Much of the media and fan focus this summer and early fall in Foxborough will be on the man throwing footballs in New England.
Tom Brady's four-game suspension to open the 2016 has promoted Jimmy Garoppolo to the fill-in starting job at quarterback in New England.
But while all the football world will be focusing who's under center for the Patriots – from the first rep of training camp practice right through the opening snap of Brady's expected Week 5 return in Cleveland – don't expect the guys actually catching the passes to be included in that mix.
Rather, according to Patriots wide receivers coach Chad O'Shea, everyone from reception machine Julian Edelman through late-round pick Devin Lucien will be coached to almost be oblivious to who's holding down the quarterback job on any given play.
"I think it's our job as receivers to do our job regardless of who is throwing to us," O'Shea emphasized when New England's assistant coaches met with the media the day before the public opening to training camp at Gillette Stadium. "That's always what we've preached. Regardless if it's a coach throwing to you or anybody in the huddle. Whoever steps in the huddle, regardless of who that is, it's our job to go out and catch the football."
As has been explained endlessly over the years by receivers learning the system in New England, the job comes with plenty of challenges outside of worrying whether it's Brady, Garoppolo or rookie Jacoby Brissett throwing the ball.
We have no control who steps in the huddle with us, but we do control our performance and our execution on that play.
"The thing about playing receiver in New England is that we have so much to do as far as our job, that sometimes we don't even recognize who's throwing to us, or the difference in the type of throw or who that person is," said O'Shea, who's now in his eighth season as the Patriots wide receivers coach. "We're obviously so preoccupied with the amount of things that we need to do to execute on a play that really it's a non-factor. Whoever is in there throwing to us is who it is and we're going to go out there and do the best job we can of getting open and catching the football."
O'Shea also emphasized on Wednesday just how excited he is to work with this year's crop of receiver talent. While Edelman and Danny Amendola may open camp on PUP after being placed on the list earlier this week, the mix still includes the likes of returning options like Aaron Dobson and Keshawn Martin and veteran newcomers in Chris Hogan and Nate Washington, as well as rookie draft picks Malcolm Mitchell and Lucien.
"It's a group that has youth, but also has experience and some in between," O'Shea described. "It's really gonna be a fun group to work with in a lot of ways. They've shared something in common that they've really worked hard through the whole process, the offseason. And they showed up in really good shape, which shows you who they are. I really like this group. It's going to be very competitive. Every receiver on our roster brings something and has strengths that they bring to the team. So I'm really excited to work with this group."
And regardless of what the rest of the world might be focusing on as training camp begins Thursday morning on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium, O'Shea's troops have their own jobs to worry about.
"We have no control who steps in the huddle with us, but we do control our performance and our execution on that play. And that's what we stress," O'Shea concluded.