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Pats to watch in training camp

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LB Brandon Spikes enters the final year of his contract looking to prove he can be a three-down LB for the Patriots. Will he remain on the field in camp for passing downs, or be on the bench? Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images.
LB Brandon Spikes enters the final year of his contract looking to prove he can be a three-down LB for the Patriots. Will he remain on the field in camp for passing downs, or be on the bench? Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images.

The NFL season is drawing closer, with training camp days away for most teams. For the Patriots, rookies will report on July 21, with everybody else reporting July 25. The first practice open to the public will be July 26. 

With only a few days before the madness begins (did it ever stop?), let’s take a look at players to watch when camp opens. 

RB Shane Vereen

Vereen enters his third-year with the team after being a second round pick in 2011. The speedy RB got off to a rocky start with an injury riddled rookie season before rebounding nicely last year, showing off his versatility in the run game and pass game. With Danny Woodhead bolting to San Diego, Vereen is the most likely candidate to take over the pass-back/third down role that has become vital to the Patriots offense. Vereen should see a steady amount of snaps when camp opens, lining up wherever he’s needed. 

CB Ras-I Dowling

Another second round pick from 2011, Dowling’s career has been extremely disappointing. Despite great speed and height, the third-year CB has yet to stay healthy, playing in only nine out of a possible 32 games in his first two years. With the recent Dennard troubles, Dowling may get one more shot to line up with the starters and prove he can play. 

DT Tommy Kelly

The big DT from Oakland hasn’t been heard from much in the offseason, but with the pads coming on, Kelly will get his chance to shine. With Kyle Love and Brandon Deaderick both being released, Kelly is the favorite to start next to Vince Wilfork. It’ll be interesting to see if Kelly is a two-down player or if he can play third downs and rush the passer with Wilfork in the middle. 

QB Tim Tebow

Love him or hate him, there will be a lot of eyes on Tebow as camp opens. While the team has committed him to QB only, the Patriots are not ones to shy away from lining up players at different positions. Belichick and McDaniels have had some time to come up with creative ways to use him. Perhaps Tebow will be used in some new-look formations in camp. In terms of QB snaps, look to see if Tebow can take any of the second-team snaps away from Ryan Mallett. 

WR Julian Edelman

Edelman may be one of the most talented players on the Patriots roster, but his problem has always been health. While he is ready to go for training camp, he was in a walking boot just a few weeks ago. Edelman started off last year ahead of Welker on the depth chart, before injuries took their toll. With Welker gone, and an uncertain depth chart at WR, Edelman will get plenty of opportunities to take one of the starting spots next to newcomer Danny Amendola. 

LB Brandon Spikes

Spikes, entering the final year of his rookie contract, decided to skips OTAs this year to work out by himself. There’s little question to Spikes talent as he had another great season in 2012, but his speed remains a concern as he is a liability in pass-coverage. The biggest question in camp will be if he remains on the field for passing downs, or does Dane Fletcher, Jamie Collins, or someone else sub in for him?