The New England Patriots have the day off Monday. No practice. Time to rest up after what sounded like a fast and furious weekend.
So that gives us some time to think about a couple of the early storylines in camp.
– Don’t be surprised if a rookie starts somewhere on the offensive line this year.
The Patriots invested heavily in the offensive line in the draft, selecting center Bryan Stork out of Florida State and tackle Cameron Fleming out of Stanford in the fourth round and guard Jon Halapio out of Florida in the sixth round. Many in the media that cover the Patriots on a daily basis expect Stork to earn the starting center berth over veteran Ryan Wendell.
Stork is 6-foot-4 and weighs 310 pounds and won the Rimington Trophy last year, given to the nation’s top center in college football. He was an all-America selection and helped Florida State win the national championship. He also showed some versatility, playing at guard and sometimes practicing at tackle.
Nick Caserio, the Patriots director of player personnel, was asked about Stork in a press conference over the weekend. He said, “Smart guy, good playing strength, had a good playing style, good demeanor. He did a lot of good things and there was a lot to like about him.”
Caserio said the team looks for certain traits (intelligence, toughness, work ethic, competitiveness) when looking at candidates for the interior offensive line positions (center and guard) and that Stork possesses them. He mentioned specifically guards Joe Andruzzi and Russ Hochstein – tough, competitive, smart players.
“You’re trying to look at some of those traits and some of those things and then you look at their physical skills and what they actually do on the field,” said Caserio. “Some maybe do certain things a little better than others. But I’d say just generally speaking, that position, there are certain things that have kind of carried it over through the years with the guys that we’ve brought in here that have had some success and the guys that maybe haven’t worked out.”
– Fullback James Develin has earned a lot of praise in the first week. The fullback position is one that has been phased out for many offenses. Even with the Patriots, Develin is not the prototypical fullback. He sometimes lines up on the outside, as a receiver.
But he is very valuable to this offense, according to Caserio and others.
“The unique thing about James is he’s a very versatile player,” said Caserio. “We saw that going back to last season. He was able to line up in the backfield, at tight end, detach from the formation. James is very smart, works very, very hard.”
That versatility may help shape the Patriots roster, especially at the tight end position, where the Patriots are thin. He allows them to keep a minimum number of tight ends on the roster.
– Second-year wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins looked really, really good in the first couple of days. He’s always been able to make big plays, but this year he seems to be more comfortable.
“One of our hardest workers,” said Bill Belichick. “He really tries hard to do everything right.”
– The Patriots will hold open practices Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday this week, each scheduled to start at 9:15 a.m., if you’re interested in heading to Gillette. The camp has drawn big crowds thus far. The starting times may vary and you should check the Patriots web site to verify when it will start.
On Friday, cornerback Ty Law will be inducted into the Patriots Hall of Fame in a ceremony starting at 4:30 p.m. at NRG Plaza just outside the Hall at Patriot Place.
Enjoy your day.