Training camp offers a vast array of news and nuggets that are reported and repackaged and re-reported until it all becomes a mishmash of nothingness. You can generally have a good idea of what happened in the Patriots camp if you follow the main outlets and reporters, like ESPN’s Mike Reiss, CSNNE’s Tom Curran, the Herald’s Jeff Howe, the Globe’s Ben Volin, WEEI’s Chris Price, and NESN’s Doug Kyed.
But people often miss the great stories and information by those up-and-comers on the beat, like ProJo’s Mark Daniels, MassLive’s Kevin Duffy, and the Herald’s Adam Kurkjian. I’ll group CSNNE’s Phil Perry here, even though he’s on television and looks like a movie star. You should seriously follow them all on Twitter for updates.
I’ve gone through and compiled a list of the stories that didn’t make as much of a wave, even though they definitely deserve attention. If you’re interested in updates on LeGarrette Blount, results from 1-on-1 competitions in camp, and cornerback depth charts, keep reading below!
Running back LeGarrette Blount
Fullback James Develin made a good impression in his return to the field, especially with tight end Clay Harbor sidelined, showing the offense the rushing lane sized reasons why he should make the 2016 roster. But he hasn’t been the only member of the backfield to stand out.
Running back LeGarrette Blount is the top dog in the backfield with Dion Lewis unable to participate while on the PUP list. Blount has been trying to copy some of Lewis’ moves this offseason.
"I feel like my hands are superglue, you know what I'm saying?," Blount said via MassLive after a one-handed touchdown grab in the end zone during practice. "I have hands like [tight end Rob Gronkowski], they're just not as big. I could break a rock with my hands. Nah, I'm just joking. I mean, I've been working on catching the ball a lot. I've been catching the ball a lot this offseason. That's a part of my game that I want to work on a lot. I feel like if I can show them I can catch the football, hopefully I can bring a little bit more on offense."
We haven’t heard much about the running backs this preseason, beyond the apparent quickness of undrafted rookie D.J. Foster, so this information of Blount will hopefully bear fruit in the regular season. Blount worked on catching the ball last season and we didn’t see much of it, so perhaps this year will be better.
All the wide receiver injuries
The Patriots are without their big veterans, as Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola remain on the PUP list, and veteran Nate Washington has been held out of both padded practices. This has allowed the younger players to really step into the offense- and it’s also why you keep hearing the names of the depth players.
Chris Hogan has been the clear top receiver in camp, but he injured his shoulder on Sunday. It’s expected to be minor, but his health is definitely something to monitor. Beyond Hogan, there’s been a quartet of players that have made plays over the past few days.
Aaron Dobson continues to thrive and we are now on the third season of Dobson Watch where we cross our fingers that this will translate to actual games. He’s made grabs over Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan, on top of Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung, with one hand while leaping, while singing the soundtrack to Hamilton, probably, and he offers the most unique skill set on the roster as an outside receiver.
We noted on Sunday that Dobson’s success is directly related to his mental confidence. The Patriots showed their confidence in him by keeping him on the roster. Let’s see if it pays off.
Three younger receivers have also turned heads: Chris Harper, DeAndre Carter, and Malcolm Mitchell. Harper Hype is Here, but he’s likely playing his way back onto the practice squad (and I mean that as a good thing). Carter is an undersized slot receiver and could also wind up on the practice squad- but he made the catch of the day on a 40-yard deep shot from Jacoby Brissett.
Mitchell looks like a player that could have an impact as a rookie:
Gronk led everyone with 11 catches today. Malcolm Mitchell had 10.— Mark Daniels (@MarkDanielsPJ) July 31, 2016
Malcolm Mitchell was Tom Brady's favorite target today with six catches. He had three from Jimmy and one from Jacoby.— Mark Daniels (@MarkDanielsPJ) July 31, 2016
In 1-on-1s, Malcolm Mitchell went 4-0 - beating Justin Coleman, Darryl Roberts twice and V'Angelo Bentley— Mark Daniels (@MarkDanielsPJ) July 31, 2016
Young interior offensive line standing out
#Patriots (R) G Joe Thuney continues to impress in 1on1s, run gm periods. Keep on fellow (R) Ted Karras--bulldog like a young Ryan Wendell— Matt Chatham (@chatham58) July 31, 2016
Based on the 1-on-1 reports from CSNNE, we can start to see which players are winning on a regular basis. The interior linemen David Andrews, Joe Thuney, and Ted Karras are standing out, while the tackles aren’t doing so well.
Andrews has won more than he’s lost, while Thuney has stopped the likes of Malcom Brown, Trey Flowers, Rufus Johnson, and Frank Kearse. Karras has beaten Geneo Grissom, Joe Vellano, and Rufus Johnson.
