Quarterbacks All three quarterbacks were phenomenal today. Tom Brady started by finding guys that were open. Brady made the right throws and already looks like he's in mid-season form after the first day of training camp. Backups Ryan Mallett and Jimmy Garoppolo are competing for the backup job. Both backups were made an amazing first impression. At this point, either one could be Brady's successor. Both quarterbacks exploitd the second and third team secondaries which is good news because the Patriots' have a ton of depth on secondary.
Running Backs New England's three running backs picked apart these front 7's. Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, and Brandon Bolden all have the ability to split carries when Brady is in at quarterback. Having these guys on the first team, second team, and third team made the quartrebacks job that much easier given the balance on offense.
Wide Receivers Julian Edelman had his moments. He made some solid catches against Brandon Browner on medium and deep passes, but could only catch short passes against Revis. Same could be said for Danny Amendola who looked like the receiver New England made him out to be after signing him in the 2013 Free Agency Period before his injuries affected him. Amendola is still injury prone, but one of Brady's biggest assets when healthy.
The backup receivers Aaron Dobson, Kenbrell Thompkins, and Brandon LaFell looked like starters as well. LaFell is supposed to start across from Edelman, but will have to compete against Amendola, Dobson, and Thompkins fo the starting job. All three of these wide receivers were phenomenal against a second team cornerback tandem featuring Alfonzo Dennard and Logan Ryan.
When your #3, #4, and #5 guys perform this well along with your #1 and #2 receivers you can go 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 and make the right progressions to pick apart any secondary in the NFL.
Tight End Rob Gronkowski was phenomenal in the limited 7-10 reps he received. Having him made Brady's job so much easier. Gronkowski abused Patrick Chung in coverage. New England needed to double team Gronkowski with Revis and Duron Harmon just to keep him in check.
Second string tight end D.J. Williams struggled despite the brilliant play of these second team wide receivers. Third string tight end Michael Hoomanawanui and fourth string tight end Nate Byham were outstanding against the Patriots' third team defense. Mallett and Garoppolo were able to adapt to the two tight end set Brady used when he had Gronkowski and Hernandez.
Offensive Line Left tackle Nate Solder struggled against right end Chandler Jones in one on one battles. Everybody else on the Patriots' first team offensive line did well enough to protect Tom Brady. Right tackle Sebastian Vulmer and left guard Logan Mankins were men among boys on this offensive line.
The second team offensive line was able to run block impressively. The second team offensive tackles struggled in pass protection. Mallett and Garoppolo did not have a lot of time to make throws, yet still picked apart the secondary. Same could be said about the third string offensive tackles. Other than that, the offensive line looked good.
Defensive Line Chandler Jones was phenomenal. He looks like he will be a leader on this defense in 2014. Vince Wilfork was a threat as a run stuffer in limited action. New England's first team needed to double team Wilfork just to keep him in check. Left end Rob Ninkovich struggled against Vulmer.
The second team defensive line struggled to stop the run. Second team pass rushers Will Smith and Jake Bequette won their one on one battles against the offensive tackles in pass rushing situations. Second team offensive tackle Marcus Cannon looked like a right guard rather than a right tackle with his play on day 1 of Patriots training camp. 2014 first-round pick Dominique Easley got abused by 2014 fourth-round pick Bryan Stork. I'm still bitter about the Patriots passing on Rashede Hageman out of Minnesota for Easley. Louis Nix was available too. I didn't want to question the Patriots for their draft picks at the time, but Easley struggled today.
Linebackers Middle linebacker Jerod Mayo was solid, but not great when adjusting back from right outside linebacker to middle linebacker. The rest of the Patriots linebackers struggled to adapt to their roles. Hightower and Jamie Collins struggled to adapt to their new roles. These guys need to step up in training camp. If any of these starting linebackers get injured the defense is toast. The rest of the second team and third team linebackers were horrible and have no business seeing the field during the regular season.
Secondary Cornerback Darrell Revis had his way against every receiver he covered. Revis covered up to five different receivers in one on one battles, and looks like he Pro Bowl corner he was on the Jets. Strong safety Patrick Chung and strong safety Duron Harmon split first team and second team reps. Chung did awful, but Harmon was phenomenal. Free safety Devin McCourty did well in coverage today. Brady's receivers struggled when Mccourty double teamed his #2 target. Luckily Gronkowski was open on those plays. When McCourty helped Chung and Harmon double team Gronkowski, Brady picked apart this secondary by glancing at Brandon Browner as if he knew which criminal he would bring in for questioning. Brady was that good today.
The second team struggled except for when Harmon was on the field. Free safety Tavon Wilson did better than Patrick Chung and second team cornerbacks, but he still isn't good enough to start. Wilson looks like a reliable backup if McCourty gets injured. I love the progress Wilson is making in year three with the Patriots.
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