The Patriots recently completed the spring portion of the offseason program with OTAs and mini-camp now in the rearview mirror. The sessions offer the media a first glimpse of what the team might look like in 2016. However, the Patriots were missing more than a dozen players at most or all of the workouts, so there are still some individuals that we'll have to wait a bit longer to see.
The good news is some of those players already made appearances. After missing the first four practices open to the media, Rob Gronkowski and Dion Lewis were on the field for the final OTA earlier this week. Despite the return of some star power, a few key cogs in the Patriots machine remained out of action.
The offensive line was minus several starters from a year ago including both tackles Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer. The secondary was without two 2015 starters in Logan Ryan and Duron Harmon. Dynamic receiver and punt returner Danny Amendola is still on the mend after a pair of offseason surgeries as well.
And the biggest absentee of them all was Julian Edelman, who is still recovering from a second foot surgery stemming from the injury that cost him the last half of the 2015 regular season.
For the purposes of this exercise we're not including Edelman in this discussion. Our Samsonite Make Your Case question of the week is: Which Patriot (other than Edelman) are you most looking forward to see return in training camp?
PFW's Andy Hart says ...
I haven't been the biggest Ryan supporter over the years but his durability was a huge part of the defense's success in 2015. The Patriots are a bit thin at corner and having Ryan and Malcolm Butler available all season a year ago was an extremely important and underrated element for the team.
Ryan is entering a contract year and having him perform consistently at the top of his game would be a huge boost to the secondary. There haven't been any reports explaining his absence this spring but if it is due to an injury that could cut into his availability this season it would be a significant blow to the depth at corner.
Hopefully Ryan is healthy and ready to go for the start of camp and he can mix with rookie Cyrus Jones to provide a deeper and more talented group of cover men in the secondary. That would make the Patriots defense more formidable in the long run – but he has to get back on the field in order for that to happen.
PFW's Paul Perillo says ...
THE STARTING TACKLES
Everyone remembers the nightmare that was the offensive line in the playoffs last January. Not seeing the starting tackles on the field during the spring put those bad thoughts back in the front of my mind.
Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer both missed the spring and that put the much-maligned Marcus Cannon back on the field at right tackle while LaAdrian Waddle manned the left side. That's not anything Patriots fans want to see come Sept. 11 when the season kicks off in Arizona.
Obviously that's still a long way away, but getting Solder and Vollmer back in the fold for training camp would go a long way toward relieving the tension I'm feeling just thinking about Tom Brady getting bruised and battered once again. The Patriots offense simply isn't the same when Brady is unable to get comfortable, and the only way that's going to happen is by getting his protection straightened out. And when Brady's uncomfortable, we're all uncomfortable. Hurry back guys.
Now it's your turn to cast a vote in this week's Samsonite Make Your Case poll question.