If there's one team glad that the offseason is over, it's the New England Patriots. You wouldn't know it following the news, but the Patriots were pretty good last year and figure to be pretty good again despite the offseason turmoil. They went 12-4, ran away with the AFC East title again, and made it to the AFC Championship Game.
However, the roster is facing some turnover after numerous free agent departures, injuries and legal issues. They still have Tom Brady and Bill Belichick at the helm, but how will they hold up in the division with the Dolphins on the rise? Let's take a look.
Brady will have some new faces to throw to. The Patriots released Brandon Lloyd and let Wes Welker go to the Broncos, but they think they have a reasonable facsimile in new signee Danny Amendola. Amendola is a reliable possession receiver when healthy, but he hasn't been healthy often in his career. They signed a number of additional free agent receivers in Michael Jenkins, Lavelle Hawkins and Donald Jones. Neither player caught more than 41 passes last year and Jones was released shortly before camp. The Patriots did keep one of their top offensive linemen, re-signing right tackle Sebastian Vollmer to a four-year deal.
On defense, the team mostly stood pat aside from a handful of draft picks like Jamie Collins, Logan Ryan and Duron Harmon. They brought back cornerback Aqib Talib on a one-year deal and signed safety Adrian Wilson. Wilson spent 12 years with the Arizona Cardinals and is expected to be the starter at strong safety, replacing Patrick Chung.
The Patriots also signed a quarterback to compete with Ryan Mallett for the backup spot. You probably haven't heard of him.
Training camp schedule and location
Like most teams these days, the Patriots will be holding training camp at team headquarters in Foxborough. Unlike most teams, the majority of practices are closed to the public, with only a handful of practices available for fans to watch. They will have a special event on July 29, when Tedy Bruschi and Gil Santos are inducted into the team's Hall of Fame, capped off by an evening scrimmage at Gillette Stadium. The event is available to season ticket holders and Foxborough residents.
Here's the complete schedule, from the team's official website:
|Friday, July 26||Practice, 9:00 a.m.|
|Saturday, July 27||Practice, 9:00 a.m.|
|Sunday, July 28||Practice, 9:00 a.m.|
|Monday, July 29||HOF induction ceremony/Evening practice (open to season ticket holders), 5:00 p.m.|
|Tuesday, August 6||Joint practice with Eagles (not open to public)|
|Wednesday, August 7||Joint practice with Eagles (not open to public)|
|Friday, August 9||Preseason game, New England @ Philadelphia (7:30 p.m.)|
|Tuesday, August 13||Joint practice with Buccaneers (open to public)|
|Wednesday, August 14||Joint practice with Buccaneers (open to public)|
|Friday, August 16||Preseason game, New England vs. Tampa Bay (8:00 p.m.)|
|Thursday, August 22||Preseason game, New England @ Detroit (7:30 p.m.)|
|Thursday, August 29||Preseason game, New England vs. NY Giants (7:30 p.m.)|
For a team so used to winning, there are several positions on the roster with major questions of talent and depth. Here are the major areas where answers must be found:
Wide receiver - Four of the team's five leaders in receptions last year (Welker, Brandon Lloyd, Hernandez, Danny Woodhead) are gone, leaving it down to Amendola, rookie Aaron Dobson and veteran Michael Jenkins. Dobson has a chance to be the team's leading receiver if he stands out in training camp. Julian Edelman is still around after being brought back on a one-year deal, but he's still dealing with injuries and this may be his last chance to prove himself to the team.
Tight end - Hernandez' issues are well documented. Rob Gronkowski isn't a sure thing for Week 1 after multiple surgeries, so it will be up to Jake Ballard, Michael Hoomanawanui and Daniel Fells to pick up the pieces in camp. Ballard is already on the active/PUP list and may not make the final roster depending on how Gronkl's recovery goes. Undrafted rookie Zach Sudfeld is a potential wild card if he gets enough training camp reps. The pecking order at this position may not be decided until the final preseason game.
Cornerback - Alfonzo Dennard could be facing jail time after violating his probation. He's scheduled for a court appearance on July 31. If he's forced to miss time, the Patriots may be forced to turn to Kyle Arrington as the starter after he played in the slot last season. Ryan and Ras-I Dowling could also get long looks in camp, given Arrington's struggles as a starter in 2011.
New England's complete roster can be found at the team's official website.