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3 Patriots assistant coaches in summer spotlight

As New England nears the opening of training camp, three of Bill Belichick’s top assistants get ready for key roles in 2018.

The clock is ticking, just three more days until the Patriots open up training camp 2018 on the fields of Gillette Stadium.

That means players will be battling it out, fighting for roster spots and roles to continue their careers.

But the competition isn't just about the players, coaches play a massive role in the work that's done under the sun to prepare for another football season.

Bill Belichick returns a relatively consistent staff for this season, with Matt Patricia's departure to become the head coach in Detroit by far the biggest change. Certainly the retention of offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels ended up being quite a coup.

There is no question that New England is Belichick's team, the 66-year-old coach heading into his 44th NFL season, the 19th running the show in Foxborough.

But Belichick leans heavily on his very capable assistants, too. Those are the guys with the most direct impact on players at all positions.

With that in mind, we count down the final three days leading into camp with a look at three Patriots assistant coaches who will very much be in the spotlight this summer and fall.

3. Dante Scarnecchia, offensive line – The man lovingly called Scar is among the more legendary assistant coaches in the NFL. He's seen it all over his career, so 2018's challenges are nothing new. Still, Scarnecchia will oversee the battle to find a replacement for Nate Solder at left tackle. How that battle plays out could be a key factor in Tom Brady's season and the success of the offense as a whole. Few bring a better resume to their role than Scarnecchia, but he has another chance to prove his greatness in the coming months.

2. Joe Judge, special teams – New England didn't have its best season in the kicking game a year ago. There was a lack of consistency as the units battled through some injuries. Judge will look to clean up those issues while also overseeing a summertime punting battle between Ryan Allen and rookie Corey Bojorquez. Maybe the biggest focus will be on the kicking game given the new rules governing kickoffs. There will be a feeling out of the changes in that area in the preseason and early during the fall. Judge will also be part of key decisions at punt returner (Julian Edelman suspended/Cyrus Jones coming off ACL) and kick returner (Cordarrelle Patterson). Judge has a lot on his plate this summer.

1. Brian Flores, linebackers/presumed defensive play-caller – With Patricia in Detroit, New England defense is under new leadership. Flores is extremely well-respected by his peers/bosses and well-liked by his players. Though he doesn't have the coordinator title – not surprising given the way Belichick has handled these transitions in the past – Flores will have a bigger say. Players have already talked about the possibility of Flores bringing a more aggressive approach to the unit. He will be working in key new players at all three levels of the defense for a group that struggled last we saw it on Super Bowl Sunday. Is Flores ready for his role and the heat that comes with it? We'll get a first answer to those questions under the bright sunshine of training camp.

What do you think of our list? Let us know with a comment below!

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