With a strong camp, Kittner could make the decisions at quarterback difficult. While he isn't as comfortable in the offense as Rohan Davey or Kliff Kingsbury, among the active quarterbacks (33-year-old Jim Miller is on the non-football injury list rehabilitating from shoulder surgery), Kittner, 24, has the most NFL playing experience, starting four games and appearing in three others for Atlanta last year.
Patten was the star of camp three years ago, and went on to establish himself as a go-to guy for two seasons before winding up on injured reserve in 2003 after knee surgery. David Givens stepped up in Patten's absence and is all but assured of a roster spot, along with Troy Brown, Deion Branch, and Bethel Johnson. The Patriots drafted P.K. Sam in the fifth round, re-signed J.J. Stokes, and also have promising Chas Gessner, who had a good spring in Europe.
New England let walk its best offensive lineman, Damien Woody, feeling it unwise to invest more than $20 million in an interior lineman when Hochstein, who was on the practice squad to begin last season, had just filled in admirably for three postseason games. Can Hochstein hold down left guard for 16 games? First, he has to hold on to the job. He'll be pushed by free agent Bob Hallen and Stephen Neal.
The Patriots saw enough in the former Steelers reserve to give him $1.3 million as a restricted free agent. Maybe the rest of us will see it as well. Bailey, just 24 (though he's entering his fourth season), could push Jarvis Green and Ty Warren for playing time at end in the 3-4.
RANDALL GAY, ERIC ALEXANDER
Rookies coming from Louisiana State, even if undrafted, have an edge over their peers. Gay, a cornerback, should give seventh-round pick Christian Morton a run for one of the remaining secondary spots, while Alexander, whom the Patriots were high on going into the draft, could give the team needed youth at inside linebacker.