A.J. Derby: Starting with the 2nd year player out of Arkansas, Derby came into this training camp after not playing at all in his rookie season. He was a 6th round pick out of Arkansas and described as a solid pass-catching tight end. The team obviously has the starting tight end spot covered with some guy named Rob Gronkowski, but there is competition behind him and obvious #2 Martellus Bennett. Derby is fighting for the #3 tight end spot with Clay Harbor, Bear Pascoe, Bryce Williams and Steven Scheu.
Derby was making a lot of plays on Sunday, including some solid catches in the open field as well. He didn't seem to show any ill effects from his undisclosed injury that took him out all of last season, or the knee surgery he had in November. He will be 25 in late September and obviously is a bit older than most sophomore players, but Derby has the traits to be a solid pass-catching option at the tight end position. He also may have a leg up on everyone else because he was a 6th round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. He'll be a name to watch in the reserve tight end battle.
Aaron Dobson: I know, I know. I'm not a fan of Aaron Dobson, like most Patriots supporters. But I do have to admit, he made some great plays on Sunday. Getting extra reps with the 1st and 2nd team due to various wide receiver injuries, Dobson showed well. Earlier this off-season, ESPN.com's Mike Reiss said that Dobson would be "the starting X wide receiver if the season started today". It is certainly high praise for the fourth year pro out of Marshall who has disappointed since being taken in the 2nd round back in 2013 NFL Draft.
But with Brandon LaFell gone, the team does currently have a competition of sorts for the starting "X" wide receiver role across from Julian Edelman, the "Z" wide receiver. CSN New England's Phil Perry left Dobson off of his 53 man roster for week one back in late June, so there is clearly some split on how they feel about Dobson. I'd tend to say that Dobson is still in danger as the team has Nate Washington and Keshawn Martin also fighting for that spot as well. Dobson did look good and show off the talent we had hoped to see out of him, but we will most likely need to see more if he wants any shot at a roster spot in 2016.
DeAndre Carter: Carter is an unknown wide receiver who has bounced around the NFL since being signed as a free agent by the Ravens last year. He spent time on their practice squad, the Raiders and also the Patriots as well. New England brought back Carter at the beginning of the off-season and have given him solid looks in training camp, as I saw on Sunday. Carter was a terrific wide receiver at Sacramento State University, but only competed at FCS level. He turned heads in last year's Ravens training camp, but now he has a shot to impress the Patriots.
Carter is undersized at 5'8", 190 lbs but showed off some solid route-running and sure hands on Sunday, which he got more reps due to the current injuries at the wide receiver position. Unless he has a mind-blowing preseason, Carter may be stuck on the Patriots practice squad for 2016. But with Danny Amendola getting up there in age and his contract situation always something to monitor, the team could move on from him next off-season in favor of someone like Carter. He'll see plenty of time during the preseason, so keep an eye on him.
Brock Vereen: Coming into his third season in the NFL and his first training camp with the Patriots. He is a former 4th round pick with the Bears who started four games in his rookie year (2014) before dealing with some injuries last season that led to him being released. He eventually made his way to the Patriots last season but spent the entire time there on the practice squad. With training camp now in full swing, Vereen saw some time in one-on-ones and impressed me when watching him. He was able to keep up while also being very physical and not giving much away.
The brother of former Shane Vereen, Brock may struggle to obtain a role on the team with meaningful snaps on defense with Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung and Duron Harmon all ahead of him. Not to mention Jordan Richards and Brandon King, who are also fighting for a roster spot. Vereen's calling card this year may be on special teams, where he'd most likely see any time on the field. He has starting experience but is no guarantee to make the 53 man roster. He showed well on Sunday but he'll need to do a lot more to have a spot on the roster in 2016.
Cyrus Jones: The team's 2nd round pick out of Alabama, Jones showed why he was the team's first pick in this past NFL Draft. Spending time returning punts/kicks along with some work in one-on-ones and 11-on-11s, Jones was awfully impressive. He showed real burst during his special teams and elusiveness in the open field when returning. Also, he was doing well in coverage and being able to keep up with who he was covering during 11-on-11s. Considering he received accolades for both his work on defenses and special teams during his senior season, this should come at no surprise.
Jones is currently not projected to be a starting outside cornerback for the Patriots in 2016 with Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan locked into those roles. Jones may be penciled in right now as the Patriots #3 outside cornerback and/or function as New England's primary slot cornerback. He may also see time as a returner in both punt and kick returns if the team wants to keep Danny Amendola/Julian Edelman instead. Jones may not have a "prominent" role in 2016, but with both Butler and Ryan slated for free agency in 2017, we could be look at the team's future #1/2 outside cornerback.
DJ. Foster: Signed as an undrafted free agent out of Arizona State back in May, Foster has dealt with some minor hamstring issues throughout both OTAs and mini-camp. On Sunday, he didn't look like he was hindered at all by any injury. He made some very precise cuts with the ball in his hands and looked to be running at full speed during parts of practice with no issues. With LeGarrette Blount not practicing from what it looked like and Dion Lewis still on the P.U.P. list, other running backs got the chance to earn some more touches with the 1st and 2nd team.
After spending time as both a wide receiver and running back at Arizona State, Foster fits the prototypical mold of a Patriots player who has multiple position versatility. If he can stay healthy and continue to progress at both positions potentially, it could lead to Foster earning a spot on the team's 53 man roster come week one. Granted, I am a big fan of Foster, but with how the team's running back situation is, it isn't out of the realm of possibility. James White may not be guaranteed a week one spot due to his inability to produce in the run game despite showing well in the pass game. If Foster can show well in both facets, he could pull off an upset. Keep a close eye on him as we progress to pre-season.
V'Angelo Bentley: Like Foster, V'Angelo Bentley is a rookie un-drafted free agent. On Sunday though, especially during one-on-ones, Bentley stood out to me. Despite being a tad undersized to be a prototypical cornerback (5'10", 190 lbs), he held his own during one-on-ones against some of the bigger wide receivers on the field. He showed good burst as well. He did see some time during return drills and was agile in the open field as well, something to keep in mind.
Bentley obviously faces an uphill battle for a roster spot with Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan, Cyrus Jones and Justin Coleman all ahead of him at cornerback. Bentley's only shot to make the 53 man roster may be as a return man. He still will fight Cyrus Jones and Keshawn Martin for that job, but both of those players are practically safe in terms of their roster spots, so Bentley does have a tiny shot. He most likely will not make the week one roster for the team, but he could be someone the Patriots try to bring back on their practice squad. Showing in training camp helps someone's stock.