Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com calls Patriots CB Ras-I Dowling one of the surprising performers through the first two OTA practices open to media members.
"Cornerbacks Aqib Talib, Alfonzo Dennard, Kyle Arrington and Ras-I Dowling all had at least one pass breakup," writes Reiss. "One thing that stood out was their decisive breaks on the ball, with Dowling doing it on back-to-back plays."
The 2011 second round draft pick (33rd overall) has battled injures early on in his NFL career -- landing on injured reserve in each of his first two seasons with the Patriots.
Ben Volin of the Boston Globe believes that Rob Gronkowski could start the 2013 season on the physically unable to perform list. It was reported yesterday that the star tight end will undergo "minor" back surgery in mid-June.
It remains to be seen whether or not he'll be able to suit up for the season opener on Sept. 8 in Buffalo.
"If Gronkowski can't play against the Bills, the Patriots will lean on Aaron Hernandez, who is recovering from his own shoulder surgery, plus tight ends Michael Hoomanawanui, Jake Ballard, and Daniel Fells," adds Volin.
Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com shares his concern for the health of Rob Gronkowski.
"As Grantland's Bill Barnwell noted, Gronkowski has been down this path before," writes Rosenthal. "His first back injury originally was diagnosed at the University of Arizona as a week-to-week deal, and it turned into a season-long injury. Back injuries are notoriously difficult to predict. Breer reports that Dr. Robert Watkins will perform Gronkowski's surgery. Dr. Watkins also performed the procedure in college."
Oliver Thomas, a contributor to Yahoo! Sports, believes that Brandon Bolden and Leon Washington are the two running backs most likely to stick on the Patriots roster behind Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen.
"At just 23 years old, Bolden has a shot to be the No. 3 halfback in the carousel," writes Thomas. "He's a better receiving threat than he's given credit for. And although he's a straight-line runner, the former Runnin' Rebel is a smooth runner."
Other running backs looking to earn roles this spring include LeGarrette Blount and Akeem Shavers.
Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald reports on the evolution of Chandler Jones at OTAs. The second-year defensive end was seen next to Vince Wilfork in a 3-4 base defense at Wednesday's practice -- a role similar to the one that Richard Seymour played in years past.
"The long-armed, rather skinny version of Jones who played defensive end in the 4-3 base defense last season wouldn't make much sense playing closer to the interior of the line," writes Guregian. "But the 2013 version of Jones, the one who packed on some pounds and muscle during the offseason, could very well fit in that spot, or even in his old spot, depending on what scheme Patriots coach Bill Belichick decides to utilize."
Jones appeared on PFW in Progress last week, saying that he added 10 pounds of muscle this offseason.