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5 positional battles looming for Patriots this offseason 05.05.16 at 9:26 am ET
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Cyrus Jones could contribute on defense and special teams as a rookie. (Joe Murphy/Getty Images)

Cyrus Jones could contribute on defense and special teams as a rookie. (Joe Murphy/Getty Images)

Training camp is still a ways off — roughly three months — but with the moves the Patriots have made this spring in free agency and the draft, the lines have been draw for some clear positional battles. At this point on the calendar, here’s our pick for the top 5 positional battles looming in Foxboro:

Outside wide receiver: Draft picks Malcolm Mitchell and Devin Lucien join an already crowded picture on the outside, as they are added to a conversation that includes (in no particular order) Nate Washington, Keshawn Martin and Aaron Dobson, as well as back-end-of-the-roster types like Chris Harper. Complicating things are the versatility of guys like veteran Danny Amendola and newcomer Chris Hogan, two pass-catchers who have also spent time inside and outside the numbers over the course of their careers. With the departure of Brandon LaFell this past offseason, the opportunities will be there for someone to make an impact as a moderate to occasional deep threat in the receiving game. It’ll be interesting to see who steps up over the course of the spring and summer sessions to claim the gig.

Nickel corner: The Patriots put several different candidates through their paces at this position last year, but never really seemed to find a long-term solution. (Frequently, New England relied on the position versatility of the likes of Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung and Duron Harmon as safeties in coverage, which managed to offset some of the issues.) The selection of Cyrus Jones will put him smack dab in the middle of the action this spring, and given his body of work, his pedigree and his skill set, it suggests he could have the inside track on a handful of other candidates. (As a collegian, Jones also has experience on the outside. That, as well as his special teams value, make him one to watch this spring.) Justin Coleman and E.J. Biggers could be the primary competition for Jones at the position.

Backup defensive end: The likelihood is that the Patriots will utilize Rob Ninkovich, Chris Long and Jabaal Sheard as the primary end-of-the-line edge types, but there will be some chances to fill in at that spot as a backups. Newcomer Frank Kearse and youngsters Geneo Grissom, Trey Flowers and Rufus Johnson will all square off in the fight for playing time to serve as the primary backups. One of our favorites in this fight is Johnson, an intriguing but raw prospect who flashed all sorts of potential before he went on season-ending injured reserve last year.

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Read More: Chris Long, Cyrus Jones, Devin Lucien, Frank Kearse
Robert Kraft, Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola attend Gisele Bundchen book launch party with Tom Brady 05.01.16 at 5:22 pm ET
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Devin McCourty’s wedding wasn’t the only Patriots-related event Saturday night.

Gisele Bundchen celebrated her book launch with a party at The Bowery Hotel in New York City. Besides her husband Tom Brady, Patriots owner Robert Kraft and wide receivers Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman attended the event, courtesy of Gisele’s publicist Amber Clapp on Instagram.

Many have wondered about Brady and Kraft’s relationship with the Deflategate saga, but Kraft offered his support for Brady Friday night at a draft party at Gillette and with him attending this event, it shows the two are just fine.

Read More: Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman, Robert Kraft, Tom Brady
Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola team up in ‘Cops’ video 04.19.16 at 2:16 pm ET
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Maybe Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola want to be actors following their football careers.

Edelman posted a video to his YouTube page on Tuesday of he and Amendola playing off of the TV show “Cops.” They titled it “PATS: Cleaning the streets.”

See for yourself.

Read More: Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman,
Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola respond to Tom Brady’s Facebook post 03.31.16 at 12:23 pm ET
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Early Thursday morning Tom Brady posted a video to Facebook calling all his wide receivers to catch passes from him on the beach.

Well, Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola responded with a pretty funny video of their own posted to Edelman’s Facebook page with the caption: Tom Brady …10-4

See for yourself.

Tom Brady …10-4

Posted by Julian Edelman on Thursday, March 31, 2016

Read More: Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman, Tom Brady,
Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman among those who bid farewell to Chandler Jones on Twitter 03.16.16 at 3:40 pm ET
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Defensive end Chandler Jones was dealt to the Cardinals on Tuesday. After four seasons with the Patriots, his teammates said so long to the pass rusher Tuesday and Wednesday on Twitter.

Of course, his brother Jon Jones — based on the West Coast — sounded happy that he’ll be closer to Chandler.

