Six Takeaways From The Patriots Training Camp So Far

Steve Balestrieri
August 04, 2014 at 08:00am ET

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[caption id="attachment_2084" align="aligncenter" width="600"]Tom Brady and Darrelle Revis are now teammates  but are competing hard in camp. (SBalestrieri photo) Tom Brady and Darrelle Revis are now teammates but are competing hard in camp. (SBalestrieri photo)[/caption]

With the first week of training camp in the books, the New England Patriots are in Virginia to conduct joint practices with the Washington Redskins prior to the first pre-season game for both teams on Thursday evening.

Now is a good time to look back at the first week and list six takeaways from camp and monitor how these things play out moving forward. The first week of the 2014 training camp didn’t have the story lines or the drama from last season with the Aaron Hernandez situation or the Tim Tebow media hoopla, but there were still some great fireworks, this time on the field.

There were a couple of minor roster moves over the weekend, with the team cutting wide receiver Cole Stanford and re-signing LB James Morris, the UDFA linebacker from Iowa who suffered from blood clots in the spring and was released. He’s now healthy and although behind the power curve, has a chance to make the team.

So here is our Six Takeaways from Training Camp Week 1:

[caption id="attachment_2085" align="aligncenter" width="600"]Tavon Wilson is getting a chance to win the job at SS after a disappointing 2013. (SBalestrieri photo) Tavon Wilson is getting a chance to win the job at SS after a disappointing 2013. (SBalestrieri photo)[/caption]

6. Strong Safety is Harmon’s to Lose But He Has To Earn It:

Duron Harmon is thought to be the heir incumbent to win the strong safety position next to Devin McCourty in the Pats secondary.  That hasn’t changed this week, but the Patriots aren’t just handing him the role, there is most certainly competition.

Harmon has gotten many of the reps but the team is also giving equal time to Pat Chung, Nate Ebner and 2012 2nd round draft pick Tavon Wilson with the first unit. Wilson after disappearing in 2013 has looked like he benefitted from the off-season workouts in Arizona with some of the other secondary members and is playing well thus far.

After being rumored to being moved there, cornerback Logan Ryan even got a few snaps at safety thus far. So while it is still Harmon’s job to lose, there is still a long way to go. This week against the Redskins should be fun to watch.

[caption id="attachment_2072" align="aligncenter" width="600"]Logan Ryan, Lafell jam. The Patriots need LaFell to step it up more. (SBalestrieri photo) Logan Ryan, Lafell jam. The Patriots need LaFell to step it up more. (SBalestrieri photo)[/caption]

5. Wide Receivers/Tight Ends Aren’t Making Noise:

While much has been stated about the camp of WR Julian Edelman and the rehab of Rob Gronkowski, the remainder of the roster at each position has been mostly quiet. Kenbrell Thompkins hasn’t been consistent and neither has been Danny Amendola to this point.

The team definitely misses Aaron Dobson as an X-Wide Receiver and Josh Boyce missed some time as well. Jeremy Gallon still hasn’t taken the field. Our mini-camp roster projection at this point remains unchanged. Again this week will tell a lot as it will prove whether the position needs to step it up or is the lack of production a by-product of the strong camp of Revis et al in the secondary.

The tight end position was projected to be the thinnest on the roster and nothing has changed after Week1 in camp. Gronkowski’s rehab moves along slowly and they haven’t allowed him contact yet. Michael Hoomanawanui remains out hurt but behind him are nothing but questions.

UDFA rookies Asa Watson and Justin Jones are seeing plenty of work but aren’t showing much at all. Jones is certainly intriguing with his size and the team may view him as a project on the practice squad but he isn’t going to produce much. D.J. Williams has been getting a lot of work with the top unit and hasn’t produced much at all. Considered a “move” tight end, he’s been blanketed by Jamie Collins and James Anderson.

Right now, Gronkowski, Hooman and FB/HB James Develin seem like the only options for the 53 man roster.

[caption id="attachment_2057" align="aligncenter" width="600"]James White has been very impressive so far in camp. (SBalestrieri photo) James White has been very impressive so far in camp. (SBalestrieri photo)[/caption]

4. James White is Making It Known He’s Not Just a 3rd Down Option:

White the rookie running back from Wisconsin was initially envisioned to be a viable 3rd down option with Shane Vereen. While that hasn’t changed, White has turned heads in the first week and is getting a lot of work in the running game as well as in the passing game.

