FOXBOROUGH - The 2019-20 NFL season is almost upon us! There are officially less than 50 days to go before the start of the season, and the feeling of football is definitely in the air. We still have to make our way through the throes of August first, but the NFL off-season events of training camp and the pre-season will certainly help the time pass until we see the New England Patriots open their season against the Pittsburgh Steelers on September 8.

For the Patriots, their practices are already well underway, but the specific training camp sessions for New England are slated to begin this Thursday. There's been no shortage of off the field news about Patriots players, from Kyle Van Noy recently hosting a party at the premiere of The Lion King at Patriot Place, to Tom Brady's inclusion in Sports Illustrated’s “Fashionable 50” list, and Julian Edelman's documentary and hosting of a training camp for kids at Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School.

And while this is all well and good, many Patriots will be fighting for spots on the roster, unlike Van Noy, Brady, and Edelman, who are all but guaranteed spots on the team. Yes, even the Patriots have uncertainty and competition for roster spots. Perfection like this franchise does not just happen by magic, you know.

One of the biggest storylines to watch is the mystery of Josh Gordon. Right now, the NFL is mum on whether or not Gordon will be reinstated to the league, but there has been talk that he may be back sooner rather than later. As for the Patriots, they're moving ahead as if Gordon will not be a part of the team, but they have also remarked that he will be welcomed if he is allowed to return. In addition to controversy on who will comprise the secondary, which will be profiled next in UpToBoston’s series on the Patriots off-season, there is a tight battle at the punter position. Ryan Allen recently re-upped his contract with New England for the 2019 season, but New England was aggressive to draft Jake Bailey from Stanford during the 2019 NFL Draft. New England has shown they are okay with moving on from punters quickly (see: Zoltan Mesko), but Bailey would have big cleats to fill if he usurps Allen’s position.

Two more players to watch are rookie quarterback Jarrett Stidham and sophomore offensive lineman Isaiah Wynn. Their contributions could be immense to the Patriots, but their resumes are dotted with question marks. Bill Belichick will undoubtedly be keeping a close eye on them.