Patriots camp report: Can young receivers step up?

Observations and opinions from Patriots training camp in Foxborough, Mass.:

What’s new

Unfortunately for the Patriots, the offensive line is in quite a bit of flux. Pro Bowl left guard Logan Mankins has been unable to reach a contract agreement with the team, and was embittered by what he viewed as a broken promise for a long-term deal. Mankins demanded a trade, but remains in limbo. The player who was supposed to replace Mankins, Nick Kaczur, suffered a back injury, hasn’t practiced and could miss significant time in ’10. That could put pressure on the organization to relent and bring back Mankins. 

Camp battle

There are great battles brewing at linebacker and in the secondary, but the most noticeable tussle will be at the wide receiver position — you have to wonder what sorts of targets QB Tom Brady will have this season.

Randy Moss and Wes Welker return, but Welker is coming off a knee injury and Moss had a disappointing ’09 season. The Patriots signed veteran Tory Holt, but considering how the Joey Galloway experiment went enthusiasms have been tempered. The real key will be whether the young receivers, especially Brandon Tate, Julian Edleman and rookie Taylor Price, can earn Brady’s trust and contribute.

Former Florida linebacker Brandon Spikes will have a chance to contribute immediately in New England.
Former Florida linebacker Brandon Spikes will have a chance to contribute immediately in New England.

Rehab report

Welker was expected to need as much as a year to return from the torn ACL and MCL injuries he sustained Jan. 3. But he has shocked trainers and teammates with his rapid recovery, and he has participated in every day of training camp. Welker said he intends to be ready for the Sept. 12 opener vs. Cincinnati, though both he and coach Bill Belichick warned that he is not yet 100 percent.

Rookie on the spot

Much-hyped rookie inside linebacker Brandon Spikes will be counted on to help bolster what was an anemic pass rush last season. He and fellow inside linebacker Jerod Mayo are expected to be defensive cornerstones for years to come, but whether he is able to contribute immediately remains to be seen.

2010 outlook

For the first time in a decade, the Patriots are not the favorites to win in the AFC East. The schedule is difficult and every spot on the team—including Brady, who hasn’t received a contract extension—is clouded by some sort of question mark. A 10-win year would be a pleasant surprise but still might not be enough to earn a trip to the playoffs.

Sean Deveney is a staff writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at sdeveney@sportingnews.com.

Observations and opinions from Patriots training camp in Foxborough, Mass.:

What’s new

Unfortunately for the Patriots, the offensive line is in quite a bit of flux. Pro Bowl left guard Logan Mankins has been unable to reach a contract agreement with the team, and was embittered by what he viewed as a broken promise for a long-term deal. Mankins demanded a trade, but remains in limbo. The player who was supposed to replace Mankins, Nick Kaczur, suffered a back injury, hasn’t practiced and could miss significant time in ’10. That could put pressure on the organization to relent and bring back Mankins. 

Camp battle

There are great battles brewing at linebacker and in the secondary, but the most noticeable tussle will be at the wide receiver position — you have to wonder what sorts of targets QB Tom Brady will have this season.

Randy Moss and Wes Welker return, but Welker is coming off a knee injury and Moss had a disappointing ’09 season. The Patriots signed veteran Tory Holt, but considering how the Joey Galloway experiment went enthusiasms have been tempered. The real key will be whether the young receivers, especially Brandon Tate, Julian Edleman and rookie Taylor Price, can earn Brady’s trust and contribute.

Former Florida linebacker Brandon Spikes will have a chance to contribute immediately in New England.
Former Florida linebacker Brandon Spikes will have a chance to contribute immediately in New England.

Rehab report

Welker was expected to need as much as a year to return from the torn ACL and MCL injuries he sustained Jan. 3. But he has shocked trainers and teammates with his rapid recovery, and he has participated in every day of training camp. Welker said he intends to be ready for the Sept. 12 opener vs. Cincinnati, though both he and coach Bill Belichick warned that he is not yet 100 percent.

Rookie on the spot

Much-hyped rookie inside linebacker Brandon Spikes will be counted on to help bolster what was an anemic pass rush last season. He and fellow inside linebacker Jerod Mayo are expected to be defensive cornerstones for years to come, but whether he is able to contribute immediately remains to be seen.

2010 outlook

For the first time in a decade, the Patriots are not the favorites to win in the AFC East. The schedule is difficult and every spot on the team—including Brady, who hasn’t received a contract extension—is clouded by some sort of question mark. A 10-win year would be a pleasant surprise but still might not be enough to earn a trip to the playoffs.

Sean Deveney is a staff writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at sdeveney@sportingnews.com.

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