Tag Archives: Patriots Training Camp

Wide Receiver Battle Heats Up On Day Three Of Training Camp

Today was day three of Patriots training camp and the first day where players were allowed to be in full pads and make contact. While today’s session was less physical and fast paced as previous years there were several players and areas that stood out.

Defensive backs Duron Harmon and Ryan Lewis both had very good days with Lewis making several nice pass breakups in the beginning parts of the day. Harmon had a good first two days of camp and continued to build on that today picking off Brian Hoyer in the end zone, which in a game situation likely would have been a pick six, as well as intercepting a pass from Tom Brady in the back of the end zone that was intended for tight end Rob Gronkowski. These sessions were far from perfect as both the entire offense and defense ended up taking a lap for mistakes, as well as rookie running back Sony Michel taking a solo lap for a fumble down towards the goal line. All three quarterbacks were not sharp today as rookie Danny Etling struggled for the majority of practice, and Brady and Hoyer throwing the aforementioned interceptions.

Lap.JPG

 

One thing that really stood out to me today was the play of the Patriots wide receiving corps. This is an area where the team has a lot of questions with heading into the season, which is a problem the team hasn’t had in several years. Earlier this week I discussed how the battle at wide receiver is one that is going to be interesting to watch, and over the first three days of training camp that stands true. Devin Lucien made maybe the play of training camp so far making a tremendous catch in the end zone over a heavily contested Jason McCourty and made sure to drag both feet down before falling out of bounds. Offseason acquisitions Jordan Matthews and Cordarrelle Patterson both had very good days of camp working with both Tom Brady and Brian Hoyer. Patterson made a very nice catch in the end zone from Brady during 11 on 11 drills, and Matthews got some good work in with Brady making several sideline catches during 11 on 11 drills and seems to be looking more comfortable with Brady and the offense. Riley McCarron also had a nice day at camp making some catches and showing off his route running ability. With Julian Edelman suspended the first four games of the season the Patriots are going to be looking for guys to step up in his absence, and I’m looking forward to seeing all of these guys more throughout training camp and the preseason to see who will win out a spot on the final 53-man roster and potentially make a big impact this season.

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Other guys who had good practices today were Trent Brown and Deatrich Wise Jr.. Brown has been starting at left tackle the first three days of camp, but with no contact the first two days was tough to get a true read on how he and all the lineman on both sides of the ball were looking. Brown did a great job of setting the edge on both running and passing plays and looks to be fitting in to his new role at left tackle quite nicely. Wise made some nice plays throughout the day, including a play where he absolutely crushed running back Jeremy Hill. Wise has had a good three days of camp so far and looks to improve on his good rookie season and take on a bigger role in the Patriots defense.

Late during the practice session defensive end Trey Flowers left the field after a big hit during a goal line play. Flowers stayed on the ground for a few seconds before getting back on his feet. A few players grabbed him by his face mask and looked into his face, from where I was sitting looked like they were looking for possible concussion signs. Flowers went off to the sideline and took his helmet off and talked with trainers before jogging off the field, and later reported that he suffered a cut on his face and had a towel covering his eye while jogging off the field, which is a much better sign than any possible concussion symptoms if that is indeed the case.

W’re only three days into camp and will be a lot more to see and watch for as physicality and level of intensity picks up over the next few weeks.

 

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Things to watch for in Patriots Preseason Opener

The Patriots start game action tomorrow in their preseason opener against the Green Bay Packers. Though it’s preseason and it isn’t very likely to see many starters playing and getting significant time, its still better than watching the Red Sox. Lets take a look at things to watch for during the Patriots preseason opener.

