By Connor Fulton @ConnorFultonRS on August 6, 2014
Football is finally here. After months of talk, talk and more talk, players are about to hit the gridiron for the first time since February. With that in mind, let’s talk — one more time — about 10 New England Patriots players who are especially worthy of your attention this month.
The sophomore pro out of Cincinnati has posted another outstanding offseason. He has shown familiarity with Tom Brady in the Patriots’ complicated offensive scheme. It will be interesting to see how Kenbrell Thompkins will fare after what appears to be months of improvement.
As of right now, it appears that Asa Watson is the odd man out in the Patriots’ tight end depth chart. However, if he takes after his older brother Benjamin — currently a tight end for the New Orleans Saints, formerly of the Patriots — he will make plays and preseason and could force his way onto the roster.
The Sam Houston State product has stood out in offseason workouts and training camp with his ball-hawking talent. He is an interesting player and has a decent chance to push out veteran Kyle Arrington for the fifth and likely final cornerback spot.
Patriots fans should be on the edge of their seats when Patrick Chung steps on the field against the Washington Redskins. While pass defending is not his strength, Chung brings a certain tenacity and aggression that the Patriots’ defense severely lacked in 2013.
Yet another Rutgers alum in the Patriots’ defensive ranks, Steve Beauharnais hasn’t had many opportunities to prove himself in the NFL. August is a huge month for a player like Beauharnais — a few good performances might make him a top backup in the Patriots’ linebacking corps.
The acquisition of Will Smith went largely unnoticed over the offseason, but he could make a lot of noise this year. Look for the veteran to get a lot of snaps in preseason and contend for Rob Ninkovich’s starting spot opposite from Chandler Jones.
Time missed because of injury has stuttered the beginning Bryan Stork’s NFL career, but big things are expected out of the national champion this season. He will win the starting center job over Ryan Wendell as long as he walks the walk this month.
With Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen and Brandon Bolden entering contract years in 2014, all eyes will be on James White this preseason. Patriots fans have to hope that the rookie plays as well in August as he has all training camp, because he could be the long-term answer at the running back position.
Everyone will want to see how Ryan Mallett reacts to having competition for the backup quarterback job. If he plays anywhere near the level he has this offseason, there is no doubt that Mallett will retain the rights to Brady’s clipboard, and possibly draw some interest from quarterback-needy teams around the league.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the draft was the Patriots’ selection of Jimmy Garoppolo in the second round, so the entire football world will be excited to see the rookie play in live action. The small-school product will have to really turn it on to have any shot of unseating Mallett on the depth chart.
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