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|NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (15-4)
OPEN CAMP: July 26 Charles Harris Jersey , Foxborough, Massachusetts
LAST YEAR: New England lost twice in its first four games but recovered to win 11 of its final 12 behind MVP season of quarterback Tom Brady. He impressed at age 40, throwing for 4,577 yards, 32 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He did so despite reported issues between himself, coach Bill Belichick and team owner Robert Kraft following midseason trade of backup Jimmy Garoppolo to 49ers. Defensive inconsistency was ongoing issue and it caught up with Patriots in Super Bowl loss to Philadelphia. It included surprise benching of cornerback Malcolm Butler, one of several players to sign with new teams during free agency.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: RB Jeremy Hill, RB Sony Michel, QB Danny Etling, DE Adrian Clayborn, WR Jordan Matthews, OT Trent Brown, OL Isaiah Wynn Pat Elflein Jersey , CB Jason McCourty, DT Danny Shelton,
IMPORTANT LOSSES: Defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, WR Danny Amendola, WR Brandin Cooks, CB Malcolm Butler, CB Johnson Bademosi, RB Dion Lewis, OT Nate Solder, OT Cam Fleming.
CAMP NEEDS: Wide receiver will be hot topic. After sitting out 2017 with torn right ACL, Julian Edelman is suspended for first four games of regular season for violating NFL policy on performance enhancers. Combined with losses of Amendola and Cooks in trades to Dolphins and Rams, respectively, it leaves Chris Hogan (34 catches Deatrich Wise Jr Jersey , 439 yards, five TDs) as top returning wide receiver. Something also must be done to solidify defense that needs more edge rushing and someone to start alongside Stephon Gilmore at cornerback.
EXPECTATIONS: Even with offseason roster changes, Patriots enter camp as team to beat in AFC East. All-Pro TE Rob Gronkowski considered retirement in offseason; he and Brady skipped voluntary offseason workouts. But both returned for mandatory minicamps and say they are focused on helping New England reach what would be its fourth Super Bowl in five seasons. One of biggest question marks will be how linebackers coach Brian Flores does in new role as defensive play caller.
Continuity paid off for the Los Angeles Rams‘ offense last season, starting with the same offensive line combination that played together in all but one game. It certainly did for running back Todd Gurley, who signed a four-year, $60 million contract extension in July after running for 1,305 yards and scoring 19 total touchdowns last season behind that familiar front five.
”Whoever said money don’t make you happy lied,” Gurley said with a smile Wednesday.
The Rams expect even greater stability on offense to translate into continued success in head coach Sean McVay’s second season, a belief that has been reinforced during the start of training camp.
At this same stage last year, the Rams were working in new additions at left tackle, center and wide receiver while learning the basics of a new offense, and were still weeks away from trading for wide receiver Sammy Watkins. They return 10 of 11 starters for this year’s workouts at UC Irvine, with new acquisition Brandin Cooks replacing Watkins as the big play threat in the passing game.
Quarterback Jared Goff said the familiarity is paying dividends Brian Poole Jersey , especially during the transition from teaching the offense in the first few days to refining each element of a system that produced an NFL-leading 29.9 points per game.
”We feel like we’re in a good spot,” Goff said. ”Offensively, we’ve been starting to click. I think today was the first day you really felt that consistency starting to gel. We’re not so much installing anymore, we’re running the same plays over and over again and starting to get a good feel with it.”
”It makes everyone so much more comfortable just to come out here and just play our game. You don’t have to think about too much, and that’s what it is all about,” Gurley said.
For Goff, his increased comfort level entering his second season as the starter manifests in a better understanding of what opposing defenses are trying to do.
”It just continues to slow down,” Goff said. ”Your pre-snap process is a lot smoother, and you’re more under control of everything and are seeing things better.”
While Goff is playing faster, there has been no deceleration by Gurley after signing a contract featuring the most guaranteed money for a running back in NFL history. Goff and McVay both praised his relentlessness in practice, with a prime example coming when Gurley kept running towards the end zone as McVay was setting up the next play in the sequence.
”I got what I want, now let’s keep going,” Gurley said. ”Nothing doesn’t stop. The grind continues. It’s going to be even harder now Joey Bosa Jersey , obviously, to be able to do what I did last year, and teams are going to game plan for it. It’s my job to go out there, put myself in a great position and try to work as hard as I can. As long as I do that, I feel comfortable with the players around me and the coaches around me to put me in a great position.”
With so much familiarity returning, Gurley is ready to build on his best season to date. But he understands his individual production is the result of what the offense does together, declaring that every running back is the beneficiary of the blocking he gets before Gurley backtracked.
”Obviously, Barry Sanders is going to do what he do, but it doesn’t matter what other running back you have back there. If you don’t have all 11 doing one thing, then it’s not going to work,” he said.
NOTES: Outside linebacker Matt Longacre left practice early because of an undisclosed injury. . Kicker Greg Zuerlein made a 63-yard field goal during a simulated two-minute drill.
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