QUARTERBACKS

Tom Brady has been receiving all of the first team reps at quarterback before Tuesday when he was preparing for his meeting with Commissioner Roger Goodell and Judge Richard Berman in an attempt to exonerate his four game suspension handed down by the league. With Brady missing yesterdays practice and being in New York today I wouldn’t expect to see Brady in the preseason opener. If Brady does not play I would expect Garoppolo play the whole first half and some of the third quarter before newly signed QB Ryan Lindley sees the field. It is important for Garoppolo to get as much playing time and experience that he can during the preseason just incase Brady ends up missing time due to his suspension. Garoppolo also knows the New England playbook with more than a year of studying under his belt, Lindley has about two days under his belt and the Patriots would likely use a lot smaller playbook focused more on the run with Lindley under center.

via boston.cbslocal.com
via boston.cbslocal.com

HEALTH

Health has been a big concern for the Patriots early in camp and it will be interesting to see who ends up playing in tomorrow’s game. The Patriots offensive line and wide receivers have been plagued the most by the injury bug with Julian Edelman, Nate Solder, Ryan Wendell, Sebastian Vollmer, Brandon Lafell and Matthew Slater among notable names that have missed time. LaGarrette Blount left last weeks practice with an apparent knee injury but suffered no structural damage to his knee and I wouldn’t expect to see Blount suit up against Green Bay. It will also be interesting to see if linebackers Jerod Mayo and Donta Hightower see playing time. Mayo was placed on injured reserve last season after a torn patellar tendon and Hightower an offseason shoulder surgery, have been active in training camp in both contact and non-contact drills but practiced and games are different and the Patriots could choose to hold the linebackers out or limit their playing time.

via patriots.com
via patriots.com

RICHARDS AND ROBERTS

Two guys who have been making a name for themselves so far in training camp have been second round pick Jordan Richards and seventh round pick Darryl Roberts. To be honest I didn’t like the pick of Richards in the second round, I thought he was a good player and was a good fit for the team but thought the team reached for Richards and could have taken him later in the draft and wasn’t even watching the draft in the seventh round when the team drafted Roberts. Throughout offseason mini camps and OTAs Roberts was making plays and getting strong recognition from coaches and media. Richards could only learn the teams playbook and couldn’t participate in OTAs due to Stanford’s late graduation. Once training camp kicked off, Richards made up for his lost time and Roberts continued to shine, both looking like they could be big contributors to the Patriots defense this season. Tomorrow will be the first NFL game action the two see, and though they likely wont be going against Aaron Rodgers or either of the Packers star receivers in Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, one thing I will be looking to see is how the two perform in real game action. Last year, a player I was high on during camp and had high hopes for was Malcolm Butler and wrote about it in articles at this time last year, if these guys can contribute and play as well as Butler did his rookie year and continues to do so during camp, the Patriots again may have found a few diamonds in the rough. The only reason I’m not mentioning Butler as someone to watch is I’m not sure how much playing time the Packers receivers and Rodgers will see, I’m confident in Butler against any of the backups, the real test would be him matched up against Nelson or Cobb with Rodgers at quarterback.

via chowderandchampions.com
via chowderandchampions.com

These are things that I will be watching for when the Patriots take the field tomorrow night. It’s only the preseason but Patriots football is back and that is something we can all be happy about.

New England Patriots: Evaluations From Day Ten Of Patriots Training Camp

After having the day off on Sunday, the Patriots were back on the practice field on Monday afternoon. It was an overall solid day for the defense, and yet another sloppy performance by the offensive units. Here are my breakdowns and evaluations from day number ten of Patriots training camp.

Key Players Return To Practice: A nice surprise for the Patriots fans in attendance on Monday was the return of multiple key players including Julian Edelman and Brian Tyms who were injured during camp last week. Also, Matthew Slater and Alan Branch made their way onto the practice field in pads for the first time this season. Slater and Tyms were wearing red non-contact jerseys.

Edelman was considered a full-participant at practice, but the team seemed to be taking it easy with him holding him out of most eleven on eleven drills. He did look like he was moving around and running routes smoothly without much trouble from his ankle.

Brian Tyms was wearing the red non-contact jersey, but he was receiving a lot of reps in live team drills working with all three quarterbacks on the roster. Tyms is now part of what is a developing multiple player battle for the fourth wide receiver spot on the roster. Furthermore, LeGarrette Blount was seen running hill sprints and it was reported by Pro Football Talk that there is no structural damage in his knee, after it was reported that he had suffered an MCL sprain.

Patriots.com
Patriots.com

Malcolm Butler Continues To Impress: Monday was yet another day of Patriots training camp where Malcolm Butler proved why he should be the team’s number one cornerback. He has been a nuisance for Tom Brady to deal with throughout the past couple of weeks, and that was no different on Monday.

