What we've learned early in Patriots' camp
The Patriots are spending the week hosting joint practices with the Jacksonville Jaguars before opening the preseason against them on Thursday night at Gillette Stadium. It is important to keep in mind that most first-string players will not see much time in Thursday's game.
With week 1 of the pre-season here, we get our first look into each coach's mind on how the depth chart is going to shape-up in the regular season. Of course, it is impossible to figure out what Bill Belichick is thinking, but we can still try:
1. Dion Lewis and James White are listed as co-starters at running back for the Patriots.
Brandon Bolden and Rex Burkhead are the second-string running backs while Mike Gillislee is still lining up with the third string. What is interesting here is how Belichick is going to get all five of these guys involved.
Each one of these guys offer different things they can do on a football field and teams are going to have an extremely tough time keeping up. Just because Gillislee is technically the fifth running back on the depth chart, doesn't mean he won't be the featured back at times in 2017.
Keep an eye on Burkhead for the remainder of camp, who has been doing everything possible to push both White and Lewis.
2. Brandin Cooks is No. 1 on the depth chart.
This isn't much of a surprise, but is absolutely something to look at. Cooks complained in New Orleans that he wasn't getting enough targets. The Saints are absolutely loaded at wide receiver so it makes sense to trade Cooks, but the Patriots are pretty stacked too.
Cooks will be fighting with Julian Edelmen, Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell, and Danny Amendola for targets. Keep in mind that Gronk, Dwayne Allen, and all the running backs are also going to be getting targets from Tom Brady. Will there be enough targets to keep Cooks happy once the season begins?
3. David Harris is starting at linebacker.
In the modern day NFL, teams are more likely to have their nickel package on the field. While in the nickel, teams sacrifice a linebacker to have another cornerback, usually a slot corner, on the field.
Harris, the long-time Jet, is a talented run stopper, so it makes sense to have him in there when the Patriots have their 4-3 defense in on early downs. When teams find themselves in second and third down, Harris will likely split time with Dont'a Hightower as one of the two inside linebackers on the field.
Side note: It is important to keep in mind that the Patriots put all of their rookies at the bottom of the depth chart. That leads us to believe that this early in the season, the Patriots are focused on making their rookies work their way up. It would not be surprising to see Tony Gracia or Deatrich Wise Jr. slide up a few spots as we get closer to the regular season.
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