by Scott Benson, Patriots Daily Staff

The (signed) rookies have reported, the veterans aren’t far behind, and by Thursday the Patriots will officially begin their 2009 training camp. That means it’s time for Patriots Daily to wake from its summer slumber for a fresh look at the team that will soon begin its final quest for a fourth Super Bowl championship of this decade.

What I Like

The reports of Tom Brady’s football death were, thankfully, greatly exaggerated. By all recent accounts, he in fact has full use of his appendages (I meant his knee, Track gals) after a successful rehab that took place largely out of the public eye. It’s the only thing he’s managed to keep private in quite some time.

Arguably, Brady was the difference between pigskin heaven and tiebreaker hell last season. That may be equally true this year, as he could be counted on not only to complete his comeback but to also protect a now-rebuilding defense that had bottomed out in his absence.

Perhaps the brightest spot last year was not Matt Cassel but instead what his success represented; namely, this coaching staff isn’t too bad with quarterbacks. I can think of only one they couldn’t get through to when they really needed him. This may offer some comfort to those who cast a wary eye towards the sidelines while nervously watching Brady from the edge of their seats.

What I Don’t Like

Like Bledsoe, Kevin O’Connell is tall, and he has a strong arm, and (this one is eerie) will be on his second offensive coordinator in two years.

But it’s not this that concerns me; rather, at this early stage of his career, I worry he may rely too much on his considerable running skills if he happens to suddenly find himself at the helm of the Pats offense. Cassel had the benefit of four years as an understudy, and once his heart stopped racing on every snap he carried off the New England playbook like America’s top Tom Brady impersonator. Could second-year man O’Connell manage to quell his beating heart long enough to carry out the play he called just a few seconds before?

Perhaps because of this uncertainty, the public demands the late acquisition of a veteran backup that would – presumably – mitigate the sudden loss of their most important player with guile and savvy. One question though – if this player does in fact exist, how is it that he’s unemployed today?

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