Early in practice during seven on seven work, Brady targeted Jonathan Krause deep down the sideline. Krause was blanketed by Butler who went up and deflected the ball out of the air, and proceeded to bop his head up and down signaling the crowd. The so called, “swagger” that Butler possesses has been a big reason why he has stood out this summer.

Later on in practice Butler made a very nice pass breakup on a play action pass intended for Josh Boyce. As always, Butler let Brady know that he got the best of him on that play. It is safe to say that as of right now, Malcolm Butler has a strangle hold on the number one cornerback spot.

Miscellaneous Notes: Monday marked the first day for Ryan Lindley in a Patriots uniform. You can tell that the coaching staff is expecting to use Lindley for a substantial amount of time Thursday night against the Green Bay Packers, because he received a vast majority of the reps at the end of practice.

Overall he was not much different from the last time we saw him against the Carolina Panthers in the wild card round of last years playoffs where he threw two bad interceptions. He has a big arm, but he overthrows his targets much too often.

The Patriots offense continues to have slow starts to practice that set the tone for a stressful and lack luster practice for Tom Brady and the coaching staff. This was most apparent early on at practice Monday when Brady targeted Brian Tyms on a quick crossing pattern.

Patriots.com
Patriots.com

Tyms did not look for the ball fast enough, and by the time he did the ball had already ricocheted of his chest and into the waiting arms of Dont’a Hightower. Brady showed his frustration by shouting the four-lettered word that he commonly uses on game day.

Furthermore, Jerod Mayo took a nasty shot at Rob Gronkowski when he caught a pass over the middle of the field form Tom Brady. It is the kind of physicality you like seeing from your defensive leader, just don’t target it towards arguably your teams most valuable player. The hit caused for some boos from fans, and a sigh of relief when Gronkowski walked away okay.

Lastly, an interesting sight during eleven on eleven work with the second and third team groups towards the end of practice, was the installation of the wildcat offense with undrafted rookie Zach D’Orazio taking the snaps at quarterback.

The Patriots will be back at it on Tuesday, and I will be attending, therefore stay tuned for more training camp updates and analysis form Goal Line Gazette.

New England Patriots: Patriots Training Camp Day One Evaluations

Day one of New England Patriots training camp is officially in the books. Fans piled into the practice field stands and the famous hill, to watch their favorite team take the field for the first practice of the summer. Many fans most likely had a very tough time telling which players were which, because in typical Bill Belichick fashion he sent his players onto the field without jersey numbers. The only thing the casual fan could tell was that quarterbacks were in red, offense in gray shirts, and defense in blue shirts.

I was in attendance at practice, and because I spend too much learning every minute detail of these players, I did not have an overly tough time deciphering which players were which. Seeing how the players were in just shorts, t-shirts, and helmets there was virtually zero contact.

7/30/15 QBs and WRs
7/30/15 QBs and WRs

The lack of physicality made it very difficult for defensive players and offensive lineman to stand out. Therefore, I really limited myself to evaluating some of the skill position groups that were really on display. This meant predominately quarterbacks, wide receivers, and slightly tight ends and running backs.

The running backs that were out on the field today were Brandon Bolden, Travaris Cadet, Tyler Gaffney, Dion Lewis, and James White. When it came to first team reps with Tom Brady and company, Brandon Bolden received almost all of the snaps when the offense was in shot gun, (which was almost every snap).

Furthermore, in goal line drills, the Patriots lined up in the jumbo set with six offensive lineman, with Gronkowksi and Chandler on the end, and Jonas Gray running the ball behind James Develin in the, “I” formation. Jonas Gray was big to begin with, now he looks significantly thicker, and Josh McDaniels seems to be looking to get him involved in the passing game.

Patriots.com
Patriots.com

Patriots fans got their first glimpse of Tyler Gaffney today, and it was in a limited role. He received decent reps, but mostly just running the ball in simulated goal line situations. He also got some special teams work in.

The wide receivers were harder to tell apart. Obviously Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola are easy to tell apart, but players such as Josh Boyce, Brandon Gibson, and Chris Harper are not as easy. Amendola and Edelman looked impressive as always. Brady targeted Edelman more than any other receivers, connecting every time they attempted, with the exception of one post corner route in the back of the end zone, dropped by Edelman.

