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Six practices into training camp, Bill Belichick clearly likes depth of Patriots

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- In the span of a week, much has been learned about the way Bill Belichick views the 2016 New England Patriots roster. The biggest takeaway is that he might consider this one of the deepest teams in his 17-year tenure as head coach.

On Wednesday, Belichick said, “It’s probably as good of a tight-end situation, overall from top to bottom, as we’ve ever had here.”

A few days earlier, speaking with SiriusXM NFL Radio, he said, “Our safety position might be the strongest position we have on the team, from top to bottom.”

Then there was this: “I think our competition at receiver is probably as good as it’s been since I’ve been here.”

As training camp opened, he said of the quarterback spot, “We have three players we want to work with. In some other years I’ve seen teams that probably don’t feel like they have anybody, or maybe they have one. I think we’re in a good situation.”

Those are strong statements, especially when Belichick brings up the past 16 years, many of which have been defined by Patriots rosters with a strong middle class of players.

During Monday’s appearance on SiriusXM NFL Radio, Belichick added, “We have good depth at defensive end, and on the [interior] defensive line as well.”

The areas where the Patriots seem most thin? Running back, off-the-line linebacker and swing tackle (a player who can play both right and left tackle) come to mind first.

The overall picture continues to come into focus, as the Patriots have held six practices since training camp opened July 28. Belichick said by the end of this week his team will have “a pretty high percentage of our fundamental playbook [installed] in all three phases of the game.”

While it hasn’t always looked great on the practice field -- Sunday’s practice, in particular, seemed to stoke Belichick’s ire on defense -- the team’s overall work ethic and approach seems to be pleasing the hard-driving coach. That might help explain some of the praise Belichick has publicly delivered in recent days.

It also helps that quarterback Tom Brady sets the tone in that area, as evidenced by what happened after Wednesday’s practice.

The bottom line: While there’s a long way to go, Belichick clearly likes the depth and quality of key parts of the 2016 Patriots roster.