Training camp is about competition.
While theoretically every job is up for grabs, the reality is that -- Breaking News! -- Tom Brady is going to be the Patriots quarterback in 2018. Rob Gronkowski the top tight end. Stephon Gilmore the No. 1 cornerback.
There are other positions, though, where roster spots and roles are very much up for grabs this August. Guys we may expect at this point to be starters could end up as backups or even elsewhere.
Conversely, others we're not thinking much about at this point could end up in positions to make important contributions this fall.
So, with just five days to go until the opening of Patriots 2018 training camp at Gillette Stadium, here are the five top position battles in New England this summer.
5. Punter – For the first time in his career, incumbent Ryan Allen has some serious training camp competition in the form of New Mexico's Corey Bojorquez. Allen struggled at times last year, though his situational work late in the season was good. The left-footed Bojorquez showed a strong leg this spring. This could be an interesting battle, including the important part of the job that is holding for Stephen Gostkowski.
4. Running back – There is a very talented committee of backs set to hit the practice field and preseason game action. They probably all won't be around come September. Bigger veteran ball carriers Mike Gillislee and Jeremy Hill may be fighting for one spot. James White, Rex Burkhead and first-round pick Sony Michel will jockey for roles and touches. That doesn't even take into account veteran special teamer Brandon Bolden or undrafted rookie Ralph Webb, who was pretty productive in the SEC at Vanderbilt.
3. Wide receiver – Brandin Cooks is gone. Danny Amendola too. And Julian Edelman will miss the first four weeks. Oh, and the man who'll throw them all the ball skipped OTAs. There will be a lot of battling for balls this summer. Chris Hogan is the only proven option who'll be on the field – fingers crossed – on opening day. Malcolm Mitchell needs to get and stay healthy. Jordan Matthews must acclimate quickly. Kenny Britt and Philip Dorsett have to step up. Can Cordarrelle Patterson prove he's more than a returner and occasional gimmick-play guy? Oh, and are any youngsters up to the task? So many bodies with so many questions.
2. Cornerback – Gilmore will be a starter and the No. 1 guy. After that, the jobs and roles are unclear. Eric Rowe is a solid veteran entering his second full season in Foxborough, but his exact role is far from solidified. Veteran trade addition Jason McCourty barely stepped on the field during the spring, instead just watched work from the sideline. Undrafted rookie JC Jackson got a lot of run in OTAs and mini-camp, as did a number of other young or practice squad corners. Second-round pick Duke Dawson looks like he'll be given the chance to win the slot job. Former second-round pick Cyrus Jones is working back from an ACL that cost him last season, while Jonathan Jones missed the spring to injury and may be a question to open camp. Lots will be happening at corner in practice and preseason games for a pass defense that ranked 30th in the NFL last season.
1. Left tackle – Nate Solder left a huge hole on the line when he went and got rich with the Giants. It looks like this will be a two-man battle between massive trade addition Trent Brown and undersized top pick Isaiah Wynn. Both are coming off shoulder surgery this offseason. Brown must prove he can play the left side and stay in shape. Wynn must prove he's not destined to be a guard. Somebody must prove capable of protecting Brady's valuable 41-year-old backside this fall.
What do think of our list? Missing a position or battle? Let us know with a comment below!