Both Aaron Dobson and Brian Tyms saw a lot of time on opposite sides of the field. Dobson was with Brady and the first team, and Tyms with Garoppolo and the second team. Garoppolo targeted Brian Tyms a total of six times throughout the day during team drills, going four for six, based on my observations, and as expected they were all fade routes and skinny posts. Dobson was on the field a lot with Brady, but the ball did not come his way very often.

At tight end, there are few words to say other than, Rob Gronkowski is a freak. He caught multiple passes in traffic from Tom Brady, the most impressive being a skinny post route in which he caught the ball while shaking off Tavon Wilson like he was nothing, and spiking the ball in the process. In addition, Jake Bequette did not impress at tight end. He has the physical stature to be a beastly blocking tight end, however he has stone hands, dropping passes on multiple occasions.

Quarterback was by the far the easiest position to evaluate, given the fact that there was only two quarterbacks on the field. Tom Brady impressed as he always does in training camp. His passes were pinpoint and he also showed a little bit of athleticism. Early on in practice Brady caught a fade in the corner of the end zone from Julian Edelman. Then later on he caught another pass down the sideline from Julian Edelman on a reverse pass, this time he only needed one hand.

garops patriots.com

Many were probably expecting to see a slightly improved Jimmy Garoppolo from the one they had seen in December. If you went to Patriots training camp with these expectations, you left disappointed. His first pass of the day was an interception to rookie Matthew Wells or Jordan Richards. He simply can’t throw the ball down field and he seems to be afraid to even try it. Brady certainly does not have a cannon for an arm, but he makes decisions quickly and gets rid of the football. Jimmy panics when his first read is gone, looks around and then dumps it off to James White. If it were a real game situation he would be put in the turf fairly quick.

I hope to attend training camp more in the coming days, so stay tuned for more updates and analysis of the Patriots practices.

Patriots Training Camp Battles: Matt Flynn Vs. Jimmy Garoppolo For Back Up Quarterback

Now more than ever in the past fifteen years, the Patriots back up quarterbacks will be assessed during training camp this summer. With Tom Brady’s four game suspension currently standing, you have to believe there is a good chance that Brady will miss some game time this season. With that being said, Matt Flynn and Jimmy Garoppolo will be two players to keep a close eye on throughout camp, and they are the newest installment in our training camp battles.

Matt Flynn is going into training camp this summer with virtually zero pressure or expectations. The vast majority of Patriots fans and media are all aboard the, “Jimmy G” hype train. Nobody is giving Flynn a legitimate shot at the back up job. The reality is, he should have just as much of a chance to land the job as Jimmy Garoppolo. Flynn is a much more proven pro quarterback.

Now Matt Flynn is no superstar himself. He has made a boat load of money over his career based off one spectacular game in week seventeen of the 2011 season. Against the Detroit Lions he went 33 of 49, for 518 yards, and six touchdowns. That lead to Flynn inking a three-year, 26 million-dollar deal with Seattle, only to be beat out in training camp by rookie Russell Wilson. After 2012 Flynn bounced around from Oakland, to Buffalo, and eventually back to Green Bay were he once again proved to be a reliable fill-in for Aaron Rodgers.

This summer, Flynn will have to prove that he can digest another teams playbook, which he has had trouble with over his career. He can move around the pocket well, his decision making and ability to control the offense will determine whether or not he can take over the back up role. Reps in the pre season will be huge for Flynn. In addition, he is familiar with Brandon LaFell as they were both apart of the 2008 BCS National Championship team at Louisiana State. Just something to keep an eye on.

Jan 1, 2012; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Matt Flynn (10) throws a pass during the first quarter against the Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field.  Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE
Photo: cbssports.com

Jimmy Garoppolo on the other hand, has a lot of pressure on him going into training camp. He has barely seen any NFL game time and most fans are proclaiming him as the second coming of Steve Young. Garoppolo can move around the pocket well and take off when the pocket collapses. It is a skill that Tom Brady doesn’t have, which could be key with a young offensive line.

However, his flashes last season of making plays with his legs masked the fact that he had difficulty throwing the ball down field and making smart decisions. For the most part when his first read is taken away, he just runs around like a chicken with his head cut off.

