Yesterday was a busy day for the New England Patriots. Not only did the news break that wide receiver Julian Edelman was facing a possible four-game suspension, the team also wrapped up its mandatory minicamp. With the three-day camp over, workouts now become voluntary again. Before turning our attention to what lies ahead, though, let's take a look back at what we learned during about the Patriots the last few days.
No voluntary workouts, no problem for Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski
New England’s two biggest stars returned to practice this week after sitting out all of the team’s previous voluntary workouts. As was expected, Brady and Gronkowski looked like their usual dominant selves and re-entered the operation without showing any rust or needing any time to adjust to minicamp. The three practices this week looked like the duo had been in Foxboro all offseason long.
The young defensive backs were able to rise to the occasion
Cornerback is one of the deepest positions on the Patriots’ roster; multiple players are fighting for one of the limited spots alongside roster locks Stephon Gilmore and Duke Dawson. While veterans Eric Rowe and Jason McCourty still appear to have the inside track, youngsters J.C. Jackson, Ryan Lewis and Damarius Travis have all had a productive week. Jackson, an undrafted rookie, stood out in particular and saw regular snaps with the starting defense.
Jacob Hollister is in line for the second-year jump...
While the top of the Patriots' tight end depth chart is set in stone, the backup jobs behind starter Rob Gronkowski are up for grabs. One player who helped himself in the race for a roster spot this week is second-year man Jacob Hollister. The second most active tight end behind Gronkowski this week, Hollister is looking noticeably bigger when compared to his rookie campaign and emerged as a reliable pass catcher for the team's quarterbacks.
...and so is Stephon Gilmore
Coming off a very good first season with the Patriots – especially during the last few games –, Gilmore looks poised to improve in year two. During the three minicamp practices, he clearly was the team's top cornerback and on Wednesday was lauded as the “best player on the field”. If the 27-year old can stay on this course over the next three months, New England will have one of the NFL's elite cornerbacks in its lineup when the regular season starts.
The offensive line remains a work in progress
Rotation was the theme for the Patriots' offensive line during minicamp. With both Joe Thuney and Marcus Cannon recovering and with Isaiah Wynn and Trent Brown in and out of the lineup, the team used multiple combinations over the last three days. The only fixtures were David Andrews at center and Shaq Mason at right guard, but outside of the two, the line remains a work in progress – especially on a left side that saw Brown line up at tackle and Wynn at guard.
Dont'a Hightower and company are well on their way back from injury
Hightower is one of multiple core Patriots to end the 2017 season on injured reserve. It seems that the defensive captain is well on his way back, though, as he was a full participant all three days and looked comfortable on the field. Hightower is not the only formerly injured player to return: Derek Rivers and Harvey Langi were also full-go all three days, while Julian Edelman's workload increased.