Patriots head to camp with Jimmy Garoppolo taking early QB reins

Protecting Garoppolo key for Patriots at training camp (1:20)

ESPN Patriots reporter Mike Reiss says New England will have to prepare its offensive line to protect Jimmy Garoppolo at training camp. (1:20)

The New England Patriots open training camp July 28 at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts. Here's a closer look at the Patriots' camp, which wraps up in mid- to late August:

Top storyline: Can third-year quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo keep things afloat in season-opening games at Arizona and at home against Miami, Houston and Buffalo until Tom Brady returns from a four-game suspension? The Patriots have expressed plenty of confidence in Garoppolo, but there is always an element of unknown until a player is thrust into the spotlight.

If Brady keeps defying Father Time ...: Brady turns 39 on Aug. 3, and he usually celebrates that day on the practice field with fans singing "Happy Birthday" to him. To this point, he has defied Father Time, and if he continues to do so, the Patriots should once again win the AFC East and be in the mix for the conference championship. He will return for a Week 5 game at Cleveland.

Player who will have fans buzzing: No need to think outside the box here: It's tight end Rob Gronkowski. This is what happens when you're the "funnest guy in sports." New England loves Gronk. America does, too.

Position battle worth watching: The interior offensive line is a critical area that could see major turnover from 2015. Third-round pick Joe Thuney, a left guard, and trade acquisition Jonathan Cooper, a right guard, are competing for starting roles, and Bryan Stork and David Andrews headline a head-to-head battle at center.

That rookie should start: Top pick Cyrus Jones (No. 60 overall) could immediately assume punt and kickoff return duties, which is a role he starred in at Alabama as one of the country's top performers. Thuney also received kudos from other NFL teams as a high-quality prospect who could start from Day 1.

Veteran whose job is in jeopardy: Running back LeGarrette Blount's return from a season-ending hip injury, suffered in December, bears watching as it relates to his roster status. Blount, who signed a modest one-year deal as a free agent to return in 2016, didn't practice in the spring. If he returns to full health and runs hard like he did at times in 2015, there shouldn't be any issues. But that isn't a given based on the present snapshot.

Edelman and Amendola headline health check: Bill Belichick often says nothing is more important than the health of players, and along those lines, the following players didn't practice in the spring and are possibilities for the physically unable to perform list at the start of camp: receivers Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman; Blount; safeties Nate Ebner and Duron Harmon; offensive linemen Tre' Jackson, Josh Kline, Sebastian Vollmer and Nate Solder; and cornerback Logan Ryan.

Gronkowski-Bennett combination at tight end: The Patriots could be returning to the two tight-end set that was such a big part of their plans from 2010 to 2012, pairing new acquisition Martellus Bennett, who is 6-foot-6, 273 pounds, with Rob Gronkowski, who is 6-6, 265 pounds. Packers coach Mike McCarthy has called Bennett the best pure matchup acquisition of the offseason.

What fans will be saying after camp: "As long as key players stay healthy, this team has Super Bowl potential."

For daily updates at camp, check out the New England Patriots clubhouse page.