FOXBOROUGH — The 2013 Patriots are starting to take shape, with some questions both answered and unanswered through the first seven practices.
Here’s some thoughts on the team’s first week of training camp:
1) It’s going to take longer to flush out the wide receiver competition — With the return of Julian Edelman and the departures of veterans Donald Jones and Lavelle Hawkins, the team is starting to come to grips with its core group of receivers. But the mix and match of those who will have integral roles in this offense is yet to be determined. Rookies Aaron Dobson, Kenbrell Thompkins, and Josh Boyce have all gotten significant repetitions alongside Danny Amendola. Edelman, who only has two practices under his belt, is expected to have a role as well. Don’t expect anything to be settled before the fourth week of the preseason.
2) The secondary apparently needs flushing out too — Devin McCourty has worked out as cornerback the last two practices, giving more time for Steve Gregory to work as the free safety. This could be a viable option for the team should Alfonzo Dennard be jailed or suspended following his probation hearing Aug. 27. But it could also just be the team testing out its versatility with its defensive backs. We’ll see how that comes together in the weeks ahead.
3) Some last-minute depth worries — The Patriots signed two offensive linemen, Luke Patterson and rookie Brice Schwab, to shore up the team’s interior line depth. This comes after Marcus Cannon and Dan Connolly missed consecutive practices in camp. Tyronne Green, who was picked up just a day prior to the start of training camp, has seen an uptick in snaps at right guard. Already the moves have taken away from other position players, with cuts occurring in both cases to make room for each new player. Coach Bill Belichick said there were a number of players in the “day-to-day category” for one ailment or another, so we’ll see how this lack of depth affects the bottom portion of the roster going forward.
4) Tim Tebow has a role — Fans who have attended training camp have come to see Tebow go through the myriad of quarterback drills next to Tom Brady and Ryan Mallett. But they’ve also seen him running 11-on-11s as a quarterback, with the team utilizing his versatility at different times. It’s clear that Tebow will not compete at fullback or tight end, but he will have a role on the team as a substitute in some form.
5) There is good defensive line depth — While the offensive line may just need bodies, the defensive line may have too many, particularly at defensive end. Through the first week, it’s been clear that behind Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich, there’s some good players fighting for snaps. Among Justin Francis, Marcus Benard, Jermaine Cunningham, Jake Bequette, Michael Buchanan, and Jason Vega, the team has a lot of talent on its hands that need to be evaluated. So far, Francis and Benard appear to be a cut above the rest, but they’re solidly behind Jones and Ninkovich.