Many Spots Still Uncertain For The New England Patriots
By Weston Blasi
After beating the Philadelphia Eagles at Gillette Stadium on Friday night, the New England Patriots improved to 1-1 in the 2013 preseason. With two exhibition games left before the opening weekend, there are still several inter-squad position battles on offense:
Quarterback: Is there really a QB controversy in New England? Not a chance. This position battle is between Jimmy Garoppolo and Ryan Mallet to be Tom Brady’s backup. In the preseason, it is time to clean up mental errors as you prepare for the regular season, so it is good to see that neither of the QBs has thrown any interceptions in the preseason so far. Garoppolo is ahead in average passer rating and leads the touchdown count with a 3 to 1 edge. With Mallet missing valuable practice time with a knee injury, it may lead to the rookie Garoppolo claiming the backup spot by the end of camp.
Running Backs: On a team that may have some of the greatest depth at the position in the NFL, Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen are two backs that seem to have a roster spot already locked up. As it stands, Ridley should get the bulk of the carries on first- and second-down, while Vereen will do most of his work on third down and in obvious passing situations. The issues with these two backs are well documented. Ridley’s main problem is his fumbling issue that plagued him time and time again last season and resurfaced in Friday’s game. Vereen is limited in his offensive role because, though he is a skilled pass-catcher coming out of the backfield, his running ability is not his strength. That leaves room for one or two more running backs to get a minor workload during the season.
James White took some snaps with the first team in Week 2 of the preseason, but was ineffective. Jonas Gray and Roy Finch both averaged over 5 ypc and Finch also scored a touchdown. Those two guys are presumably the lowest on the depth chart even though they looked impressive. The guy who seemed to impress the most when running with first-team offensive was Brandon Bolden, who rushed for over 7 ypc and looked explosive when finding running lanes. It appears likely that Ridley, Vereen, White, and Bolden will be the players that make the final 53-man roster at the end of camp.
Wide Receiver: At the beginning of camp, it was rumored Kenbrell Thompkins would have tough time making the Patriots roster this summer. He was second on the team in targets against the Eagles and caught an acrobatic, back-shoulder TD from Brady in the first quarter. It looks like Brady and Kenbrell might have some much needed chemistry going into 2014. Another TD was hauled in by newcomer Brandon LaFell, who also looked sharp Friday night, even though he was working with the second-team offense. Aanother young receiver in camp is Brian Tyms, who lead the team with seven targets on Friday and has scored a touchdown in both preseason games. Entering his second year in the league, it seems like Thompkins will make the team and probably will get some significant playing time while the others are battling it out for the remaining spots.