On Tuesday, the New England Patriots kicked off their mandatory minicamp.
On Tuesday, we wrote an article about position battles we would keep a close eye on during mandatory minicamp. And a close eye on them we kept.
In this story, we will now take a look at the six competitions that caught our attention. As you will see, however, not all of the positions currently up for grabs were included. There was a simple reason for that: minicamp, like all offseason workouts before training camp, does not see any live contact. This means that the play of linemen on offense and defense, for example, cannot be properly evaluated at this stage in the process.
As a result, the battles we watched were primarily about the passing game positions: quarterbacks, pass catchers, defenders in coverage — they took center stage this week. And they were who we tried to pay as close attention as possible to.
What is at stake: The backup role(s) behind Tom Brady
Who was competing: Brian Hoyer, Jarrett Stidham, Danny Etling
While Tom Brady was his usual impressive self in his return to the Patriots’ practice fields — like last offseason, he skipped voluntary workouts — the competition behind him wasn’t really a competition to begin with. As things stand right now, after all, Brian Hoyer and Jarrett Stidham appear to be the clear-cut numbers two and three at the quarterback position. Danny Etling, meanwhile, saw minimal action and stood only out when the Patriots used him as personal protector on a punt drill. Hoyer and Stidham won the battle this week and it is therefore hard to envision Etling winning the war.
What is at stake: The roles and spots behind Julian Edelman and N’Keal Harry
Who was competing: Phillip Dorsett, Maurice Harris, Braxton Berrios, Demaryius Thomas, Dontrelle Inman, Damoun Patterson, Ryan Davis, Jakobi Meyers, Gunner Olszewski
With only two spots on the Patriots’ wide receiver depth chart definitively locked down, the remaining nine men are forced to compete for the rest of them. Minicamp gave us a first glimpse of how this competition is developing at the moment — hint: you probably shouldn’t invest in a Dontrelle Inman jersey just yet. Inman caught no passes during team drills this week, and was one of its biggest disappointments. Meanwhile, players like Braxton Berrios and especially Maurice Harris were able to rise to the occasion and position themselves well heading into the summer. Also of note: Demaryius Thomas was a no-show all week and might develop into a candidate for the physically unable to perform list if nothing else.
What is at stake: All of the positions
Who was competing: Matt LaCosse, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Benjamin Watson, Ryan Izzo, Stephen Anderson, Andrew Beck
When minicamp opened, the Patriots had six tight ends on their roster. Now, there are only five remaining: the team parted ways with Austin Seferian-Jenkins on Tuesday, opening the door for the other players at the position to take advantage. Two men who did just that this week were Stephen Anderson and Matt LaCosse: the latter looked bigger than he did last season and appears to be working towards becoming a more completed tight end (he was more of a pass catcher through his first three year in the NFL), while the latter appears to be the frontrunner to earn the starting spot at the position due to his well-rounded skill set.
What is at stake: The roles and spots behind Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy
Who was competing: Elandon Roberts, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Jamie Collins Sr, Christian Sam, Calvin Munson, Shilique Calhoun, Terez Hall
Just three weeks after his return to New England, Jamie Collins had an impressive week of minicamp: he was successful in pass coverage, moved around the formation quite a bit, and generally appeared to fit in rather well coming off essentially a two-year hiatus. Collins certainly stood out among the linebackers this week, and made a very strong case to become the number three option behind Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy. Ja’Whaun Bentley, for comparison, was competitive as well — he was just not as impressive as Collins and looked a bit rusty after missing most of his rookie season due to a biceps injury.
What is at stake: The roles and spots behind #1 Stephon Gilmore
Who was competing: J.C. Jackson, Jason McCourty, Jonathan Jones, Joejuan Williams, Duke Dawson Jr, Keion Crossen, Ken Webster, D’Angelo Ross
The NFL’s deepest cornerback group saw some solid performances this week, especially by number one Stephon Gilmore (shocker!) and Duke Dawson: last year’s second-round pick, who lined up predominately in the slot this week, made the most out of his reps this week and was active in coverage. Meanwhile, J.C. Jackson was unable to finish minicamp after pulling up lame during Wednesday’s session and sitting out Thursday’s as a likely result. While this will not decide the battle for the roles alongside Gilmore, it shows how injuries — even comparatively minor ones, like Jackson’s is expected to be — can impact a position depth chart and a competition for playing time.
What is at stake: A job
Who was competing: Ryan Allen, Jake Bailey
The battle for the Patriots’ punter role is already living up to the hype. While Ryan Allen was his consistent but unspectacular self during minicamp, Jake Bailey made clear why New England felt comfortable investing a fifth-round draft pick in him: the rookie showcased a strong leg throughout the week and outperformed the incumbent when it came to hang-time. There is still a long way to go, however, and both Allen and Bailey appear to have equal chances at coming out on top when it is all said and done.