On a gray and damp June morning the New England Patriots began work on a title defense. After months of celebrating the franchises fourth world championship and all the fame that comes along with it, their jobs begin anew.
Since that glorious February evening in Arizona, the ensuing offseason has brought much change to the Patriot roster, most notably defections, primarily in the form of Darrelle Revis to the division rival New York Jets and 11-year team veteran Vince Wilfork who now is a Texan, calling Houston home. Conversely, the additions were slim and far between. Unlike last offseason when the team bolstered it’s secondary with the addition of the aforementioned Revis and Brandon Browner, players that helped transform the team’s defense into one of the formidable units in the NFL, this offseason was about adding depth and plugging holes. With no clear prized free agent acquisition, that title may very well end up being tight end Scott Chandler, a player that has been a Patriot killer in seasons past.
Following the Super Bowl, the Patriots focus was clearly on transitioning into the next great era in team history; a decision no doubt aided by futile negotiations in trying to retain Revis.
The team added Cornerback Bradley Fletcher, a six-year veteran with eight career interceptions who was a starter in Philadelphia. Make no mistake, Fletcher will not fill the coveted “shutdown corner” mold in New England. Should he survive camp and make the final 53-man roster, Fletcher’s niche on the team will undoubtedly be in a rotational basis and on special teams.
At day one of minicamp last Tuesday, the defense practiced without core starters from last season; end Chandler Jones and linebacker Jamie Collins. Linebacker Jerod Mayo was also absent having lost the majority of last season to a torn patellar tendon suffered in October.
With uncertainty surrounding the availability of Tom Brady to start the season, the team brought in Matt Flynn, a veteran of the understudy role for two of the NFL’s preeminent quarterbacks, Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers and Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks. Flynn is expected to serve as backup to Jimmy Garoppolo and as the third string QB once Brady returns to action.
If history repeats itself for a third time, Jimmy Garoppolo may be on the fast path to stardom.
All three quarterbacks on the roster participated in minicamp drills, with Garoppolo seeing most of his work with the first team offense. For the most part he looked sharp, going nearly perfect on one particular drill while targeting the likes of Edelman and Gronkowski extensively.
There may be a different quarterback behind center, but the targets remain the same. Not much has changed.
Patriot fans may see more of wide receiver Brian Tyms in 2015. Tyms showed great speed and the ability to separate from his defender in slipping through the heart of the secondary to haul in a 40-yard pass from Garoppolo. “Naturally, the more reps you get, the better off so every rep, you’ve got to make it count. Even the ones you’re not in, you’ve got to get the mental rep part in.”
Christian A. Guarino, a Boston North End resident, writes about football and soccer for the Boston Post Gazette.