FOXBORO, Mass. - Love/hate impressions from Patriots camp.
• Vince Wilfork. During one recent Patriots practice Wilfork dropped back into pass coverage. Wilfork is easily 325 pounds and that may be conservative. Yet he dropped into coverage like a slim defensive back and almost intercepted Tom Brady. The ball bounded off Wilfork's hands and he immediately ran to the sideline and did pushups as punishment for his drop.
But the scene was yet another indication of how Wilfork might be the most underrated defensive player in all of football. Earlier in that same practice, Wilfork played quarterback as Bill Belichick tried to lighten up practice.
Few players have Wilfork's size and athletic ability, and that he looks a little less heavy this year is all a matter of perspective. Instead of being the size of a planet, he's now a small moon. Just a moon with really quick feet.
• Aaron Hernandez. The rookie out of Florida is the real deal. He's reminiscent of a slimmer Antonio Gates. He's going to force his way into the lineup somehow this year and be a major factor in New England's offense.
• Bill Belichick. He's Darth Vader to some but he's run a splendid camp, maybe one of his best as Patriots head coach. Belichick has been a little looser (emphasis on looser). He's cracked jokes about his notorious handling of injury reports and run some lighthearted practices. Belichick still is a dedicated hard ass but there's something slightly different about him so far this season, and that's a good thing.
•The Jets. As in, the New York Jets. They're getting all of the attention in the division and this bodes well for the Patriots.
• Tom Brady. He seems to be healthy and has been crisp in practices. He's poised to have one of those great Brady seasons.
• The Logan Mankins situation. The Patriots guard is embroiled in an ugly contract dispute with the team that threatens to get uglier. He's a key part of the offensive line.
• Running game. Who is the running back? Does anyone know? Hello? Hello?
• Age. Three key components of the team are getting older: Brady, Randy Moss and Wes Welker. If those three players can stay healthy, the Patriots can reach the Super Bowl. But the chances of that seem slim, particularly with Welker.