Luckily for Garoppolo he has three huge things going for him in 2015. He has spent the most important offseason of his career healthy, he has had more than two months already to prepare as a starter, and his targets on offseason are some of the best in the league. When you have a unanimous All-Pro tight end in Rob Gronkowski, and an elite receiver such as Julian Edelman it is tough for any quarterback to not have success.

Photo: masslive.com
Photo: masslive.com

All in all, Jimmy Garoppolo will end up winning the back up job at the end of training camp this year. The reasoning for this is for multiple reasons. The most important being he is Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels special project. They drafted him high with the expectations that he could start one day. He is the type of player Josh McDaniels has always liked at quarterback.

Also, Matt Flynn has never proven that he can win a quarterback battle. He couldn’t do it in Seattle when he was given the money, or in Buffalo. Even in Oakland he was shipped out for Matt Schaub and Derek Carr. Patriots fans should feel uneasy if either of these players have to start early in the season, but Jimmy Garoppolo will give them the best shot to stay in it.

Patriots Training Camp Battles: AJ Derby Vs. Michael Hoomanawanui For Third Tight End

For the New England Patriots, their tight end situation as it is currently constituted has two definite starters with All-Pro Rob Gronkowski and newly acquired Scott Chandler, along with multiple players fighting for the third spot.

Jake Bequette is trying to make the transition from defensive end to tight end to help salvage his career. It is hard to believe that he will be anything more than a fourth string tight end if he makes the roster. The real competition for the third tight end spot will come between veteran Michael Hoomanawanui and rookie sixth round pick AJ Derby.

image: boston.cbs.local.com
image: boston.cbs.local.com

 

Michael Hoomanwanaui has been a very accountable player since he joined the Patriots in 2012. He is one of the best examples of a Patriot that follows the model, “Do Your Job.” When asked to be a fill-in fullback he can do that, also he can be a serviceable blocking tight end.

However, “Hoo-Man” has for the most part been irrelevant in the passing game during his tenure with the Patriots. He has good hands but is very slow and runs stiff routes.

His inability to be open for Tom Brady has been the reason for his lack of targets. In addition, Hoomanwanui has a 1.5 million-dollar cap hit for 2015. That number is high for a blocking tight end. The Patriots can fill his role with James Develin at a cheaper price.

AJ Derby will be one of the more intriguing players this summer. Drafted 202nd overall out of Arkansas by the Patriots in this past draft, Derby looks to have the athletic ability to play tight end, but his skills are still raw due to his lack of experience at the position.

 

image: nflmocks.com
image: nflmocks.com

Derby was a middle linebacker turned quarterback for most of his time in Fayetteville, only to switch to tight end in his final season. In the Patriots system, I can picture Derby playing in a, “move tight end” role given his 6-4, 255 pound frame.

He doesn’t have the size or strength to be an in-line blocking tight end, although he has the hands and speed to catch the ball all over the field. Josh McDaniels will give Derby his chances during training camp, he may just be a work in-progress because of how little he has played at tight end.

In the end, AJ Derby will end up winning this battle because Michael Hoomanwanui’s price tag is too high. Hoo-Man is a replaceable player, and Derby could be a late-round gem. Stay tuned for more training camp battles as we get closer to July 30th.

(Photo: boston.cbslocal.com, nflmocks.com, nepatriotsdraft.com)

Patriots Training Camp Preview: Things To Watch For

With the Patriots set to open Training Camp Thursday July 30th, lets take a look at things to keep an eye on during training camp.

With the decision of quarterback Tom Brady’s suspension appeal still not made, and could still be no decision made by the time New England opens training camp it will be interesting to see how much work each of the teams three quarterbacks see with the first team offense. With Brady and Garoppolo both splitting reps during the teams OTAs I would expect Brady and Garoppolo to continue splitting reps if there is still no decision regarding Brady. The Patriots need to be prepared if Brady’s suspension is not completely exonerated and he accepts the punishment handed down to him by the league and doesn’t fight the decision in court. Getting Garoppolo reps with the starting offense will be important for building a chemistry with the offense and so that the offense doesn’t miss a beat and continues to be a high powered offense with Garoppolo under center. It will also be interesting to see how recently signed quarterback Matt Flynn performs and if he takes any reps with the first team offense and challenge Garoppolo for the replacement starter/ backup quarterback position.

