The New England Patriots officially wrapped up training camp Tuesday with their 14th practice of the summer.
While nothing changes for the players — they’ll keep right on practicing, though all sessions from here on out are closed to the public and to the media — this milestone gives us a chance to recognize those who stood out over these last few weeks, both positively and negatively.
Jacob Hollister, tight end
One of the biggest offensive standouts of the spring and summer, Hollister is poised to take on a much larger role this season after primarily playing on special teams as an undrafted rookie. He was one of Tom Brady’s favorite targets during camp and garnered high praise from the 41-year-old quarterback.
Jeremy Hill, running back
Hill has a clear edge over fellow power back Mike Gillislee after rushing for 51 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries in last Thursday’s preseason-opening win over the Washington Redskins. He appeared to tweak something in practice Monday, however, and was held out of team drills Tuesday, so his health is worth monitoring.
Ja’Whaun Bentley, linebacker
Bentley, a fifth-round draft pick this year, began seeing periodic reps with the first-team defense after his strong performance against the Redskins.
Trent Brown, offensive tackle
Brown appears to have a stranglehold on the Patriots’ starting left tackle spot.
Stephon Gilmore, cornerback
Gilmore unexpectedly struggled against the Redskins but has been a dominant cover man in practice. He’s a lock to start at one cornerback spot this season, with Eric Rowe and Jason McCourty currently battling for the other.
J.C. Jackson, cornerback
Tackling was an issue for Jackson in the first preseason game, but he’s impressed with his coverage skills in practice, often finding himself in position for pass breakups and interceptions. He’s also seen extensive work as a punt gunner, helping his case to make the roster as an undrafted rookie.
Ralph Webb, running back
Webb still is a long shot to make the roster, but the undrafted rookie out of Vanderbilt flashed in the second half last Thursday, rushing for two touchdowns and scoring two two-point conversions. He’s also carried the ball a ton in practice and should see plenty more game reps over the final three weeks of the preseason.
Sony Michel, running back
We haven’t seen Michel since he left the Patriots’ sixth camp practice with a knee injury. That was two weeks ago. Reports on the severity of Michel’s injury have varied, but there’s a good chance the first-round pick will miss the entire preseason, robbing him of important game reps as he transitions from the SEC to the NFL.
Rex Burkhead, running back
Burkhead looked like the Patriots’ unquestioned top back once Michel went down, but he’s now hurt, too, having missed last Thursday’s game and all three practices this week. Considering injuries were Burkhead’s biggest problem last season, this is a troubling development.
Duke Dawson, cornerback
Dawson spent the first two weeks of camp as the Patriots’ top slot corner, but his play has left much to be desired. The second-round draft pick has yet to stand out on the practice field, and roster long shot Jomal Wiltz snatched his spot in the first-team defense for the Redskins game. (Dawson actually was the third-choice slot corner in that one, as fellow draft pick Keion Crossen also entered the game before him.) With Jonathan Jones now back in the mix after a spell on the physically unable to perform list, Dawson faces an uphill climb if he hopes to contribute as a rookie. And the injury that’s limited him in practice this week doesn’t help matters.
Danny Etling, quarterback
Veteran backup Brian Hoyer has looked vulnerable this summer, but Etling hasn’t been nearly consistent enough to pose a serious threat to Brady’s understudy. Props to Etling for his work ethic, though, as the seventh-round rookie was among the first to arrive and last to leave at every training camp practice.
Kenny Britt, wide receiver
Word is the Patriots have big plans for Britt this season, but that hamstring injury he suffered in June continues to hinder him. The big wideout has yet to fully participate in a practice since camp opened despite being off PUP for two weeks. Britt, who joined the Patriots late last season, hasn’t suffered any setbacks, meaning the team likely is just be easing him back into action. But it would be nice to see how he looks in some full-speed situations before the regular season begins.
Note: Wide receivers Jordan Matthews and Malcolm Mitchell and tight end Troy Niklas also could be considered training camp losers, as all three were cut before the first preseason game.
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images