Fun fact - it has literally been half a year since the New England Patriots played a football game. It's been... eventful. But boy, have I missed football. And now, in the searing heat of July, it's just around the corner. So time to preview some of the key battles that'll be going down in Training Camp.
After looking at the battle to be Tom Brady's backup, it's time to focus on an area which has been by far the weakness of the Patriots in recent years - the secondary.
The #2 corner position is where things unfortunately start to heat up. A lot will depend on what happens on July 31st, but if all goes well, Alfonzo Dennard shall be opposite Talib in Week 1. However, if things go badly yet again for Dennard, then there are plenty of candidates to replace him. Watching how Ras-I Dowling, Kyle Arrington and rookie Logan Ryan perform on the outside will be interesting viewing.
I didn't think I'd be saying this, but my favorite to win out if Dennard is gone is Dowling. We've seen enough of Arrington on the outside to know that he is nothing more than a slot corner, which is basically a starting position in this NFL era. Ryan was just a 3rd round pick, and unless he really shows something special, I don't think they'll want to throw him in. So the job is Dowling's to win. Plagued by injuries, he has actually been able to show what he can do this Spring, and by all accounts he has impressed. This training camp is key to his future, and he'll be looking to take this chance.
Some may suggest Devin McCourty could move back to Corner if Dennard is missing, but once again, I don't see it. Similarly to Arrington, McCourty just couldn't play outside corner. So he'll be firmly cemented in his position at Safety. The battle to start alongside him will be a very interesting one, which could be determined by performance in Training Camp.
Tavon Wilson will be looking to improve on his rookie year, where he showed he could make plays, but that was about it. A year in the system and in an NFL environment should help him this summer make the leap he'll be hoping for. Steve Gregory also showed himself to be a playmaker at Safety too, including recovering the Buttfumble for a TD. He should be the favorite to be the starter ahead of Training Camp due to his experience.
Throw someone with more experience into the mix, and we have a battle royale. Adrian Wilson signed in Free Agency, and he should have a big part to play on this team. He'll provide leadership and experience, he'll help the development of Tavon Wilson and rookie Duron Harmon, he'll be an asset against the run.
However, I don't see him being the starter on this team. He's become a slightly one dimensional player, and Gregory I feel gives the secondary a more well rounded player alongside McCourty. Wilson will have a big role to play on sub packages. However, anything can happen in training camp, and if he shows he can still defend the pass - which he didn't show in his last year with the Arizona Cardinals - he might sneak ahead of Gregory.
Let me know how you think the Secondary battle at Training Camp will play out on Twitter - find me @BrendanAnnely