The Patriots will kick off their mandatory three-day minicamp on Tuesday, giving us our first extended look at the 2019 version of the team. It should provide an opportunity to see Tom Brady for the first time this spring, as well as newcomer Michael Bennett and perhaps some others who have yet to make an appearance.
While the only difference between minicamp and the OTA session the media was invited to watch two weeks ago is the mandatory element, the non-padded practices do provide an opportunity to start assessing the potential depth chart and to watch the younger players operate in the Patriots system.
With no contact it’s difficult to judge performance – and Bill Belichick often cautions against doing that anyway as he views these workouts as instructional and not for evaluations. But three days of work, plus an additional OTA practice open to the media next week, will provide a glimpse of what we’ll see come the opening of training camp in late July.
Until then, here are five things we’ll be focusing on this week.
Brady’s presence – Assuming Brady will be back in the fold, it’s always news when the quarterback is involved. For the second straight spring he’s chosen to do his prep work on his own, which is unfortunate because it would be great to watch Brady work with rookie first-round pick N’Keal Harry a bit more extensively. Still, there should be some chances for the two to connect this week and we’ll likely hear from Brady at some point as well.
Finding Wynn – So far we’ve had just one chance to watch practice (May 23) and Isaiah Wynn was not present. Instead we saw left guard Joe Thuney man the left tackle spot in place of the departed Trent Brown. Wynn continues to recover from a torn Achilles that wiped out his rookie season and offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia said several weeks ago that he hadn’t yet been cleared for full on-field work. Although it’s not with pads, it would be nice to see Wynn in uniform and working his way back into form. If not, it will be worth watching to see if Thuney remains at left tackle, a position he played at a high level while earning All-ACC honors at N.C. State.
Crowded secondary – Joejuan Williams was drafted in the second round, one year after Duke Dawson was taken in the same round. The two corners join J.C. Jackson, Jason McCourty, Jonathan Jones and Keion Crossen in a fight for playing time with No. 1 corner Stephon Gilmore. Williams’ size is intriguing as a potential matchup weapon for Belichick, who could use a rotation of corners depending on a specific opponent from week to week. Williams should get a lot of chances to lock horns with Harry in a battle of tall, physical performers. We’ll be watching those closely.
Tight quarters – The tight end position is arguably the one that has drawn the most concern among Patriots fans this offseason following Rob Gronkowski’s retirement. The former All-Pro added a measure of finality to that over the weekend when he told reporters that rumors of a possible return could be put to rest. Whether that ultimately is true or not, it’s time to figure out how the position might look without him. Benjamin Watson will miss the first four games while serving a suspension for PED use, and we’ve yet to see veteran free agent addition Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Matt LaCosse looked like a candidate to fill a pass-catching role a couple of weeks ago, albeit in shorts under far-less-than-competitive circumstances. LaCosse moves well and it will be interesting to see what if any work he gets to do with Brady.
Bennett Brothers 2.0 – Michael Bennett has yet to make an appearance during practice but is expected to be in Foxborough this week. He ostensibly replaces Trey Flowers, and while at 33 he may not be able to handle the full workload, he possesses more explosiveness as a pass rusher. Again, shorts and T-shirts work will only tell so much but Bennett is an interesting character very much in the mold of his brother Martellus, who had a couple of stints as a Patriot. Bennett will be worth a look as well as a listen.