The Patriots offense is lucky to have excellent continuity this season, as they return nearly all weapons and protectors who helped Mac Jones complete a successful rookie season at quarterback. But New England did not just stay pat this offseason, reinforcing their line after two key starters departed, trading for proven receiver DeVante Parker, then spending seven of their 10 draft selections on offensive players.
Over the last two weeks, the freshly added depth and talent have been noticeable on the practice field, despite the sessions being primarily used for teaching and light on competitive drills, the depth on offense stands out. Even with the heavy amount of returning starters, it won't be a surprise to see some new faces become important contributors this fall.
For rookies Cole Strange and Tyquan Thornton, it's been just over a month since they were both selected and now, they're getting a full taste of what life in the NFL is like, including a shortened session on Tuesday that featured a fair amount of conditioning work early in practice.
"I've enjoyed it. I've been really happy. This is a dream come true. Every single day I come out here, I'm fired up to be working and getting better," said Strange, adding that life pretty much exists only between the facility and the hotel for him these days, though he was able to get home for the long weekend celebrating Memorial Day. "The fundamentals and the basics don't change, no matter what level you get to or how good you get, you always have to work on those."
Though Strange and Thornton play different positions, the challenges facing them are similar. Thornton hasn't quite had a chance yet to demonstrate his flashy speed, though he said the offers to race have dried up since he posted a sub-4.3 40 time at the Scouting Combine.
"I had a coach tell me in college that everybody run the same plays, they just have different names to it, you learn the concepts and then it sticks with you," said Thornton, who has been present for both of the team's open practices as the rookie receiver looks to get a jump on the names the Patriots put to their plays on offense. "I'm just working on getting better every day. Route running, trying to move my arms in and out of my breaks and contested catching."
The veteran Parker is no stranger to these kinds of offseason team activities and knows how important this time can be to get everyone on the same page, with a reliable foundation that will carry them into training camp.
"Everyone's coming in, putting the work in trying to get their job done, one day at a time," said Parker, adding of Mac Jones, "He's a leader, he's a young guy but he's a leader and that's what this team needs. Even though I've been out here just for a few weeks, I still see it though."
"Mac comes to work every day, just like all the quarterbacks. They hold us to a high standard," added Thorton.