Finally, we'll get to see our guys in action. It may be preseason but we'll finally get to see our teams in a game playing against opposing talent. Maybe they won't be playing so much against an opposing scheme that isn't vanilla but at least we don't have to talk about Cooper or Hernandez!
I'll start by discussing the positions and guys I really want to watch.
First off is the 43DEs/34OLBs. Vet Rob Ninkovich is in a contract year. 2nd-year man Chandler Jones has had a season to get seasoned and we're expecting a breakout year for him. Justin Francis is a 2nd-year guy that had flashes last year and I would like to see some more of. Jake Bequette is also a 2nd-year guy that disappointed last year. Apparent draft-bust Jermaine Cunningham has a lot to prove if he hopes to remain on the team. Marcus Benard is a FA-pickup that's trying to carve out a niche as a situational pass-rusher. We may also see LBs Dont'a Hightower(2nd year) and Jamie Collins(rookie) going after the passer. Michael Buchanan is a rookie DE/OLB type that I was high on ahead of the draft. Jones,Benard, Collins, Hightower, and Buchanan have had strong camps.
At DT Vince Wilfork will of course be on the line. Vet-pickup Tommy Kelly will be playing beside him and he's had a good camp, although it'll be nice to see him going up against another set of colors. After that we got NFI. I was expecting Armond Armstead(CFL, long-story) to easily secure this spot but he had surgery due to some kind of infection. 2nd-year man Marcus Forston appears to be next up followed by rookie Joe Vellano. The rest of our depth isn't particularly encouraging. Our #2 and #3 guys from last year(Kyle Love, Brandon Deaderick) were released.
At ILB, Jerod Mayo and Brandon Spikes are entrenched. Dont'a Hightower could get some looks there. After that it's unknown if our next-best ILB is Dane Fletcher(vet, often injured) or rookie Steve Beauharnais.
The Ss. We expect FS Devin McCourty to be good. At SS, I would like to see if Adrian Wilson can be a poorer-man's Rodney Harrison for us. In terms of depth, we're all wondering if we can do better than Steve Gregory(a starter last year). 2nd-year man Tavon Wilson has had an up and down camp. Nate Ebner is a 2nd-year rugby convert and it'll be interesting to see if he's shown improvement with a year to get seasoned. Then of course like Tavon Wilson last year Belichick drafted a guy that hardly anyone heard of in rookie Duron Harmon. We're curious what we got there.
At CB, we're expecting Aqib Talib and Alfonzo Dennard to backup their strong camps. Kyle Arrington seems like the #3 guy, and personally I would rather he be the #4 guy. 3rd year man Ras-i(nicknamed Ras-IR) Dowling has shown flashes but can't stay healthy(and of course appeared to have pulled something earlier today). We also got rookie Logan Ryan who has had an up and down camp. We're not sure what we have after that.
On offense, I want to see what we have for depth at OG. Ryan Wendell is our starting OC, Logan Mankins of course our LG, and then it's a battle between 3rd year man Marcus Cannon and vet Dan Connolly at RG. After that, our next-best interior-OL player appears to be a guy that wasn't on the roster last year. Our next-two reservists from last year(Donald Thomas, Nick McDonald) aren't on the team anymore. Depth here is a concern.
TE. Ha, where to start? Gronk is rehabbing and Hernandez is gone. Jake Ballard hasn't looked healthy in camp. Michael Hoomanawanuie(Hooman), Daniel Fells, and rookie Zach Sudfeld are all fighting for a starting job in the 12(2-TE, 1 RB) personnel grouping.
The new-look WR group. This position and TE may be the two most interesting of them all. Danny Amendola has had a brilliant camp as Welker's replacement. Rookies Aaron Dobson, Josh Boyce, and Kenbrell Thompkins have all had strong camps as well. After them 2nd-year man Kamar Aiken has had a pretty good camp. Veteran Julian Edelman on a prove-it deal just returned today to practice. Then there's FA-pickup Michael Jenkins who's been having a pretty up and down camp. That's about it, Matthew Slater may try to contribute but he's really a STer.
What about you guys? Questions for the match-ups? Match-ups that in particular have your attention?