LB Ja'Whaun Bentley is excited to finally get a paycheck

Bentley has had the most impressive training camp among the rookies

Foxborough, Mass --

In the Bill Belichick era, the Pats have struggled to draft linebackers. The first good linebacker the Pats drafted was Jerod Mayo in 2008 followed by Dont'a Hightower in 2012 and Jamie Collins in 2013. Only Hightower is still with the team.

The issue early in the Bill Belichick era was that it was difficult to find linebackers big enough to play the 3-4. When the Pats switched to a 4-2-5 (four defensive lineman, two linebackers and five defensive backs), the linebacker position was not as important as earlier in the 2000s. With three wide receiver sets in greater use, the Pats played nickel defense (five defensive backs as their base set). The Pats need linebackers in 2018 where the depth is thin like at wide receiver. Hightower has been injury prone, Elandon Roberts has struggled in coverage and Kyle Van Noy has been serviceable. Thus, it is encouraging that Bentley, a rookie out of Purdue, has had a strong training camp.

"The biggest adjustment has been getting use to the details," Bentley said of the transition between college and pro.

Bentley said, though, the biggest adjustment off the field is getting a paycheck as opposed to meal money every week. Life is tough for rookies as they must share lockers and get used to the high demanding culture of the Pats. Bentley is also learning a new scheme. He has watched Pats linebackers like Jerod Mayo and Tedy Bruschi in the past to get a feel for what the Pats expect. Bentley was a four year starter at Purdue where he had 97.5 tackles in 2017 including 11.5 for a loss.

"I still keep in touch with those guys and I want to show them what Purdue guys can do in the league," Bentley said.

Bentley, 21, turns 22 this Friday Night when the Pats play the Carolina Panthers. For the rookies, it is another opportunity to show their skills.

If Bentley keeps playing the way he did he should secure a roster spot on a linebacking core that could use some help.

Devin McCourty still leading

The third preseason game is usually the game when the starters play the most and the team treats the game at least somewhat similar to a regular season game in terms of preparation. It can be the rookies first exposure to the Pats in-depth preparation.

"As a rookie every week is important. For us you say game planning - for them they don't know when anything is. You can't wait until the third preseason game. I think for them the progression is even harder because each week is something knew - they just don't know. Each week they get to be here a little longer is very important to just show that you are progressing, McCourty said.

McCourty, 31, (old for NFL standards) said he tells younger players to focus on football and not worry about anything else.

"I learned that from my mom a long time ago," McCoruty said. "You do the best you can do - after that is out of your control."

Uninteresting Practice Report

OL Marcus Cannon, RB Sony Michel, TE Ryan Izzo, LB Harvey Langi and OL Isaiah Wynn (out for the season) were not at practice Monday.

Other Notes: More and More Eric Decker seems like a long shot to make the roster - given that he has struggled to hang onto the football and get open - not a good combination for any receiver. The other factor working against Decker is once he is on the roster for the first week of the season his salary becomes guaranteed for 2018 unlike a rookie who could be cut early in the season and be only paid for part of the season. DL Deatrich Wise joked that it won't be long before a player on the Pats was born in 2000 or later. RB James White said with all the praise of him this training camp for the shape that he is in -- he hopes it does not become a jinx.

Count yours truly as the only one that still believes Khalil Mack to New England is a possibility. The reasoning is that Mack (who has yet to report to training camp) is in the final year of his contract with the Oakland Raiders and he is seeking a long-term deal. The Raiders don't want to lose him for nothing next offseason and he could play about half the season to get credit for this year, which would not serve the Raiders well. Also, Raiders coach Jon Gruden and Bill Belichick are friends so they have a good working relationship. The two worked together on the Cordarrelle Patterson trade. Patterson's first name was misspelled above his locker. Even the team forgot the third R. But the advantage of having digital name tags in the new locker room is that the correction was quickly made. No heavy lifting - ahh the benefits of living in 2018. Patterson also is used to having his first name misspelled and pronounced incorrectly.

"It's been happening to me since I was young," Patterson said.

The Pats have also traded with the Raiders when they acquired Randy Moss in 2007, when they traded Richard Seymour in 2009 and the immortal Doug Gabriel in 2006 who lasted only 12 games with the team. The ghost of former Raiders owner Al Davis could come through again for the Pats.