!  Excuse me, I need a moment... Ok, I'm better now.  Yes, sports fans.  This Thursday at 7:30PM on WBZ, the boys take on the Eagles in Philadelphia.  What makes Belichick one of the best coaches in the NFL is how he uses these games.  That is, these games are not about winning, but about evaluating players in an NFL-level game situation.  It's about playing against players other than your own teammates.  And it's about making some decisions - who stays and who goes.  At any rate, I thought I'd jot down a few thoughts about what I think we'll see:

  • Tom Brady - Tom Brady hasn't played against another team since 9/7/2008.  He's looked outstanding in training camp and appears to be planting and throwing without any restrictions.  Yes, there is the obvious brace, but many players wear them and for the always "immobile" Brady, I don't think this represents that big of a problem for him.  Unlike 2008 preseason, when Tom's ankle was a bit of an issue, he needs the reps.  I predict he'll play roughly 1.5 quarters per game.
  • Kick Return - Special teams has been a major priority at camp.  New special teams coach, Scott O'Brien, has been working the gang hard.  We've also seen a number of guys rotating at kick return duties.  With the departure of Ellis Hobbs to the Eagles, we were in dire need of a return man.  When I was at camp, Wes Welker was doing a phenomenal job pulling down kicks while Joey Galloway had a drop.  Unless Marima's seen something different, I think Welker will become a mainstay at kick returns.
  • Cornerbacks - There's lots going on at this position.  Some say Leigh Bodden and Shawn Springs are locks for starting positions, but I think the second year guys (Terrence Wheatley and Jonathan Wilhite) will challenge for playing time as well as Darius Butler.  From what I've read, Butler super athletic, a hard worker, and carries himself with a bit of swagger.  In my mind, that's just what we need at the corners.  I think you'll see these guys rotating in and out quite a bit.
  • Vince Wilfork/Ron Brace - As much as Vince Wilfork has said he would never negatively impact the team because of his contract situation, it makes sound business sense to give rookie Ron Brace some playing time.  I can see him getting some NFL reps as a 3-4 nose tackle, but let's not forget the Patriots change their alignment based on the team and situation; it's not uncommon for them to line up in a 4-3 which is where Brace will certainly come into play.  Scary: Vince Wilfork and Ron Brace lining up next to each other.
  • Safety - Brandon Meriweather is listed as a safety, but he's the heir apparent for Rodney Harrison's vacancy which puts him at SS.  Patrick Chung as classifed as an SS, so it's likely Chung will be Harrison's backup.  We know Brandon, but I'd really like to see Chung get some reps here.  He's been one of the hardest workers at camp and, like Butler, appears to be progressing well.

Those are some of my thoughts and ramblings.  What do you see for this preseason?  Got any thoughts on the offensive line?  How about running backs?  What would you like to see at receiver?  Football, football, FOOTBALL!!