New England Patriots training camp practices are now closed to the public and we can reflect upon the changes that have happened over the past month. There have been some younger players that have emerged as favorites to make the roster, while injuries have prevented veterans from really participating as their roster spots are now in jeopardy.
Here are the winners and losers from Patriots training camp.
Winner: Jimmy Garoppolo
Loser: Tom Brady
It was barely a month ago (July 13th) that Brady had his suspension reinstated and Jimmy Garoppolo became the starting quarterback for the first four games of the season. While the suspension took place before training camp, it’s definitely a blow worth recognizing.
Now in practice itself, Brady looks as determined, driven, and destructive as ever before. He’s still lethal in his accuracy and he’s building a nice rapport with the back-up receivers due to all of the injuries. But the fact that he’s out for four games is a big loss.
Garoppolo is the big winner because he gets a chance to put himself on display for the rest of the NFL. If his audition goes well, then the Patriots might net themselves a good draft pick next offseason.
Winner: Tyler Gaffney
Loser: Donald Brown, LeGarrette Blount
Gaffney took his opportunity in the preseason and ran it into the end zone. He’s not just competing for a roster spot, he could very well take over for Blount who was simply “meh” against the Saints. Gaffney is active on special teams and as a receiver which will give him a big leg up on Blount.
Brown is another player that could’ve vied for starting time, but he’s been battling injuries all camp. That’s not what you’re looking for while on the bubble.
Winner: Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell, Aaron Dobson
Loser: Keshawn Martin, Nate Washington
I could’ve put Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola in the “loser” category since they haven’t been participating, but their roster spots are fairly secure. Edelman has returned and looked great, so hopefully he’ll be 100% shortly.
Martin and Washington are two players that have missed serious time and have allowed other players to really step up in their place.
Hogan has been the best receiver on the field this summer, while Dobson made highlight grabs a daily occurrence. Mitchell is now injured, but should return shortly and shone brightly when he was on the field.
Winner: A.J Derby
Loser: Clay Harbor
I considered Harbor a roster lock due to his guaranteed money, but he hasn’t been able to stay on the field enough to win the job. Derby, on the other hand, has developed a nice rapport with every quarterback and has plenty of upside. This battle still isn’t settled, but it’s a lot closer than I thought it would have been just a month ago.
Winner: LG Joe Thuney, C David Andrews, RG Shaq Mason
Loser: C Bryan Stork, OG Josh Kline
The Patriots have all but announced their interior line is going to be Thuney, Andrews, and Mason. The trio have been lining up all preseason and a recent practice ejection for Stork might have just locked up the starting job for Andrews.
But this is a good sign because Thuney, Andrews, and Mason look good. They’re not starting because of injuries, or because they’re the “least bad” candidate. Thuney was one of the best linemen on the field last Thursday, Andrews has worked to cover up the weaknesses he had last season, and Mason looks more polished as a pass blocker.
Kline hasn’t done anything wrong, but he’s been groomed as the back-up center as his role looks to be the emergency super-sub on the line.
Winner: Trey Flowers, Markus Kuhn
Loser: Rob Ninkovich
Kuhn has been receiving first team reps next to Malcom Brown and has elevated himself from the roster bubble into the competition for playing time. He still has a long way to go, but the coaching staff likes his effort and he did well against the Saints.
Flowers has been one of the most exciting players to watch this preseason and his dominant performance against the Saints won him more time with the first team defense. He looks to be a key part of the Patriots defensive rotation moving forward.
Ninkovich is the big loser because Flowers could very well take his spot on the defensive line. Ninkovich is an aging veteran that will be a free agent after this season, and the better his back-ups play, the less money Ninkovich will be offered next season. Hopefully he returns to the field soon and shows why he has been such a great starter for the Patriots over the years.
Winner: Shea McClellin, Kamu Grugier-Hill
Loser: Jonathan Freeny
Another reason Ninkovich is in the “loser” category is the quality play from McClellin. It’s clear the two serve a similar function in the Patriots defense and McClellin did a good job in his place against the Saints. The Patriots signed McClellin for cheap this offseason and have him under control for three seasons.
KGH has been making plays in the passing game on a daily basis in practice and the team envisions him as a passing down linebacker. He is still a work in progress, but he’s done enough to get the coaches attention and possibly earn a roster spot.
Freeny hasn’t been able to practice for a while and just returned to the field after wearing a non-contact jersey. His issue is that he might be a pure special teams linebacker this season, which is fine, but it is a clear demotion from being the third linebacker last season- and it is a job with far less job security.
Winner: Jonathan Jones, Cre’Von LeBlanc
Loser: Darryl Roberts
The Patriots added Jones and LeBlanc as undrafted rookies and they have proved themselves over the summer. Jones has a nose for the ball, while LeBlanc does a great job of staying in position and understanding routes.
Roberts is the big loser because he’s battling the duo for a final roster spot, and he’s not keeping up. He’ll have some time to prove himself, but the other two have outperformed him in practice and against the Saints.