Patriots coaches and players return to Gillette Stadium on Monday, and here are some of possible items on the agenda, along with some of the things we’ve learned about the team at this point:
1. Mallett’s presence on the practice field. After taking a hit to the chest and having his head hit the turf late in the second quarter, quarterback Ryan Mallett was held out of the remainder of Friday’s preseason opener (the team announced a head injury). He had totaled 25 snaps up to that point. Mallett, who watched the remainder of the game from the sideline, spoke with reporters afterwards and said he was fine. If Mallett sustained a concussion, sometimes the after-effects can linger, so we’ll follow up on his condition when the team returns to the practice field Monday (2:20 p.m.).
2. Potentially addressing cornerback shortage. As is usually the case throughout training camp, there is a certain level of juggling that must take place to fortify positions that have been thinned by injury. Cornerback might now be at the top of the list, as starter Alfonzo Dennard and backup Ras-I Dowling have been sidelined. That put a heavy load on backups Logan Ryan, Marquice Cole, Justin Green and Brandon Jones in the final three quarters of the preseason opener. Perhaps the Patriots will bring back rookie Stephon Morris, who was with them earlier in camp.
3. Buchanan over Bequette. When looking closer at the Patriots’ rotation at defensive end on Friday night, it caught the eye that 2013 seventh-round pick Michael Buchanan came on before 2012 third-round pick Jake Bequette. Buchanan, who looks the part at 6-foot-6 and 255 pounds, caught our eye with a nice combination of speed and power off the defensive left side. He got sucked inside on a Matt Barkley quarterback keeper for 8 yards in the second quarter -- which was a good learning experience for him when it comes to discipline in maintaining the edge -- but otherwise showed up with some solid work. He’s a player we want to see more of this week.
4. Injuries along the offensive line. With top four right guards Dan Connolly, Marcus Cannon, Tyronne Green and Markus Zusevics all held out of the preseason opener, the team had eight-year veteran Will Svitek kicking inside from tackle to guard with the top unit, and had added rookie linemen Luke Patterson and Brice Schwab to the roster last week for depth purposes. The Patriots are carrying 15 offensive linemen because of the injury situation, and if any of the banged-up players are ready for a return, that’s an area that could be trimmed.
5. Wilfork and Kelly at DT, then what? One area that showed up as a possible concern is defensive tackle depth. It seems clear cut that Tommy Kelly will start next to Vince Wilfork, but the drop-off was noticeable after those two. First-year player Marcus Forston is the top backup (he also plays on the kickoff-return team in the wedge) and he played into the fourth quarter on Friday. Rookie free-agent Cory Grissom played next to him on the second unit. Rookies Joe Vellano and Anthony Rashad White were the third-stringers.