Friday, June 14, 2013
Patriots in search of momentum
By Mike Reiss & Field Yates
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- On Thursday, we looked closer at six Patriots who appeared to develop momentum in offseason camps over the last four weeks. Now let's flip the script and spotlight players who are still looking for that spark based on what we've seen.
There were a few considerations in making the choices.
Linemen were eliminated unless it was a special case where a coach or something out of the norm swayed the vote. In a non-contact camp geared mostly toward the passing game, there just isn't enough information to go on.
Also, a player had to be in attendance for the duration of the camp to qualify. Thus, someone like linebacker Brandon Spikes -- who stayed away from voluntary camp but reported this week for mandatory work -- wouldn't be a consideration.
Finally, an injury couldn't land a player on this list.
Running back LeGarrette Blount Offseason workouts aren’t particularly conducive to repping the run game, but we nonetheless got to see Blount work some in space and handle the football as a receiver out of the backfield. It’s natural to expect that Blount, nearly 250 pounds, will look better in pads when he can use his size to his advantage, but the feeling since he was acquired was that he’d need to put in quality work to make the 53-man roster. It’s clear that Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, Leon Washington and Brandon Bolden (who was limited this offseason due to an injury) offer more athleticism than Blount, who also dropped some passes out of the backfield. He’s more of a lumberer than a speed/power mix, and given the tempo the Patriots like to run within their offense, Blount may not become a primary ball-carrier. If he can be a dependable short-yardage back during training camp, he may find his niche on the roster.
Wide receiver Aaron Dobson Dobson has made a handful of "flash" plays that make you understand why he was a coveted wide receiver in this year’s draft, particularly catches down the sideline in which he was able to use his size advantage to reach over defenders in competitive catch situations. But he also had some concentration drops that he can’t afford during regular-season action, and he was limited during minicamp for undisclosed reasons. The Patriots need a wide receiver aside from Danny Amendola to step up, and with Julian Edelman dealing with a foot issue, Dobson was a player that could have gained the inside track this offseason. It’s too soon to make starting lineup projections, but training camp will be about consistency for Dobson. He has the physical skills needed to succeed in the NFL, and the Patriots are likely counting on him to be in the mix for the second receiver job.
Donald Jones seems to be further down the receiver depth chart than we figured.
Wide receiver Donald Jones A free-agent signing from the Buffalo Bills, Jones hasn’t been able to break through for first-unit repetitions, as 10-year veteran Michael Jenkins, third-year man Kamar Aiken and rookie free agent Kenbrell Thompkins served as the primary outside receivers. Jones (6-0, 208) has shown up at times – such as when he made a nice under-the-goalposts catch in 7-on-7 red-zone drills – but it was also notable that on the final day of minicamp he was running routes in the “opportunity” part of practice usually reserved for rookies and lesser-experienced players. One thought was that Jones might have been in that spot because of an overall shortage of receivers, but still, one would have expected Jones to be ahead of Thompkins at this point.
Safety Tavon Wilson It is often said that players make their biggest jump between their first and second year, and Wilson, the team’s surprising 2012 second-round pick, is expected to be in the mix for a starting job (or, at the least, expanded snaps in sub packages). Yet it was mostly veteran Adrian Wilson and Steve Gregory taking the top snaps at safety as starter Devin McCourty works his way back from shoulder surgery. One thought on Wilson (48th overall pick): There isn’t one physical trait that stands out. He’s a solid player with the desired work ethic, but unlike 2013 top pick Jamie Collins (52nd overall pick) – who has uncommon athleticism that if harnessed could produce big results – Wilson doesn’t seem to have as high of a ceiling.