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Sports

July 29, 2009

Pats offensive talent can't be touched

But can Belichick find a pass-rusher and piece together a secondary?

FOXBORO — You have to backpedal all the way to August of 2001.

For the first time since Drew Bledsoe's final preseason in New England, Patriots fans everywhere must endure their "summer of discontent" as Camp Belichick 2009 opens on the grounds behind Gillette Stadium tomorrow with a pair of workouts under the late July sun.

Defensive questions have bubbled like a nasty case of poison ivy.

And offensively, the stability of Tom Brady's recently-rebuilt knee represents the potential difference between Super Bowl favorite or AFC also-ran.

Unlike the last seven camps here, August matters, even if Brady never takes an exhibition snap.

The Patriots, who've lost Matt Cassel, Mike Vrabel, Rodney Harrison and Ellis Hobbs, spent a busy offseason patching and planning for the future on defense while bolstering an already explosive attack with impact skill veterans.

Did Belichick and Scott Pioli's replacement, Floyd Reese, get the job done? On paper, maybe.

We'll see beginning tomorrow on the practice field.

Here's a look at the camp-opening roster of 82 by position — who's in, who's fighting and who'll be selling cars in a month.

Offense

Quarterbacks

The candidates: Tom Brady, Matt Gutierrez, Kevin O'Connell, Brian Hoyer

Who's in: Brady, for as long as the new wheel allow him to take them; O'Connell, unless he plays so poorly Belichick tries the Brian Griese/Trent Edwards/Brad Johnson-esque scrap heap.

Who's fighting: Gutierrez, whose ultimate fate will be decided by how the numbers shake out elsewhere.

Polish your resume: Hoyer, that is unless the rookie out of Michigan State shows enough to scrape out a spot on the eight-man practice squad.

Overall Grade: A+ if No. 12 is healthy; F- if he's not.

Running Backs

The candidates: Laurence Maroney, Fred Taylor, Kevin Faulk, Sammy Morris, BenJarvus Green-Ellis

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