The Patriots will take to the lower practice field this week for a three-day mandatory minicamp as they continue their offseason preparations before the start of training camp in late July. With the full team expected to be in Foxborough, this will be the first official snapshot of the 2022 squad.
After two open practices some early questions, like which coaches were with which position groups, how the new faces were integrating and how the overall depth is stacking up, were answered while other new questions have now arisen. While there will be no definitive answers in minicamp it will be a fun three days of on-field work that should provide at least a little bit more insight into how this year's Patriots are coming together.
Here's what to watch for as the Patriots reach the peak of their offseason this week!
OTAs are voluntary and it's not uncommon to see some missing veterans from those sessions. Often times players are in attendance, just not on the days that the media is given access, leading to conjecture about a player's potential offseason plans, health or future with the team.
Still, there are some intriguing names that have been absent from the two sessions that reporters observed, starting with Isaiah Wynn and Matthew Judon. Judon made an immediate impression last season, with his trademark red sleeves there's little debate he needs to be one of the Patriots key defensive playmakers this season. An appearance by Judon at minicamp would be a nice boost, especially for a position group that is going through some turnover.
Wynn is entering the last year of his rookie deal after battling injuries for much of his first four seasons. 2021 was his healthiest season yet, but ended on a sour note after was ruled out of the playoff game against the Bills with ankle and hip injuries. Wynn could still be recovering from those injuries, but his absence from OTAs was noticeable. A big year would pay off for both him and the Pats. Justin Herron and Yodny Cajuste were the top tackle backups in his absence behind Trent Brown.
For the most part, rookies are in over their heads at this point and it's probably a stretch expecting to see any of them playing a major role in minicamp. Last year, Mac Jones was a notable exception, but unless you're a quarterback, there might not be many opportunities to shine. The rooks will need to make the most of their chances.
Tyquan Thornton's speed is something to watch for, as is the potential electric return ability of Marcus Jones. Jack Jones made a lot of plays on the ball in college and was getting some opportunities in OTAs. A minicamp interception or two would put Jack on the radar at outside cornerback. Cole Strange should continue to anchor the left guard spot, while it would be nice to finally get a glimpse of Chasen Hines and Andrew Stueber, two rookie offensive lineman that were not spotted at either OTA practice.
It will be tough to get a read on the rookies until the pads come on, but speed and quickness are things that can still show up even without them on. The team wanted to get faster this offseason, we'll get a barometer from this year's draft class this week.
New faces, new roles
2022 didn't see the same huge free agency haul that 2021 did but there are still some veteran free agent additions that could win significant roles this summer, especially on defense. Malcolm Butler and Terrance Mitchell are experienced cornerbacks who should be in the starting mix, while safety Jabrill Peppers has the kind of versatility that will fit in well on defense, even if it's unclear how many different spots he'll be able to play. Veteran linebacker Mack Wilson should also be active in minicamp as the linebacker group undergoes some turnover and has some health questions.
Offensively there are fewer spots where new faces might make an impact, but that doesn't mean a shortage of excitement for DeVante Parker, who flashed during OTAs, as well as Ty Montgomery, a hybrid offensive player who could contribute at both running back and receiver.
Unlike the rookies, the vets should be able to jump right into the mix by minicamp.
Old faces, new roles
With the limited free-agent class, it will also put a major focus on some of the recent draft classes as the team hopes to see some young veterans finally emerge into major roles.
This starts at the linebacker position, where players like Josh Uche, Anfernee Jennings and Ronnie Perkins all should see opportunity knocking. No other position group saw the kind of turnover than the second level of the defense with tenured veterans like Dont'a Hightower, Jamie Collins and Kyle Van Noy no longer on the roster.
But linebacker isn't alone, as the offensive line is another spot where some of the young Patriots have a golden opportunity. Michael Onwenu should be able to finally seize a starting guard spot on the right side, his college position, while Justin Herron and Yodny Cajuste appear to be very much in the mix at the tackle position. In the secondary, Joejuan Williams, Shaun Wade and Joshuah Bledsoe are unknown quantities who could push the veteran free-agent additions.
Mac in control
Let's face it, the most exciting thing to watch this week will be Mac Jones and the strides the offense is making. By all accounts, the young quarterback is fully locked in on becoming the best player he can be, pushing himself physically this offseason while also bringing the offensive pieces together to build team chemistry off the field.
Minicamp should provide additional glimpses as to how the offensive operation will run and who will be calling the plays, but it's ultimately on Mac and his teammates to execute, something they seem intent on. How the coaching staff has tweaked the scheme towards Mac's skillset will be another thing to try to decipher.
Despite the loss of his offensive coordinator, the pieces around Jones have only been built upon, with additions that include veterans and rookies. Mac didn't look like a rookie for very long last season and this summer he should be even more in control.
How well the offense can move the ball on a new-look defense during 7-on-7s will be some of the most fascinating periods of the three-day minicamp.
Patriots Unfiltered will be coming to you live from minicamp on Tuesday and Thursday from 11:45am until the end of practice. Check Patriots.com for more details!