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Sunday NFL Thoughts: Patriots rookies report today- who will have biggest impact? Join Pats Pulpit!

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As the Patriots rookies report to camp, we want our own class of Pats Pulpit rookies!

1. New England Patriots rookies are expected to report to Gillette Stadium today, July 24th, and here’s the full preseason schedule. I’m pretty excited about this rookie class because, even though the Patriots didn’t have a first round pick, there are a handful of impact rookies that will feature in week 1.

I’m going to name the rookies that I think will have the biggest impact in 2016, although they shouldn’t be a surprise. I think the Patriots will have two day one starters in draft class, with three or four rotational players that could see larger roles in 2017.

2. Offense: 3rd round OG Joe Thuney. There are reports that Thuney could be a day 1 starter at left guard, which would be great. The Patriots have invested plenty of midround draft capital on the interior line in recent years, with 4th round picks on Bryan Stork, Cameron Fleming (remember that his first serious playing time in 2014 was at right guard), Tre Jackson, and Shaq Mason. The Patriots spent a 2014 6th round pick on Jon Halapio (didn’t make the team), acquired former top 10 pick Jonathan Cooper from the Cardinals, and have two undrafted players competing for time in Josh Kline and David Andrews.

If Thuney can beat out all of these players as a rookie, then it will be a good sign for the strength of the line and for the offense as a whole. I want to see Thuney or Kline at center, with the other at left guard, and with Cooper and Mason competing for the starting right guard role. I think that would be the best line-up on the roster.

3. Defense: 2nd round pick CB Cyrus Jones. Yes, I’ve listed the team’s top two picks as the most likely to have an impact and, in my opinion, that shows some good drafting by the Patriots. Thuney and Jones don’t have to start because there are players that have been in the system for a year or two- a testament to Bill Belichick’s roster building and avoidance of forcing unprepared rookies into the lineup. But I think Jones will win the starting slot corner role and play roughly 60% of the snaps in 2016- which would be a boon for a 2nd round rookie.

4. Special Teams: 6th round ATH Kamu Grugier-Hill (KGH). With safety Nate Ebner not reporting to camp this week (more on that below) there is a big opening on special teams and I think the Patriots are thrilled about the growth potential of KGH. He’s one of the most athletic prospects in recent years and saw time as a gunner opposite of Matthew Slater in OTAs. While Ebner is a punt protector on special teams, there will be shuffling that takes place and I think KGH will be the one to take advantage of the situation.

5. New England Patriots safety Nate Ebner will not be reporting this week and he called in to the Dan Patrick Show to discuss his attempt at winning an Olympic gold medal in rugby. Ebner says that the Patriots organization has been extremely supportive (not new news), that tight end Rob Gronkowski would dominate (he’s not a human being), and that football and rugby are very different.

“There’s things about both of them that make them very tough,” Ebner said when asked about whether football or rugby was tougher. “It’s just depends on what your definition of toughness is really, to me. If it’s about how hard you hit somebody, I’ll tell you football is probably going to take that one just because of the physicality of the game.

“But there are aspects to rugby which are extremely tough when it comes to [a] cardiovascular standpoint- the amount of mileage that we have to run in such a short period of time, but you also have to tackle and get back up and then compete, there’s a very tough aspect of cardiovascular fitness that is in rugby, especially rugby 7s, that you don’t see in football at all.”

I would expect Ebner to come back in peak “cardiovascular” shape, but he’ll need some time to adjust to the contact of football because it’s just different.

6. Call to fans! Patriots rookies have to report today and we’re looking for some rookies of our own. Pats Pulpit is the fastest growing site at SB Nation (Belichick would be proud) and we owe it all to our readers. Our community is what makes writing so much fun and it is where we derive a lot of our creativity.

So whether you came via our Facebook page, our Twitter account, the Yahoo! front page, a Google search, or anything in between, we want you to sign up today and join in the fun! We’d love to hear from you.

For those veterans returning for another season- and those that are just signing up- feel free to introduce yourself in the comments section. How did you become a Patriots fan? How did you find Pats Pulpit? What are you looking forward to in 2016, both on and off the field? I’ll start!

My name is Rich Hill. I’m 26 years young and from the North Shore so I didn’t really have a choice about my fandom. My earliest Patriots memory comes from the Patriots-Packers Super Bowl (again, I’m young!) which was a difficult time for a new sports fan. Those were the years that Brett Favre was the most exciting football player on the planet and he was plastered all over Sports Illustrated for Kids. I had his poster on my wall, but I had to make a choice to support the Patriots or the Packers for the big game. I chose the Patriots and didn’t look back- and it’s paid off pretty well for me.

That means I didn’t have to live through the dark days of Patriots fandom- I’m hoping user JohnHannahRules chimes in because he’s an authority I really respect on all things Patriots. The worst year I’ve had to endure was 2008, which started with 18-1 and then a long break before Tom Brady tore his ACL in week 1 of the next season- and any “worst year” that involves a Super Bowl appearance can’t be that bad.

But that injury to Brady led me to the Pulpit. When Brady returned to the field in 2009, I was interested to see how the Patriots offense compared to earlier versions under Tom Terrific- and I wanted to share my own thoughts and analysis. I was searching for a site that offered any insight and PatsPulpit was one of the few that offered a comments section that wasn’t a cesspool of spam and trolls. It was welcoming, it was fun, it was collaborative, and it was full of Patriots fans that wanted their team to be the best in the league.

The first fanpost I sent in was titled, “Steven Jackson? Maybe?”, which I consider evidence that I was born 7 years too early. If you scroll down in the comments section, you’ll even see notes from Marima and SlotMachinePlayer- two people that predate me at the site, and two people that I consider cornerstones of the community. After a few weeks of writing power rankings, MaPatsFan- the former Editor-in-Chief of the site- asked if I wanted to join as a contributor.

Over the years, I’ve written over four thousand articles and I’ve grown as an analyst, as a writer, and as a fan. I’ve covered five conference championships, two Super Bowls, and an incredible Super Bowl victory. I’ve discovered my love for the NFL draft and my hate for the Ideal Gas Law. It’s been an excellent ride- and one that I hope continues for a long time.

So let’s hear your stories! And if you want to join as a contributor, we have directions on how you can start writing for the site.

Let’s make 2016 the best season in Pats Pulpit’s history.