Given the chaotic nature of the offseason in Foxborough, it was a welcome return to normalcy this week as the Patriots hit the practice fields for three days of mini-camp with both Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski on the field and participating.
Having the two big guns back in the fold was certainly a positive sign, but those are pretty much givens. There were other aspects of the team that impressed that perhaps weren't as expected, and that's what we're looking at this week.
The secondary had a number of young new faces in place and many showed the potential that should lead to longer looks in training camp. The backfield has a number of versatile options that should be in the mix for roles as both runners and receivers. And the pass rush had a couple of new pieces as well, even though the lack of pads makes evaluating such endeavors a bit difficult.
There was more to be enthused about but this week's Samsonite Make Your Case will look for a single element to focus on.
This week's Samsonite Make Your Case questions is: What did you like most about mini-camp for the Patriots?
PFW's Andy Hart says ...
This looks like a deep and talented group, and many of them showed the ability to get out of the backfield and catch the ball in space. This could be even more important if Julian Edelman fails to win his appeal and is ultimately forced to sit out the first four games of the season due to his suspension.
James White is an accomplished receiver with a track record but Rex Burkhead and rookie Sony Michel also looked like weapons that Tom Brady could use in the passing game. Burkhead showed exceptional quickness while Michel popped with quick feet and soft hands as well. Ralph Webb, another rookie, also showed great feet and could be a darkhorse to give Jeremy Hill and Mike Gillislee some competition to add depth.
Overall, the running back group has the potential be a huge part of the offense both rushing the ball and catching it. And if Michel proves ready to carry the load, he could emerge as a real weapon for a diverse Patriots offense.
PFW's Paul Perillo says ...
This is always tricky because Bill Belichick always cautions us to not read too much into teaching camps at this time of the year. Players are in shorts and T-shirts, so evaluating anything is tough but especially so when it involved contact.
Despite that, it was hard not to notice Patriots defenders coming off the edge to provide some pressure on the passer. Adrian Clayborn and Derek Rivers were two that really shined, especially Clayborn. The pass rush was a real negative in 2017 so any improvement in that area could have an impact on the defense moving forward.
Clayborn consistently got the edge and forced a few hurried throws and holding penalties during the three day, and Rivers may have been more impressive. He is coming off a torn ACL and he did not appear to be hindered by that at all. He showed quickness and the ability to disrupt, and if that's the case during the season the Patriots defense could see plenty of improvement up front.
Now it's your turn to cast a vote in this week's Samsonite Make Your Case poll question.