After a disappointing 4-point loss to the New York Giants at Super Bowl XLVI, the New England Patriots are taking training camp very seriously as they prepare for the regular season to begin. The Pats have used the off-season effectively to their advantage to hopefully go all the way this year.
Several new players have been practicing with the Patriots under the watchful eye of head coach Bill Belichick, each hoping to ensure their spot in the starting lineup. The new names for this year include Brandon Lloyd, Chandler Jones, and a recent surprise addition to the roster, Jeff Demps. The Pats had some admittedly weak points in their game last year and coaches are hoping their new additions will strengthen the team for the 2012 season.
Belichick brought in wide receiver Brandon Lloyd in the hopes of increasing QB Tom Brady’s passing threat down field and along the sidelines, something that was sorely missed in last year’s Super Bowl. Chandler Jones, the Patriot’s first-round pick in the 2012 draft, made a serious impact as defensive end in the Pat’s first preseason game, giving coaches no doubt about their choice and increasing his chance of becoming a starter. Olympic silver-medalist, Jeff Demps, signed a deal with the Patriots on Friday, August 17. The University of Florida alum is expected to help the Pat’s special teams, particularly their kick return; an area that Belichick believes the team should improve upon for the upcoming season.
Practices since the beginning of preseason have become very intense, with some players not handling the pressure well. After three previous brawls during training camp, Belichick kicked two players off of the field and out of practice when tempers flared, hoping to send a zero-tolerance message to the team. Aside from conflicts between team members, the Patriots have also been riddled with injuries before the regular season even begins.
In the Pat’s first preseason game, a 7-6 win over the New Orleans Saints, several players were sidelined early, and a few of the Pats’ starters missed the game entirely. The entire offensive line has struggled in regards to recent injuries, particularly star tackle Sebastian Vollmer. Although no team wants to see their players injured, the on-field openings do give new players a chance to impress coaches during the remaining preseason.
The Patriots are scheduled for three more exhibition games before the regular season begins. The team will host the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday, August 20, before traveling to face the Buccaneers in Tampa on August 24. The Pats will head down to New York on August 29, to round out their preseason by facing last year’s nemesis, the Giants. The regular season kicks off for the Pats at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday, September 9, when they travel to face the Tennessee Titans.
Injuries aside, expectations are high for the New England Patriots as always. Belichick and his coaching squad seem to have used the offseason to address last year’s weak points. Fans should see a very strong team this year, potentially one of the top Super Bowl contenders.