Mike Rodak of ESPNBoston.com writes that the Patriots are taking the route of experience in filling their 90-man roster for training camp. The club will enter camp with only 13 rookies on their roster, by far the lowest total in the NFL. Instead of taking their chances on rookies, Rodak writes, the Patriots "splurged this offseason on low-cost veteran free agents" such as fullbacks Spencer Larsen and Tony Fiammetta and receivers Brandon Lloyd, Jabar Gaffney, and Donte' Stallworth. "There are more than a dozen established NFL players battling for just a handful of spots," writes Rodak, who believes that this increased competition should quickly "cause the cream to rise to the top."
Mike Rodak also writes that wide receiver Julian Edelman will have a leg up on his competition at the position because of his versatility. "While Deion Branch or Donte' Stallworth…don't offer much by way of special teams, Edelman brings value to the 46-man gameday active roster by contributing in all three phases of the game," writes Rodak. The 26-year-old receiver caught just four passes last year but made significant contributions in the return game and on defense. Rodak writes that Edelman could also be a serviceable fill-in for Wes Welker at slot receiver should Welker come down with an injury.
Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald believes that running backs Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen could both fill the void left by former running back Benjarvus Green-Ellis. "While the Patriots have plenty of time and practices to sort it out, it's also possible that Ridley and Vereen could master their respective styles and divvy up the playing time relatively evenly," writes Howe. The Patriots haven't had a featured back since Corey Dillon in 2005, and Howe sees Vereen playing an increased role in the passing game to spell Ridley in the ground game. Howe writes that veterans Danny Woodhead and Joseph Addai will see action as well.
Hector Longo of the Eagle-Tribune gives the Patriots and head coach Bill Belichick "straight A's on all counts" in their moves this offseason. Longo writes that the club has "reloaded masterfully on the fly" and created quality competition on defense that should create "an air of excitement here as camp begins like we haven't seen here since 2003 or 2004." Longo cites first-round draft picks Chandler Jones and Dont'a Hightower as potential impact players on defense, while 2010 additions Brandon Spikes and Devin McCourty as well as 2011 draft pick Ras-I Dowling will also have high expectations.
Greg A. Bedard of the Boston Globe sees the Patriots using their extra roster spot at safety to keep a player who could provide special teams versatility. "If they keep fewer linebackers," writes Bedard, "the Patriots will need to make up for the special teams bodies at safety where they can run and tackle." With Patrick Chung, Steve Gregory, and Tavon Wilson as locks to make the squad, Bedard believes that Josh Barrett and James Ihedigbo are candidates to fill the last two open spots, while Nate Ebner and Sergio Brown may find themselves left out.