By Alex Barth, 985TheSportsHub.com
With rookies and quarterbacks reporting to Foxboro for COVID-19 testing on Monday, Patriots training camp is (sort of) officially underway.
Obvious pandemic reasons aside, it’s a tough year for Patriots training camp to be shortened and modified. There are more questions surrounding this year’s team than any edition in the last 20-plus years.
Just because this year’s camp is different, that doesn’t mean the questions still can’t or don’t need to be answered. That being said, I went through and came up with the most pressing question for all 80 players on the Patriots roster.
Explaining each question would have run this to about 40,000 words, so here we’ve kept it to mostly just questions. Still, that doesn’t mean we can’t expound upon them. We’ll go more in-depth throughout Patriots training camp right here on 985TheSportsHub.com. Or, if you can’t wait, feel free to ask me on Twitter @RealAlexBarth.
Cam Newton: Is he healthy, can he stay healthy?
* Opening Thoughts: The ‘quarterback competition’ in Foxboro isn’t as much Cam Newton versus Jarrett Stidham as it is Newton versus himself. If he’s healthy he’ll run away with the job, but that’s a big if.
Jarrett Stidham: What did he learn last year, is there a sizable year-two jump in store?
Brain Hoyer: How valuable is his knowledge of the organization to Bill Belichick?
James White: How well does he mesh with Cam Newton?
* Opening Thoughts: Christian McCaffrey was Cam Newton’s favorite receiver the two years both were healthy in Carolina. Newton will look for his running back often, so White will have an opportunity to capitalize.
Sony Michel: Is his role as lead back in jeopardy?
Rex Burkhead: Was restructuring his contract enough to keep him on the team?
Damien Harris: Where does he fit in?
J.J. Taylor: Can he hold on to the football?
Brandon Bolden: What will his role in the offense, if any, look like this year?
Jakob Johnson: How does the traditional fullback position fit, if there is one at all, in the Cam Newton offense?
* Opening Thoughts: The Patriots will likely run less true power sets with Cam Newton as their quarterback. That could mean the elimination of the ‘traditional’ fullback position as James Develin played it the last few years. Johnson will need to adapt and prove he can play an ‘H-Back’ role to stick.
Danny Vitale: How many different positions will he play?
N’Keal Harry: Will the Patriots give him assignments that better fit his skill set?
* Opening Thoughts: The Patriots seemed to play to Harry’s weaknesses last year as opposed to his strengths. They should be able to fix that if they’re running a Cam Newton offense.
Julian Edelman: With Tom Brady gone, is he ready for a significantly increased leadership role on and off the field?
Mohamed Sanu: How much were his struggles at the end of last year tied to his ankle injury?
Jakobi Myers: Is he any more explosive than last year?
Marquise Lee: Is his quickness and agility back to where it was before his 2018 knee injury?
Damiere Byrd: What does he bring to the table besides speed?
Gunner Olszewski: Can he be more than a punt returner?
Quincy Adeboyejo: Can he use his size (6’3) to set himself apart as a potential red zone threat?
Devin Ross: Can he avoid the number 17 curse?
Jeff Thomas: Is he buying into the coaching staff?
Matthew Slater: Will he have more of a leadership role on offense with Tom brady gone?
Dalton Keene: Does he get more reps in a traditional TE role, or as sort of an H-Back?
* Opening Thoughts: Keene is the definition of ‘raw,’ and while he has plenty of physical tools, the Patriots will only get out of him what they put into molding him as a football player.
Matt LaCosse: Can he mesh better with Cam Newton than he did with Tom Brady?
Devin Asiasi: How does he separate from NFL safeties?
Ryan Izzo: Has his blocking improved enough where he could be a goal line option?
Rashod Berry: Is he a tight end or defensive end?
Jake Burt: What is his prototype?
Korey Cunningham: What did the Patriots see in him last year to trade for him?
* Opening Thoughts: The Patriots gave up a sixth-round pick for Cunningham last year, only to have him play one game. Is there a bigger plan in store for 2020?
Isaiah Wynn: Can he take on a full workload and remain healthy?
Marcus Cannon: How does his shoulder look?
Yodny Cajuste: Is he the favorite to be the swing tackle?
Justin Herron: Can he do enough to make Marcus Cannon’s contract expendable?
Jermaine Eluemunor: Can he be more than a stopgap backup?
