It is finally here ladies and gentleman. Football is back!!! (Kinda)
The Patriots start training camp this Thursday and even with the loss of Tom Brady for the first 4 games, this season is still Super Bowl or bust. This years Patriots team is too good for anything less than a ring for the thumb. With that being said, here is the top 5 players to keep an eye on this training camp.
- Jimmy Garoppolo
Surprise Surprise. Brady out, Garoppolo in. After being stuck on the bench the last 2 years, the 2nd round pick out of Eastern Illinois is about to be the starting quarterback for the best team in the league. After watch Jimmy play here and there during previous preseasons, I am very excited to see how Jimmy performs when he is playing with the 1’s and how he handles meaningful snaps. After seeing Ryan Mallet suck it up during the preseason the last couple years, I was really impressed with what I saw from Jimmy. He seemed to have only gotten better every preseason so without a doubt, Garoppolo will be the #1 player to keep an eye on.
2. Cyrus Jones
This years first pick in the draft, Cyrus Jones could start right away as the Patriots nickleback and as a kick returner. As one of the best returners in the draft this year, Jones would be able to take some hits away from 30 year old often hurt receivers Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola. While Jones realistically can only reach as high as 3rd CB in the depth chart due to both starters Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan returning, this year could also be an audition for a outside position next year with both Malcolm and Logan set to hit free agency. When asked the other day, Devin McCourty told CSNNE that Jones stood out in mini camp, saying that he reminded him a lot of Hightower when he first came to the NFL since both came from Nick Saban’s Alabama program.
3. Martellus Bennett
The former Pro Bowl TE could be everything Patriot fans thought Scott Chandler could be and more. Bennett has been one of the best tight ends in this league for a while now, and playing with Tom Brady over Jay Cutler should only benefit him. We all know that Tom loves his tight ends, and we all remember how lethal the Patriots were with their double tight end sets. I can’t wait to see how the Patriots will use both Bennett and Gronk on the field at the same time. Make no mistake, this will not be the Gronk/Hernandez offense. Bennett is a totally different player than Aaron. Bennett not only can block, but is one of the better blocking tight ends in the league. Patriots had a hard time running the ball last year? How about you add Gronk and Bennett inside next to your tackles, think that might help? Or remember those plays last season when Gronk and Chandler would line up inside, then get motioned out wide? Run that with Gronk and Bennett and I promise you it is going to be a touchdown every time.
4. Chris Hogan
One of the Patriots biggest free agents of the offseason, Chris Hogan is going to be in for a big preseason. With the Patriots top two wideouts starting off on the PUP, Hogan should get big reps with the 1’s. Reports from minicamp was that Hogan was catching everything thrown at him, but it’s impossible to tell anything from practices in shirts and helmets. (Jk if you get a good highlight that makes its way to Twitter, I will fall in love with you for the rest of the offseason.) Look for Hogan to fill into the Lafell’s old role.
5. Jonathan Cooper
After being drafted out of North Carolina 7th overall in the 2013 draft, Cooper had high expectations to step into the starting line and perform at a high level in Arizona. However, after injuries got in the way of the young guard’s career, it was time for a change of scenery. After being part of the Chandler Jones deal, we should keep an eye on Cooper to win a starting job on the Patriots OL which was a weakness last season. The Pats have loaded up on interior linemen, however, I look at Cooper to secure one of those spots by the end of camp.