via bostonherald.com
via bostonherald.com

Another area to watch in training camp would be the team’s running back position. With Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley both gone, New England will need to replace both backs that have a very different style of play. Vereen was a receiving back that could play out of the backfield or be split out in a receiver role and will be harder to replace than Ridley. Vereen had a great chemistry with Brady and that showed in the Super Bowl when Vereen recorded 11 receptions. James White and Travaris Cadet are expected to be the main competitors for Vereen’s job. Another name to watch for will be Dion Lewis, who drew praise from both Brady and Belichick during OTAs. Ridley was inconsistent throughout his career in New England, at times showing he could be a top back in the league and then other times his fumbling issues and struggled to get on the field. Ridley started to get overshadowed by Blount during the 2013 season and after Blount left for Pittsburgh in the offseason, Ridley was back as starter for the 2014 season. After a torn ACL and a Blount return to New England it was pretty obvious that Ridley would not be in the teams plans for 2015. Blount is the veteran in New England’s backfield and has the experience in New England’s system and is expected to be the team’s main feature back, but is suspended for week ones matchup against Pittsburgh. With Blount out week one, Jonas Gray and Tyler Gaffney could be in-line to start week one and potentially going forward if they have a good camp and make the most of their opportunities. Gray burst on the scene after an incredible 200 yard 4 touchdown performance against the Colts then found himself in coach Bill Belichick’s doghouse after his alarm didn’t go off and showed up late for practice and saw very limited action the rest of the season. Gaffney was drafted in the 6th round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the Carolina Panthers. After tearing his ACL at the beginning of training camp the Panthers placed Gaffney on waivers hoping he would clear waivers and the team would be able to put him on season-ending injured reserve, sadly for the Panthers Gaffney was claimed by the Patriots on waivers and was later placed on injured reserve. Bill Belichick has praised Gaffney and his work ethic, we will finally get to see Gaffney on field and see what he can do once training camp starts.

host.madison.com
host.madison.com

The Patriots drafted two offensive linemen in this years NFL Draft who could be ready to contribute right away. The team selected guard/center Tre Jackson from Florida State and guard Shaq Mason from Georgia Tech. Jackson played along side Patriots center Bryan Stork who the team drafted the year before and played great during his rookie year. Stork’s early success could help Jackson’s chances of being a week one starter or at least seeing significant time during his rookie season. Mason is a terrific run blocker but needs to develop more as a pass blocker. Mason played for Georgia Tech who was primarily a run team and didn’t throw the ball too often. Mason needs a little more time to develop and improve his game compared to Jackson. If Mason can elevate his pass blocking to the same level as his run blocking, he could become one of the better guards in the NFL. Last year’s starter Dan Connolly is currently a free agent and is reportedly considering retirement according to reports. With one starting spot on the line currently open it will be interesting to see if either of the rookies step up and earn the job or if someone whose been around like Cameron Fleming or Marcus Cannon will the win the second starting guard spot opposite last years starter Ryan Wendell, who may not be a lock for a starting position entering the 2015 season.

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The Patriots drafted defensive tackle Malcolm Brown in the first round of this years NFL Draft. Brown was drafted to help a Patriots run defense that has struggled the past few seasons and to replace longtime Patriot Vince Wilfork, who signed with the Houston Texans this offseason. All eyes will be on Brown to see if he is the real deal and the new anchor of the defense after the departure of Wilfork. Another player to watch would be Jabaal Sheard, the Patriots biggest free agent signee this offseason. Sheard is a pass rushing DE/OLB and will be interesting to see where the Patriots line him up on the field.

via blog.masslive.com
via blog.masslive.com

The cornerback position is one that has widely been talked about after the departures of Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner and Kyle Arrington, who were key pieces to the Patriots secondary last season. Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler and third year man Logan Ryan are expected to be the teams starting corners heading into 2015. Both have shown signs of promise in their short careers and it will be interesting to see how each performs in training camp and see if either can transform themselves into the number one corner that the Patriots secondary is currently missing.

via hngn.com
via hngn.com

With less than three weeks until training camp kicks off these are things that I and many others will be looking forward to see when the team takes the field and prepares to defend their Super Bowl Championship.