Sports Centralby Cian Fahey
- We've moved to The Sports Central
- Avery Bradley's stuttering start to Boston Celtics career is no more
- New England Patriots - a case for keeping Brandon Lloyd
- Tom Brady's contract extension puts pressure on New England Patriots to perform in short-term
- Jeff Green's approach epitomizes Boston Celtics Post-Rajon Rondo
Not only is Wilfork the leader of the defensive line, but now he is also one of the primary leaders in the whole locker-room. Wilfork's influence in this training camp will be more important for his teammates opposed to his own personal aspirations. Even though he is getting older now, Wilfork is still a distance from fighting with father time for his career.
Much like Mark Anderson did last year, Trevor Scott is arriving in Foxboro as a veteran who has struggled as of late. Scott had only seven tackles in 16 games last year without registering a sack. He has only 1.5 sacks the past two years after notching 12 in his first two seasons. At 27 years of age, Scott will have to earn his playing time for the Patriots but will at the very least benefit from competing with less experienced players at his position.
Fanene comes over from the Cincinnati Bengals as a versatile player who can play in either a 3-4 or 4-3 defense. Fanene is an intense player who should provide the team with better interior push in passing situations while not being overly exposed in the running game. Like most on the roster, Fanene is looking to earn as much playing time as possible but leads the way entering training camp.
The additions of Dont'a Hightower and Bobby Carpenter could see Ninkovich move back to defensive end more. Ninkovich is the type of player who can fill in where needed and it is clear that the Patriots would benefit more if he could excel as a defensive end. He may not be a superstar, but Belichick knows Ninkovich and what to expect from him on the field. That consistency could see him land a starting spot entering the season.
Love was a pleasant surprise for the Patriots last year starting 13 games for the team. After signing his exclusive rights tender to stay with the team, Love is playing for a long-term deal. He likely won't receive that without a quality regular season this year but a good training camp is vital for a player who is still inexperienced and relatively unproven.
Some believed that Chandler Jones was the best pure pass rushing defensive end coming out of college this year. How good of an all around football player Jones will be for the Patriots however is another thing. If Jones is to be a full-time starter, rather than just a situational pass rusher, he will need to prove himself capable over the course of training camp.
Bequette, as the team's third round pick, is entering training camp as one of the most intriguing prospects but still the underdog in the competition at defensive end. Bequette undoubtedly has a lot of talent, but how quickly he adjusts to the professional game will determine the quantity and quality of his early play as a rookie.
Solder has the very important task of taking over for Matt Light and protecting Brady's blindside. As a rookie the youngster was very impressive playing both tackle positions, but for a limited time. Now he enters his first season as a full-time starter and will need to prove his consistency from week-to-week. Solder doesn't need to earn his starting spot in training camp, but he does need to solidify his trust with his teammates.
Nobody is sure if Mankins will even play during training camp. If he does see the field, the Patriots will only be looking to evaluate when he can return to the field rather than anything else. If Mankins misses all of camp, he will be less likely to be involved later this year.
After entering last season as a guard, Connolly impressed in Dan Koppen's place as the team's starting center. Connolly should be the favorite entering training camp to be the team's starting center once again, but he will face competition from the returning Koppen. If Connolly loses his place at center, he still has the chance of filling in for Mankins at guard.
Waters didn't report to the Patriots on the opening day of training camp, but as a veteran he is likely just taking his time to acclimate back to the team. Waters should still be expected to start at right guard regardless of how little he features in camp.
Vollmer is on the PUP list entering camp with a back problem that has bothered him for over a year. It is a chronic problem that he will likely be forced to play through at times this year. Vollmer is penciled in as the team's starting right tackle without any competition. His health is the only thing standing in his way this year.
Koppen is the most experienced player left on the Patriots offensive line, excluding Waters who is not at camp, but is returning from missing most of last season through injury. Koppen will have to earn his starting spot in training camp but at the very least will be a valuable backup.
Gallery is a former first round pick as a left tackle who has since been moved to guard. He signed a massive deal in Seattle prior to last year but was released after only starting one season. Gallery was signed by the Patriots as a veteran presence to potentially fill in for Mankins if he misses time in the regular season. His versatility will be valuable also as Gallery could potentially back up Solder at left tackle.
Considering Sebastien Vollmer's back issues and Nate Solder being a first time starter at left tackle, Marcus Cannon could see the field this season as the backup swing tackle. Cannon needs to continue to develop in training camp and prove himself worthy of playing significant time during the regular season.
Without Mankins or Waters in training camp, guard/center Wendell will see some time running with the starters in camp. Bill Belichick will obviously want to keep some continuity on his offensive line entering training camp, but if Wendell excels he could push his head coach's hand.
