Shalise Manza Young of The Boston Globe reports that the Patriots will hold joint practices with the New Orleans Saints on August 7 and 8 in preparation for their preseason opener on August 9 at Gillette Stadium. The August 7 practice will be in full pads, while August 8 is scheduled as a walkthrough. This will be the second time in three seasons that the two teams have practiced together. In 2010, the Saints traveled to Foxborough for two workouts that coach Bill Belichick reportedly noted were "among the more productive practices he's been a part of." Young also writes that the Patriots and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will have joint practices before their preseason game on August 24.
Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com believes that Wes Welker may still have a future with the Patriots even if the two sides cannot come to an agreement on the receiver's contract extension. The Patriots have until July 16 to sign Welker to a long-term deal; if not, he will play out this season under his $9.5 million franchise tag and become a free agent next offseason. "It's possible the Patriots could still be the high bidders on the open market, assuming Welker would still have interest in coming back at that point," writes Reiss.
Mike Rodak of ESPNBoston.com writes that the biggest issue in 2012 for defensive tackle Myron Pryor will be staying healthy. Pryor played in only two games in 2011 before being placed on injured reserve on September 21. Still, the Patriots did not sign or draft any free agent defensive tackles in the offseason, giving Pryor the opportunity to make his mark this season. "When healthy, Pryor is a versatile player capable of filling in for Vince Wilfork at nose tackle in a 3-4 formation while also shooting gaps as an interior rusher on a four-man line," reports Rodak. Pryor will be competing with defensive tackles Gerard Warren, Ron Brace, and Marcus Forston for playing time.
Jeff Howe of The Boston Herald reports that the key for young cornerbacks Ras-I Dowling and Devin McCourty this season will be fulfilling their potential. "The Patriots have seen McCourty at the top of his game, and they drafted Dowling to be his complementary piece on the right side," writes Howe. "If McCourty can return to his rookie form... and Dowling can capitalize after finally being fully healthy, the Patriots will like their tandem of starting cornerbacks."
Jeff Howe also writes that cornerback Kyle Arrington could be called upon to start at slot cornerback in the Patriots' nickel package. Arrington has rotated with Ras-I Dowling at right corner in the past, but Howe reports that Dowling and Devin McCourty seem to be more comfortable on the outside, which leaves Arrington to take on slot duties. "His athleticism, both in speed and strength, would be an asset in that area of the field, where things are more unpredictable than they can get on the outside," writes Howe.