Braxton Berrios gets early jump on quest for Patriots WR spot

Can the Patriots be dethroned in the AFC East? (1:53)

Dan Graziano, Jeff Saturday and Tim Hasselbeck reveal their biggest AFC East storylines heading into the season. (1:53)

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Quick-hit thoughts and notes around the New England Patriots and NFL:

1. Berrios an early arrival: Rookies report to training camp July 21, with veterans following them July 24, but some players are already trickling in to Gillette Stadium a bit early. One of them is second-year receiver Braxton Berrios, which highlights the approach he has taken with a notable opportunity ahead of him.

A 2018 sixth-round draft choice who spent his rookie season on injured reserve, Berrios flashed his talent in spring practices to put himself in an advantageous position to earn a roster spot at a time the Patriots' offense is transitioning in the wake of Rob Gronkowski's retirement. The key for him now is building on that momentum by staying healthy. Along those lines, the 5-foot-9, 190-pound Miami (Florida) alum has spent a lot of time working with the team, gaining weight and strength.

Julian Edelman and first-round draft choice N'Keal Harry are locks in the Patriots' receiving corps, and it's wide open after that.

Berrios, who can provide added value as a punt returner, would be on my initial 53-man roster projection as a Danny Amendola-type slot option based on his strong spring. He's arrived early as part of his attempt to seize a spot.

2. Harris studies playbook with wife: If former Redskins receiver Maurice Harris breaks through with the Patriots -- he was one of the standouts of New England spring practices -- he'll be giving an assist to his wife, Kayla. Harris has made a strong impression on the Patriots' coaching staff with football acumen, showing early that he understands challenging concepts, and part of that is a result of studying the playbook with Kayla, who comes from a football family. Kayla's father, Richard Rodgers, enters his eighth season as Panthers secondary coach in 2019. Kayla's brother, Richard II, is a sixth-year veteran who has been with the Packers (2014-17) and Eagles (2018-present). So the football connections run deep for Harris, who is also cousins with Chargers receiver Keenan Allen.

3. All eyes on Wynn as camp opens: For the second consecutive year, the Patriots enter training camp with questions at left tackle. Last year, Trent Brown admirably filled the void created when Nate Solder signed with the Giants and top pick Isaiah Wynn tore his Achilles tendon in the preseason. Now Brown has departed (Raiders), and the Patriots naturally would like Wynn -- who didn't take part in team drills in spring practices as part of a cautious approach -- to assume that crucial position. So that's one of the key checkpoints to monitor: Does Wynn, whose recovery has remained on a positive progression throughout, open camp on the active/physically-unable-to-perform list?

4. Patriots will log miles in 2020: The NFL plans to continue using its schedule rotation into the future, which means the Patriots can prepare for some long road trips in 2020, as the rotation calls for the AFC East to play the AFC West and NFC West.

  • Away: Chiefs, Chargers, Rams, Seahawks, AFC South team that finishes in same spot in '19 standings

  • Home: Broncos, Raiders, Cardinals, 49ers, AFC North team that finishes in same spot in '19 standings

When the Patriots had a similar situation in 2008, and there were back-to-back West Coast games on the schedule, they stayed out West for the week.

5. A chance to check out Rams' new stadium: One follow-up with a look-ahead to 2020 is that the Rams' new home -- Los Angeles Stadium at Hollywood Park -- will be opening. The stadium sits on a 300-acre campus and promises to include state-of-the-art technology and an in-game experience unlike any other. The Patriots have a huge fan base on the West Coast, so a Patriots-at-Rams game in 2020 figures to bring out plenty of New England representation.

6. Did You Know: The last time the Patriots played the Rams on the road in the U.S. was the 2004 season. The 2012 game was played in London (instead of St. Louis). As for the '04 game, a 40-22 Patriots victory, it might be best remembered for Troy Brown catching a 4-yard touchdown pass from kicker Adam Vinatieri on a fake field goal attempt. Linebacker Mike Vrabel also caught a 2-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady that day.

7. Passing on supplemental draft: The Cardinals made the only selection in the 2019 supplemental draft Wednesday -- picking Washington State safety Jalen Thompson in the fifth round -- as the Patriots passed on the supplemental draft for the 20th year in a row. The last time New England picked a player in the supplemental draft was in 1999: Arizona State defensive back J'Juan Cherry (not to be confused with three-time Super Bowl champ Je'Rod Cherry). One reason for the Patriots' general lukewarm interest is timing: Any rookie already has a lot of ground to make up, and then a rookie who has already missed spring practices is that much deeper in the hole. So giving up a future draft pick to select a player in that situation isn't often viewed as smart business.

8. Where would Thompson fit on depth chart: If the Patriots were to delve into the supplemental draft, Jalen Thompson fit the profile of the type of player they would likely consider, as a three-time captain with possible safety/corner versatility and a projection to contribute on special teams. But surrendering a 2020 mid-round pick (the Cardinals used a fifth) to add Thompson to a position that already includes Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, Nate Ebner, Terrence Brooks, Obi Melifonwu, A.J. Howard and Malik Gant didn't make sense for them.

9. Warren continues family tradition of excellence: Former Patriots defensive end Ty Warren (2003-10) had to be beaming watching SportsCenter's Top 10 plays a few weeks ago when his daughter, Brionna, secured the No. 4 spot with a diving catch in the outfield of a USA Elite softball championship game. Always-on-the-ball anchor John Buccigross made note of the family connection. Bri Warren will play softball at Texas A&M, where Ty starred in football.

10. Brady gets one final weekend to fill the tank: As is the norm, Patriots quarterbacks and players recovering from injuries are among those who report for training camp earlier than the regular veteran reporting date (July 24). So that essentially means this is the final weekend for Brady to fill the tank with family/personal time before he begins the grind of his 20th season. That is how Brady has described his approach over the past two offseasons, which he believes allows him to be his best self in attacking all the demands of a football season. It worked well for him in 2018, and now with his 42nd birthday approaching Aug. 3, I can already envision his first motivational Instagram post/tweet as he makes his way to Gillette Stadium next week as part of the early reporting group. Those close to him describe him as being as excited as ever.