Bold predictions for training camp

July, 24, 2013
7/24/13
9:15
AM ET
We asked our two Patriots reporters to make a bold prediction on each side of the ball for training camp, which begins Friday at Gillette Stadium:

[+] EnlargeDanny Amendola
AP Photo/Charles KrupaField Yates predicts a Welker-like season for first-year Patriot Danny Amendola.
Danny Amendola will play 16 games and top 110 receptions
The comparisons between Danny Amendola and Wes Welker have long persisted, with the most common differences cited being that Welker has been more durable and Amendola brings more long-range speed. Despite missing 20 games over the past two seasons, it’s important to note that Amendola has suffered major injuries. He’s not the type of guy who is perpetually battling through minor, insignificant ailments. He’s fallen on some hard luck, but enters 2013 fully healthy and looking primed to break out. It was clear after offseason work that he was Tom Brady’s most trusted wide receiver target and the volume of balls thrown his way figures to be high. Amendola has the quickness to patrol the slot and the speed to be a factor down the field a bit too, which should result in a major spike in his production from previous seasons. Look for a Welker-esque campaign in 2013, topping 110 receptions and playing in every game. -- Field Yates

Kenbrell Thompkins will earn a roster spot at receiver
The Patriots drafted high-upside receivers in Aaron Dobson (second round) and Josh Boyce (fourth round), and both are locks to make the final roster. But they aren’t the only rookies on the radar as Thompkins, an older-than-the-norm rookie (he turns 25 on July 29), built some positive momentum in spring camps to put himself in good position at this juncture. Now he’ll have to prove that he can do it when the pads come on. Thompkins has good size (6-1, 195) and looks to be more of a physical, intermediate, possession-type target, maybe with some similarities to a David Givens-type player. His style of play and mental aptitude to grasp concepts in the team’s system might turn out to be a nice complement with the possibility of Dobson working the opposite side with Amendola locked in the slot in the three-receiver set. -- Mike Reiss

Marcus Benard will be a top reserve at defensive end
Regardless of whether the Patriots operate out of more three-man fronts or four-man looks, they’ll be relying heavily on edge setters to both funnel runs inside and generate pressure against opposing quarterbacks. Marcus Benard, who once posted 7.5 sacks in a season, hasn’t been a popular topic of conversation this offseason, but the 27-year-old will make an impact as a top reserve edge rusher. Justin Francis, Jermaine Cunningham, Jake Bequette and others will factor into the defensive end mix, but Benard may have the most pass-rushing ability of them all. He fell off the NFL radar after suffering a major injury in 2011, but look for Benard to not only cement a 53-man roster spot in training camp, but to eventually became a rotational defensive end. He’d be the latest in a long list of shrewd, low-cost veteran additions by the team. -- Field Yates

Devin McCourty will return to the Pro Bowl, this time as a safety
As a first-round draft choice in 2010, Devin McCourty was inserted into the starting lineup immediately and earned a Pro Bowl berth after totaling six interceptions and providing a consistent presence on the outside. Then came a dip in 2011, before last season’s midseason switch from cornerback to safety revealed that his greatest value to the team might be at that spot, specifically for his communication skills and ability to keep everyone on the same page, as well as sideline-to-sideline range. So let’s be bold here and say that with a full year at the safety position, McCourty will rise to the top of the AFC ranks and represent the Patriots in the Pro Bowl. That would put him in position to potentially earn a nice contract extension, as his pact expires after the 2014 campaign. -- Mike Reiss

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