Monday, June 16, 2014
Setting stage for Pats' mandatory minicamp
By Mike Reiss
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The New England Patriots will hold their mandatory three-day minicamp Tuesday through Thursday at Gillette Stadium, and it's basically an extension of the team's organized team activities (OTAs).
The only difference? It's mandatory, but that isn't an issue for the Patriots, who have had excellent attendance throughout the offseason.
Here are some of the important things we'll be monitoring at minicamp:
Vince Wilfork's health will continue to be a storyline to watch during minicamp.
1. Checking in with Vince Wilfork. The veteran defensive tackle continues to progress in his rehab from a ruptured Achilles (Sept. 29), at one point stepping into 11-on-11 drills during last Thursday's practice, which is a significant step. Wilfork hasn't made himself available to reporters this offseason, but that could change by the end of minicamp. Two of the hot topics figure to be his rehabilitation and his contract restructure with the team that sparked some hard feelings at one point.
2. A chance to tidy up loose ends with Bill Belichick? The head coach, who enters his 15th season with the Patriots, will answer questions from reporters at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, before the first practice of minicamp. It will be a chance to ask some lingering questions since he last held a news conference at the draft. One on our mind: Where do things stand with first-year defensive tackle Armond Armstead, at one time viewed as a top-3 player in the rotation last year, in terms of his availability in the short- and long-term?
3. More work for Jimmy Garoppolo. Last year, all the buzz at Patriots minicamp was centered on quarterback Tim Tebow, as the Patriots issued more than 80 media credentials for this minicamp. Things figure to be much quieter this year from a media perspective, and the expectation is that rookie quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo will receive a lot of work, similar to last Thursday when it was just he and Tom Brady on the field. This is an important time for Garoppolo and his fellow rookies, while for some other players who aren't practicing in full, the priority is to get themselves ready for training camp, which starts in late July.
4. Any movement among receivers? Because this is essentially a passing camp, with no pads and contact, the practices are geared much more to the skill positions. In past weeks, second-year receivers Kenbrell Thompkins and Josh Boyce have caught our eye in a limited sample of work, as has five-year veteran Brandon LaFell. Second-year receiver Aaron Dobson has remained sidelined after February surgery for a stress fracture in his left foot.
5. Darrelle Revis and integration. We could put this on the list for each practice, because the veteran cornerback is a key piece that could transform the look of the team's defense (26th in the NFL on third down last season). Revis has talked about adjusting to the way the Patriots do things and we've spent considerable time watching him over three practices and are struck by how he's seldom out of position. He didn't look happy after an accidental collision last week in which he and receiver Danny Amendola ended up on the ground, but neither player missed any time in the practice.
6. Locking things in for training camp. By the end of the mandatory minicamp, the Patriots often announce the schedule for the start of training camp, which is expected to be in the July 23-25 range. Putting an official marker on that date reminds us that football is right around the corner.