The tackles, on the other hand, are struggling. Jabaal Sheard has been paired up with Nate Solder, Rob Ninkovich has lined up with Marcus Cannon, and Chris Long has faced Cameron Fleming. The tackles have not won any of these match-ups. I think these match-ups also show that Ninkovich is still regarded as the #2 defensive end, even though he’s been lining up at linebacker in 11-on-11s.
EDs Trey Flowers and Geneo Grissom
Nugget on early #Patriots personnel usage...of similar-sized, young DE trio of Grissom/Flowers/R Johnson, GG goes w/ ST, others stay w/ DL— Matt Chatham (@chatham58) July 30, 2016
Pro Football Focus had a chat with Trey Flowers, who was their highest rated edge defender in the 2015 draft, and 2nd highest rated edge defender in college footballs (behind only 2016 3rd overall pick Joey Bosa). Flowers rated as the best run defender in college football, but the biggest transition into the NFL for him is participating on special teams.
“I just have to play my role, including special teams,” Flowers said. “That’s different, playing special teams. I didn’t have to do that at Arkansas. I have to do what they want me to do on defense, whether it’s inside or outside—have to do what’s best for the team.”
But according to former Patriots special teams star Matt Chatham, Flowers remains with the defensive line when the special teams unit goes through drills. This is a risky position for Flowers because he will have to outright win a spot on the roster due to his defensive prowess, while Geneo Grissom can afford to be less impressive on defense because he offers greater special teams ability.
Looking at the 1-on-1s, Flowers beat Solder, but lost to Joe Thuney. Grissom lost his only reported match-up with Karras.
CBs Justin Coleman and Cyrus Jones
While Jones has received a lot of press as the 2nd round pick, we shouldn’t forget about Justin Coleman.
Looks like Justin Coleman is ahead of Cyrus Jones on the depth chart right now— Mark Daniels (@MarkDanielsPJ) July 31, 2016
@JaMarc0 Roberts is there with Jones and Coleman, but those two had better days, IMO. Still extremely early, though, of course.— Adam Kurkjian (@AdamKurkjian) July 28, 2016
@JaMarc0 V'Angelo Bentley, Jonathan Jones, Cre'Von LeBlanc, E.J. Biggers look to be in that next tier after Coleman and Jones.— Adam Kurkjian (@AdamKurkjian) July 28, 2016
Coleman has a year in the system so it makes sense that he’s ahead of Jones. It’s clear that the Patriots have the following cornerback depth chart:
1) Malcolm Butler, 2) Logan Ryan, 3) Justin Coleman, 4) Cyrus Jones, 5) Darryl Roberts, and then the undrafted free agent rookies are battling veteran E.J. Biggers for a possible 6th roster spot.
That’s a pretty strong and young roster at cornerback. So even if Ryan departs in free agency, as expected, and even if the worst case scenario happens and Butler is claimed by another team, I think a Coleman, Jones, Roberts trio would be fairly promising in 2017, with all three having the upcoming season under their belt. That said, Butler will likely be around and the cornerback position should be solid moving forward.
Rookie DT Vincent Valentine
Valentine missed Saturday’s practice so he could attend the funeral for his former teammate Sam Foltz, the reigning Big Ten Punter of the Year. Valentine and Foltz were a part of the same recruiting class at the University of Nebraska and formed a close bond.
Foltz passed away in a car crash while returning home from teaching at a local kicking camp.
“I want to bring his obituary and put it in my locker and just keep it and make sure I know that every day this will drive me to not take this for granted, not take any days off and just push myself,” Valentine said.
Nate Solder playing with his now-healthy baby every day after practice is the best moment of camp by far pic.twitter.com/e9ZcXY3MGO— Ben Volin (@BenVolin) July 30, 2016
We need to highlight the happiness in the above photo. Left tackle Nate Solder has been a fighter over the past few seasons as he battled back from testicular cancer and torn biceps muscles. But his biggest fight has been for the health of his 1-year-old son, Hudson Solder, who was diagnosed with kidney cancer soon after his birth last summer.
"I am so excited to be out here," Solder said, via the Herald. "It's been a while since I've been able to play and everything, so I'm really excited about that. My son's doing awesome. Treatments are going well, and we've been getting so many prayers and messages from so many people. We just appreciate it so, so much."
Watching a parent and child fight through such a traumatic experience has to put everything in perspective as we approach the 2016 season. Remember that the team is made up of more than players; they are husbands, fathers, brothers, and sons. They have their own hopes and dreams and aspirations on and off the football field.
Remember that the results on the field are the product of a game. The health and security of the players should always take precedence.