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5 stories to watch as the Patriots open their mandatory minicamp

New England returns to work today for its first mandatory practice of the year.

Super Bowl LII - New England Patriots - Practice Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Later today, the New England Patriots will return to the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium to hold their first minicamp practice of the year. The session, as opposed to previous offseason workouts, is mandatory which means that all healthy players on the Patriots' current 90-man roster are expected to be present.

Let's take a look at some of the most intriguing questions this week.

How will Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski look?

After opting not to participate during voluntary workouts this offseason, Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski will rejoin their teammates on the practice fields later today. Their highly anticipated return is arguably the biggest story of the Patriots' minicamp – so naturally all eyes will be on the duo. Anything else than both looking as sharp as they usually do during practice would be a huge surprise, though. Expect everything to back to normal over the next few days.

Will any other previously absent players return?

Seven players, not including Brady and Gronkowski, were nowhere to be seen during last Thursday's open OTA workout: wide receivers Malcolm Mitchell and Cody Hollister, running back Brandon Bolden, guard Joe Thuney, and defensive backs Cyrus Jones, David Jones and Nate Ebner. This week's mandatory practices should give more clarity as to their respective statuses and, in the case of previously injured players, rehabilitation processes.

How will the position battles develop?

Despite some turnover this offseason, the Patriots still have one of the deepest rosters in the NFL and will therefore see plenty of competiton this week. The most contested positions – at least at this point in the offseason – are projected to be wide receiver, cornerback, and punter. But while the battles will not be decided during non-contact workouts in early June, players can still position themselves well to make a run at one of the spots on the 53-man squad.

How will the workload of Julian Edelman and other players coming off IR look?

2017 saw multiple core members of the Patriots end up on season-ending injured reserve. Some of them are already fully participating during workouts – defenders Dont'a Hightower and Derek Rivers among them –, but others are brought back more slowly. Neither wide receiver Julian Edelman nor starting right tackle Marcus Cannon have participated in full-speed team drills yet, while the aforementioned Malcolm Mitchell and Nate Ebner both missed the two open OTA sessions. Their workload this week will be worth keeping a close eye on.

Which players will leave positive impressions?

New England's two organized team activities open to the media saw some early standouts: Tight end Jacob Hollister was active on both days as was punter Corey Bojorquez. Defensive backs Keion Crossen, C.J. Jackson and Ryan Lewis also had their moments and were competitive during drills. Will they continue to stand out this week? Or will others deliver noteworthy performances? It will be an intriguing three days.