Training Camp Battles
I know minicamp has just finished and it's still 6 weeks until training camp but in these oh so quite summer months I thought it would be good to discuss interesting camp battles.
It seems that as of now Leigh Bodden is inked in as the starter at right CB and Darius Butler is the starter at left CB. At this point I would be extremely surprised if either of those players didnt start. However the battle seems to be hotting up nicely for the nickel back slot. Given the fact that he has the most experience at playing it looks as though Jonathon Wilhite is pencilled in to have this position for now, however Terrence Wheatley is hoping to come back healthy and if he stays healthy is the better player IMO. Then when you factor in rookie CB Devin McCourty things could get interesting pretty fast. While BB has a tendency not to play rookies right away, McCourty has that physical edge that the team really needs and could force his way into the lineup based on that. A wildcard here especially in a lot of sub packages could be Pat Chung. If MacGowan starts at SS then BB will try to get Chung on the field and from reports from OTAs and Minicamp he has been playing a lot of man coverage on TEs and slot WRs.
As of now-Wilhite
After training camp-Wheatley(if healthy)
As I mentioned above the real competition here is for the strong safety position between Chung and MacGowan. I think James Sanders may be used as trade bait through camp leaving Merriweather at one spot and the other two to battle it out. Macgowan played really well at times last year especially against some of the top TEs however Chung brings a real energy to the field when he's there. I have a feeling that the Pats would like Chung to be the starter and Nick Caserio even mentioned him as one of the most improved players over the offseason.
As of now-Chung
After training camp-Chung
This is where things get really interesting. It is extremely tough to gauge who would start if the season started today. Assuming that TBC would have one of the spots after last season you're left with Burgess, Ninkovich, Woods, Crable and Cunningham. I would all but rule out Cunningham at this stage however he will hopefully see a lot of playing time. Burgess played pretty well last year without being noticed I thought. However his problem is he probably doesnt have the athleticism to be a 3 down player at OLB. Pierre Woods has been serviceable at best in the past and really shouldnt be relied upon. Ninkovich is a guy who I think is very underrated and can do a lot of things. He will never be a double digit sack guy or anything be can more than hold his own. For this spot though I think Crable is the key player. No one can expect much from him based on the fact that he has never played a down in his career however if he stays healthy he could be a factor. He also has reportedly bulked up a bit too. If he can stay on the field then the OLB spot could become a strong point behind the defensive line. If not then no one will be surprised.
As of now-TBC and Ninkovich
After training camp-TBC and Ninkovich
On the defensive line both Wilfork and Warren are definite starters. At RE though there are a few players who can step in. Gerard Warren has been getting the most reps there and would really add a lot of size and strength and make it very hard to run against. Mike Wright played a lot last year as did Myron Pryor and I think both players could work their way into the starting lineup with a good camp. Ron Brace seems to be working exclusively as Ty Warrens primary back up so may be out of the question here. Rookie Brandon Deadrick may also be an outside shot here however I think it will come down to what they run as the base defense. Apparently they have been doing a few things that arent based around the normal 2 gap front which means Pryor and Wright may have an advantage as they are better at penetrating the line. However I think when the season starts the Pats will look to go with the same scheme as normal with the odd change especially on passing downs.
As of now-Warren
After training camp-Warren
While there are a lot of bodies at the moment competing for the third WR spot across from Moss and Welker/Edelman I think it's pretty cut and dry who wins here. Veteran leadership in Torry Holt and David Patten are well and good through camp however I would be surprised if at least one of them are not cut. Taylor Price seems to be getting a lot of attention from Tom Brady which can only be a good thing however he is a rookie who missed a lot of the offseason due to not graduating until mid June. Julian Edelman will more than likely start the season in place of Welker then become his main backup and play in 4 WR sets. I would be shocked if Buddy Farnham or Darnell Jenkins etc made the roster let alone got into the starting lineup and Sam Aiken will see his playing time reduced. That leaves Brandon Tate as the starter. While I do think Tate has the potential to be a very good player I feel as though he will win this battle by default and would prefer to see a more intense battle. Hopefully by mid season he will be fully pushed by Price though.
As of now-Tate
After training camp-Tate
BoneKrusher killing it with the sig