Mike Reiss details some areas of intrigue for the Patriots as training camp finally opens.
Left tackle. The Patriots drafted Nate Solder in the first round (17th overall), but there is a question of how quickly he'll be able to step in without having been part of the team's offseason program. Solder has yet to sign a contract and veteran Matt Light remains a free agent, so who will the Patriots line up at that spot? They could flip Sebastian Vollmer from right tackle to left tackle, or turn to someone like Mark LeVoir. This will give an initial indication of what the coaching staff might be thinking as a backup plan, and if it includes Nick Kaczur, who projects as a potential salary-cap casualty.
Right defensive end. With Vince Wilfork at nose tackle and veteran Ty Warren potentially ready to return at left defensive end after missing the 2010 season with a hip injury, there is uncertainty at the right end spot. Seven-year veteran Mike Wright, free-agent signee Marcus Stroud and rookie Brandon Deaderick are among the top candidates to play on the right side, with no clear-cut No. 1 option.
Brady entering 12th season. Quarterback Tom Brady had surgery on his right foot in January and the recovery has gone as expected, putting Brady in position to lead players onto the field Thursday. Watching Brady work his craft during camp is one of the annual highlights for this observer.
Bodden and Crumpler shouldering the load. Veteran Leigh Bodden, who was the team's best cornerback in 2009, missed last season with a torn rotator cuff. Meanwhile, veteran tight end Alge Crumpler, a key cog in the running game as a blocker, underwent offseason shoulder surgery. This will be a chance to see how far along both are in the rehab process. A source said Crumpler needs more time as part of his rehab, so it would be a surprise to see him.
Spikes at inside linebacker. A 2010 second-round draft choice, Brandon Spikes played an early-down role as a rookie before serving a four-game suspension in December. While he returned in the playoffs, the suspension stunted some of the momentum he had generated. Can he get it started again?
Young receivers answering the call. As Wes Welker said on Tuesday, now we'll find out who put in the work. The lockout tested the professionalism of every player and we'll get a better idea of how third-year receivers Brandon Tate and Julian Edelman, and second-year receiver Taylor Price, handled it. Their continued development is important for the future, with Welker and Deion Branch, the top receivers on the depth chart, entering the final year of their contracts.
Outside linebacker/rush end spot. A topic of discussion entering the last few years of training camp, the Patriots look a bit thin with Rob Ninkovich, Jermaine Cunningham, Eric Moore, Marques Murrell and 2011 sixth-round pick Markell Carter atop the depth chart. The Patriots experimented with Derrick Burgess last year but that didn't work out. Watching the personnel and how this position unfolds will be one of the big storylines of camp.
- The New England Patriots sign two draft picks and 12 rookie free agents.
- Patriots Today - Players at work as camp nears. (1.06 min. video)
- Join the Patriots Alumni and celebrate the return of football with a taste and toast of Patriot Place.
- Ian Rapoport notes the Patriots dropped a bombshell by acquiring the talented and troubled DT Albert Haynesworth for a 2013 5th-round pick.
- Greg A. Bedard says the bold move by the Patriots to acquire Albert Haynesworth is contingent on him passing his physical, which has been an issue in the past.
- Mike Reiss offers his initial reaction to the Patriots acquisition of Albert Haynesworth.
- Tom E. Curran hopes the disruptive force New England acquired from the Redskins only explodes on the field and not outside the stadium or in the locker room.
- Greg A. Bedard talks about the splashy rumors surrounding the Jets and says their activity shouldn't make fans worry about the Patriots.
- Mike Reiss reminds us that with the Patriots there is a difference between quietness & inactivity. Belichick has a plan and we'll know it once a deal is done.
- Shalise Manza Young reports the Patriots re-signing Sammy Morris was the highlight of a quiet day for the Patriots yesterday.
- Mike Reiss notes RB Sammy Morris has agreed to terms on a one-year deal with the Patriots. "
- Mike Reiss reports rookie TE Lee Smith, a fifth-round pick out of Marshall, has reached agreement with the Patriots on a contract.
- Mike Reiss explains the Patriots can bring back both Sammy Morris and Kevin Faulk without a hit to the salary cap.
- Tom E. Curran says that despite the silence from the Patriots, they want to keep Matt Light around.
- Ian Rapoport looks at five camp battles that should capture Belichick's attention.
- Tony Massarotti looks at the top issues the Patriots must deal with in training camp.
- Jeff Howe says the Patriots showed no interest in signing free agent WR Donte Stallworth despite local speculation.
- Ron Borges discusses DeMaurice Smith's visit with the Patriots players yesterday and their unanimous vote to re-certify as a union.
- Joe Fortenbaugh (Nat'l Football Post) Bargain shopping: Where most teams saw a problem, the Patriots saw an opportunity.
- Staff (NFL.com) After two troubling seasons in Washington, Albert Haynesworth is the next disgruntled player to seek a rebirth in New England.
- Keyshawn Johnson (ESPN) Pats should sign Randy Moss. (1.15 min. video)
- Michael David Smith (ProFootballTalk) Jets consider Randy Moss.
- Michael David Smith (ProFootballTalk) Report: 49ers are Jets' main competition in Nnamdi Asomugha sweepstakes.
- Mike Florio (ProFootballTalk) Holmes contract leaves plenty of cap space for Nnamdi.
- Nate Davis (USA Today) NFL ticket sales skyrocketing post-lockout.