He’s looked very comfortable in the offense like he’s a 2nd or 3rd year veteran and has drawn the praise of Tom Brady for his work ethic and a penchant for not making the same mistake twice. We wrote earlier that he’s comfortable, despite his size running between the tackles and has shown that thus far. White is a sure-handed ball carrier and is in-line for a bigger load moving forward.

[caption id="attachment_2086" align="aligncenter" width="600"]Julian Edleman has been outstanding so far in training camp. (SBalestrieri photo) Julian Edleman has been outstanding so far in training camp. (SBalestrieri photo)[/caption]

3. Julian Edelman Is the Go-to Guy In the Patriots Offense…for now:

Edelman fresh off a 105 catch season and a nice new contract has been the best player on the field for the Patriots offense thru the first week of practices. Edelman has been the most consistent receiver and is in tune with Tom Brady as well as having his complete trust.

Edelman has been the only one to consistently test Revis and their battles have been fun to watch. While Edelman’s production is a good thing, the offense in general would benefit from having others step up in it as well.

Once Gronk is healthy, he and Edelman will make a nice 1-2 punch, but the team would be best served if Dobson is healthy soon and takes some of the pressure off as well. If Edelman turns in another monster season like last season, it may not necessarily mean a good thing for the team, but at this point of training camp, Edelman has been outstanding.

[caption id="attachment_2052" align="aligncenter" width="600"]Browner at one point threw Thompkins to the ground drawing the ire of coach Chad O'Shea. (SBalestrieri photo) Browner at one point threw Thompkins to the ground drawing the ire of coach Chad O'Shea. (SBalestrieri photo)[/caption]

2. The Physical Intensity of the Practices Has Energized the Team:

Much was written about Brandon Browner’s physical nature and that side of the game that he brought over from Seattle while a member of the “Legion of Boom”.  From his de-cleating of James White last weekend to his battles with Thompkins, Browner has put the rest of the team on notice that the defense will play with an edge in 2014. And it has carried over.

The defense has been energized with his and Revis’ presence on the field making the 11-on-11 drills more game like when watching rather than a traditional practice. After Revis turned in a pick-six and then later a goal line stop of Stevan Ridley, the defense was chanting “Hell No We Won’t Go” and Browner helped set that tone when earlier in the week he jammed Thompkins well beyond the five yard limit, at one point rag-dolling him to the turf.

The intimidation factor can’t be discounted at this point as it will not only solidify the defensive unit, but steel the offense for the long grind ahead. Some of these sessions have been the most intense practices in recent memory.

[caption id="attachment_2056" align="aligncenter" width="600"]Revis has been immense thus far, blanketing WRs. (SBalestrieri photo) Revis has been immense thus far, blanketing WRs. (SBalestrieri photo)[/caption]

1. Revis Has been Everything as Advertised:

It’s amazing how little fanfare Revis is drawing in the national press as he goes about his business in Foxboro. He’s completely changed the Patriots defense and has provided a tremendous upgrade at cornerback. Now completely healthy he has certainly lived up to the hype of “Revis Island”.

At least twice so far, quarterbacks have refused to throw in his direction during 1-on-1 drills. That is how much he’s blanketed receivers. He’s picked off Brady a few times in full team drills and his confidence is certainly rubbing off on his teammates.

He and Browner have upgraded the corner position to where with Logan Ryan, Alfonzo Dennard and Kyle Arrington, this is arguably the deepest, most complete secondaries in the Bill Belichick era.

The defense is already ahead of the power curve, as the secondary goes, so goes the rest of the unit. Belichick is already tinkering with different packages and looks. We’ve seen 4-3, 3-4 and even some two down lineman looks. That means the defense is soaking up the playbook and is ready for more. That’s a by-product of what Revis brings to the table.

Be sure to follow during training camp, we’ll have daily updates, photo galleries and any breaking news from Foxboro. We also are updating the stats database and now have the PatsPicker where you can play GM and select your own 53 man roster for the Patriots.

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