Read More: chandler jones, Dont'a Hightower, Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski
Julian Edelman, Vince Wilfork, Tedy Bruschi latest to praise Peyton Manning following retirement 03.07.16 at 6:57 pm ET
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Two of the toughest defensive players Peyton Manning ever faced — Vince Wilfork and Tedy Bruschi — were the latest to praise the now retired quarterback.

Appearing on ESPN Monday, Bruschi relayed a story of when he himself retired, Manning sent a card to Bruschi’s home in the name Peyton Williams Manning. It stood to Bruschi as he doesn’t know Manning well, but he still managed to get his home address and send him a card.

Manning named Bruschi in his speech Monday.

“It was an honor really, to hear that from the one opponent that I respect more than all others,” Bruschi said. “And I can honestly say this about Peyton Manning, the biggest compliment I can give him, guys, is he made me a better player.”

Besides Wilfork, Julian Edelman also took to social media to praise Manning.

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Read More: Julian Edelman, Peyton Manning, Tedy Bruschi, Vince Wilfork
Resetting Patriots depth chart at wide receiver 03.03.16 at 12:53 pm ET
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Danny Amendola had a solid 2015 for the Patriots. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Danny Amendola had a solid 2015 for the Patriots. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

With the changes over the course of the last few days — and free agency and the draft approaching — it’s worth taking a look at the Patriots receiver position as it stands right now.

Danny Amendola: The 30-year-old may still have his contract restructured for 2016, but the 5-foot-11, 183-pounder enjoyed a bounce late in 2014 that carried him into a really impressive 2015. He ended last year with 65 catches on 87 targets for 648 yards and three touchdowns. There’s a nagging belief that he could eventually fall victim to the Patriots’ philosophy of giving up on a guy a year too early instead of a year too late, but as of this moment, he’s considered one of the more important assets in the New England passing game. His 75 percent catch rate (65 catches on 87 targets) last season was one of the best of the Tom Brady era for any pass catcher targeted 20 or more times in a season.

Aaron Dobson: The 2015 season was another lost year for Dobson, as the 6-foot-3, 210-pounder finished the season with 13 catches for 141 yards in eight games before going on injured reserve. On the surface — among the receivers currently on the depth chart — he probably stands to benefit the most from the fact that Brandon LaFell is no longer around, as there was some offensive redundancy when you compared the two in the New England system. But Dobson, who will turn 25 in June, is entering the final year of his rookie contract. Despite the fact that the Patriots are thin at receiver, it’s not a stretch to suggest that he’s playing for his job this spring and summer, especially if the Patriots invest in an outside-the-hash marks wide receiver either in free agency or the draft.

Julian Edelman: The linchpin of the New England passing game, the 6-foot, 198-pounder has become absolutely indispensable to the success of the Patriots offense. He’s one of nine receivers in the entire league with at least 250 catches since the start of the 2013 season (he’s fifth on the list with 258 receptions in the regular season), and only one of two guys in the league in that stretch to hit 250 catches in less than 40 regular-season games. He’s not going anywhere.

Chris Harper: The 5-foot-11, 185-pounder finished the season with one catch for six yards, but gained a small measure of infamy for his muffed punt in the second half of the regular-season loss to the Broncos, a gaffe that turned out to haunt the Patriots. However, he was cut and brought back, which certainly speaks to what the coaches think of him, at least from a depth standpoint. Bottom line? He’ll certainly be a part of the mix in 2016.

Keshawn Martin: A wild card, at least at this point. The 5-foot-10, 190-pounder was acquired from Houston early in the year, and ended with eight catches for 92 yards in limited action. Quick and shifty, he certainly appeared to be the type who could offer some short-term depth at the receiver position to go along with some special teams value. With a full year in the system, Martin, who will turn 26 later this month, will be someone to watch when the offseason workouts roll around.

In addition, DeAndre Carter and Brandon Gibson are both on the roster, but are question marks coming into 2016. Carter is a 5-foot-8, 188-pounder out of Sacramento State who was signed to New England’s practice squad in December. He did not see any action last season. Meanwhile, Gibson impressed last summer, but suffered an injury in a preseason game with the Saints and was lost for the season. The 6-foot, 210-pounder out of Washington State, who will turn 29 this summer, has 233 catches for 2,711 yards and 13 touchdowns in seven seasons in the NFL.

[UPDATE 2:08 p.m.: Gibson has tweeted a picture of he and Tom Brady saying he’s thankful for being able to learn from the best last year during training camp. As a unrestricted free agent, it appears Gibson will not be back with New England.]

Read More: Aaron Dobson, Brandon Gibson, Chris Harper, Danny Amendola

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