We’ve all been doing our best to distract ourselves since February, just grinding out every day waiting for the return of football. We made it through the draft, OTAs, free agency, the start of training camp and now the day has finally come.
And thank God it has.
Nothing really gets the blood flowing quite like seeing those training camp standouts fighting to crack the final roster. Other than that, the preseason is very much a cock-tease of more to come in the regular season.
So let’s feature some of the names and position battles that you should keep a close eye on heading into Thursday’s game against the Redskins.
TE Jacob Hollister
Belichick with some praise for second-year tight end Jacob Hollister.
Could he emerge as another threat opposite Gronk? 🤔 pic.twitter.com/utiMsMFlTR
— NBC Sports Boston's Patriots Coverage (@NBCSPatriots) July 31, 2018
The tight end position may be very much filled by a Gronk, but Hollister could be in store for a heavy workload in the first four weeks of the season. With Edelman out, and the whole wide receiving core up in the air, Belichick is left with one option he’s always relied on.
The two tight end set.
The versatility that Hollister supplies will give Bill plenty of tricks to hide up his sleeve if he can trust the second year tight end. Which, to this point, it sounds like he does.
Keep an eye out for #47 in the first preseason game not just for receptions, but his ability to block and potentially spread out wide may be challenged now to be used as a viable option in the regular season.
Here's a look at the Patriots' first unofficial depth chart. Jason McCourty listed as a starting CB over Eric Rowe is interesting. pic.twitter.com/TxWP93BLFq
— Zack Cox (@ZackCoxNESN) August 5, 2018
A big spot of contention at Patriots camp this year has been the second corner back spot. Between Chung, Devin McCourty and Harmon, the Pats have the safety position pretty much locked up. But who will be playing outside the numbers is still up for debate.
The most competition will be who is playing next to Stephon Gilmore.
Before I get into it, I’d like to say, no, I’m not entirely thrilled Gilmore is our number one cornerback, but last year he got more comfortable and broke up some massive passes in the playoffs. So, for now, he’s the clear number one.
And playing alongside him will be either Eric Rowe or newly-acquired Devin McCourty clone, Jason.
What Rowe and Jason McCourty do in these next four preseason games can have a big impact on the overall look of the defense come week one.
While Rowe has experience with the team and has, by most accounts, looked great in the early going at camp, the prospect of having twins on the field is exciting. I don’t know or understand how it works, but we all know twins have a weird bond. Especially one’s that share a Twitter.
I haven’t figured out exactly how this secret twin power will help the Patriots this season, but I’m assuming it will pay off eventually. So pay attention to the outside of the field on defense tonight.
WR Position Battle
Eric Decker in action. pic.twitter.com/DQGmJbkmLU
— Zack Cox (@ZackCoxNESN) August 4, 2018
Now I know what you’re thinking. Why is this video taken by NESN reporter Zack Cox look like footage from finding Bigfoot? My answer, not a fucking clue.
But one thing I do know is the three men you can make out in this oddly grainy footage, Edelman, Hogan and Decker are all hot topics around Patriots Place. Edelman discussion is all about his suspension and the impact it is now having on fielding a receiving corps.
Decker is the new comer to the group. He’s a flashy name after spending years as a Patriot foe and expectations are high despite a couple down years as Decker’s career hits the tail end. Despite his lack of recent production, Brady has been known to turn careers around and, at times, revive them. Decker’s connection with Tom will be something to pay attention to in this game and throughout camp.
And finally, there’s Hogan. Hogan is the most interesting of the bunch because it’s possible he will be stepping in as WR1 in the absence of Edelman.
It’s not the perfect situation to be honest. Hogan, as we know very well, was flicking lacrosse balls instead of catching football not too long ago. It’s not that he hasn’t proven he can be an effective receiver over the last few seasons, because he has. It’s relying on him as a number one target that gets me on edge. Just like with the cornerbacks, it will likely be a full position effort to get the receivers through Edelman’s suspensions.
Thank God for Gronk.
Prediction: Patriots win (maybe, but who really cares about the score? It’s preseason)