* Opening Thoughts: With Ted Karras gone, the Patriots need a backup beyond the role of spot snaps here and there. Eluemunor has a chance to be that guy this year.
Joe Thuney: What does he look like in a contract year?
Shaq Mason: How has he bounced back physically from a banged-up 2019 campaign?
Hjalte Froholdt: Is he less grabby than he was in last year’s preseason?
Michael Onwenu: How well does he move after losing weight in the offseason?
Najee Toran: Can he play any tackle?
David Andrews: What kind of condition is he in after missing last year with a pulmonary embolism?
* Opening Thoughts: How Andrews looks after a year out of football is one of the biggest questions of Patriots training camp. The offensive line didn’t look the same without him. Coming off of a medical issue involving his lungs, he may be at added risk with coronavirus.
Dustin Woodard: How many different positions can he play?
Adam Butler: Can he show enough against the run to be a three-down player?
* Opening Thoughts: Butler has made impressive strides as an interior pass rusher over the last three years. The next step is to improve his game against the run and become a true three-down guy.
Lawrence Guy: Does he line up more inside or outside?
Beau Allen: Can he sure things up against the run?
Byron Cowart: How does he look as a pass rusher?
Nick Thurman: How many special teams reps does he get?
Bill Murray: How does he adapt to the speed of the NFL game?
John Simon: Will he remain the most consistent player on the defense?
* Opening Thoughts: John Simon is one of the most reliable players on that side of the ball. He will have added challenges trying to keep that up in a likely increasing role after the departures of Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins.
Chase Winovich: Is he ready for an every-down role?
Deatrich Wise: Is this the year he finally breaks out?
Derek Rivers: Is his knee healthy?
Nick Coe: How versatile can he be?
Tashawn Bower: Do they use him in coverage at all?
Dont’a Hightower: Is he a middle or outside linebacker this year?
* Opening Thoughts: The Patriots have a tendency to move Dont’a Hightower around the defense. He may be most valuable on the edge, but given the offseason he could stick inside.
Ja’Whaun Bentley: How does he communicate with the first-team defense?
Shilique Calhoun: Is he playing more special teams or defense?
Brandon Copeland: How much time does he spend with the younger players?
Anfernee Jennings: How many passes does he knock down at the line?
Josh Uche: How well does he keep up with backs and tight ends?
Terez Hall: Can he be a tackler, not just a hitter?
Caash Maluia: Is this Bill Belichick’s redo for letting Kamu Grugier-Hill go?
De’Jon “Scoota” Harris: How much of an Elandon Roberts clone is he, really?
Brandon King: How is he moving after a significant knee injury?
Joejuan Williams: Is he covering wide receivers or tight ends?
* Opening Thoughts: When the Patriots drafted Williams in the second round last year, the idea was his upside was to be a ‘tight end stopper.’ After not playing for much of last year, we may see more of him in that role as a sophomore.
Stephon Gilmore: Is his level of success sustainable?
J.C. Jackson: Can he earn a new contract in Patriots training camp?
Jon Jones: Do they try him outside of the slot?
Jason McCourty: How does the veteran look against a group of mostly younger receivers?
Justin Bethel: Will he play on defense?
D’Angelo Ross: Can he pick up where he left off last year before getting hurt in Patriots training camp?
Myles Bryant: Does he get moves to safety?
Devin McCourty: Will he opt out?
* Opening Thoughts: McCourty has been one of the most vocal individuals when it comes to making sure the 2020 season is safe for both players and those who they live with. If he doesn’t feel like the plan is up to his standards, it wouldn’t be shocking to see him opt out. (And he has every right to do so.)
Patrick Chung: Is he 100 percent?
Terrence Brooks: Do offseason acquisitions leave him on the outside looking in?
Adrian Phillips: How does it look with him and Chung on the field at the same time?
Kyle Dugger: How does he react to the speed of the NFL game?
Cody Davis: Do they have him jump over the line on a field goal block?
Jake Bailey: Can he quickly get on the same page with Rohrwasser in terms of place holding?
* Opening Thoughts: In 2019 as a rookie, Bailey had to quickly learn how to hold for three different kickers throughout the season. That number should be lower this year, but how fast can him and Rohrwasser get their chemistry down? The quicker the rookie gets acclimated, the better.
Justin Rohrwasser: What do the Patriots see as his range?
Joe Cardona: How will he adapt to a veteran role on the special teams unit?
Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at Alexander.Barth@bbgi.com.