The Patriots don't appear to have any qualms with Gronkowski's health coming off of a severe ankle injury that was suffered at the end of last season. During the off-season they gave the star tight end the richest contract for a tight end in NFL history and haven't made any special efforts to add reinforcements to the depth chart for training camp.
When Gronkowski was drafted he fell out of the early rounds because of a back injury. It's still very early, and the Patriots shouldn't be worried just yet, but a training camp without any health issues for Gronkowski would go a long way to reassuring the fan base that his career is not going to be ruined by injuries.
The fight for the remaining wide receiver spots is one of the most intense in training camp.
Lloyd is guaranteed his roster spot after signing with the Patriots to rejoin Josh MacDaniels after the pair excelled in Denver with the Broncos. Lloyd's fit in the offense is clear and he should quickly pick up the scheme as he is an intelligent, polished receiver. Lloyd's crisp routes and assured hands should allow him to quickly forma bond with Tom Brady.
This year the Patriots have two exciting second year players, a long with a maligned veteran who is looking to prove himself all over again, one veteran carry over from last season and an undrafted free agent.
Entering camp, the former LSU product is the odds-on favorite to win the starting job. Ridley showed in college and during his rookie season that he has a lot of talent. However he needs to prove that he is 100 percent comfortable in the system and that he can be a consistent every down back. Ridley has the edge over fellow second year player Shane Vereen after playing more as a rookie. Nothing is guaranteed entering Patriots' training camp however and Bill Belichick will have no problem giving Vereen a greater role if he proves to be the better player.
Whether you are a long-time veteran and perennial all-pro or an undrafted rookie clinging to the last string of your professional career, every single player in camp will have various goals and expectations that they will look to meet.
In the first of the Sports Central positional preview, I'm going to take a look at each of the Patriots' quarterbacks on the roster entering camp.
Welker has been quite vocal during the off-season about his displeasure after being tagged, but the Patriots have very few reasons to give Welker a new deal.
After signing his franchise tag, instead of holding out, Welker gave up any leverage he was ever going to have over the Patriots. Welker believed that he was doing things the Patriots way by signing his one year contract for a guaranteed $9.5 million. What Welker didn't realize is that he was allowing the Patriots the option to completely fore-go negotiations ahead of this year.
This year, the team's defensive strength appears to be at the linebacker position once again.
It should have come as no surprise that the Patriots drafted Donta Hightower in the most recent NFL draft. Hightower is the exact type of linebacker that Belichick desires for his ideal defense. He is overwhelmingly athletic, incredibly versatile and more intelligent than most players of the same age.
Now that Ray Allen is with the Miami Heat, the Celtics will cast a keen eye over their two rookies from last season's draft for different reasons.
E'twuan Moore is a young guard who will need to make an Avery Bradley type of leap before next season if he is to be on the team's active roster. With rumors surrounding Courtney Lee and Jason Terry already aboard, the Celtics are stacked at Moore's position: Shooting Guard.
Moves made in Buffalo by the Bills have been well publicized with the arrival of Mario Williams and the addition of Stephon Gilmore, however the Jets have made a more understated addition to their arsenal to counteract Tom Brady and co.
In the 1980s, Rex Ryan's famous father Buddy Ryan was the defensive coordinator of the Chicago Bears. Ryan was a boisterous character, just like his son, who didn't fear anyone or anything. His approach to football was as aggressive as anyone's which was emulated on the field by his players.
There are two destinations that would be expected to be clearly ahead of all others.
The Miami Heat can offer Ray Allen a pitch like no other. If Allen, as one would expect, does intend on making this decision based on maximizing his potential to add one more championship ring to his fingers, then there is no other option than the Miami Heat.
on the verge of adding veteran shooting guard Jason Terry to their roster for the coming season.
Terry is a soon to be 35-year-old free agent formerly of the Dallas Mavericks. He is expected to fill the Celtics' mid-level exception and sign a three year $35 million dael. With Avery Bradley already penciled in as the team's starting shooting guard, Terry is expected to fill the sixth man role which he did so well with the Mavericks.
As a former sixth man of the year winner, the Celtics will expect Terry to fill what was a massive need for them last season. Despite some upstart performances from Mikael Pietrus and Keyon Dooling in spurts and Ray Allen's presence at times from the bench, the Celtics primarily had to rely on their five starters to put the ball in the basket last year.
Bringing Garnett back wasn't a major shock, but giving him that big a deal and also making efforts to re-sign Ray Allen is.
Allen, as a premier shooter in the league, is tempted to join the Miami Heat who have offered him a two year deal worth $6 million. The Celtics have tried to off-set Allen's flirtation with Miami by doubling their offer with $6 million per season on a two year contract.
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