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What photos from rookie minicamp tell us about the Patriots’ first-year players

Related: Patriots release undrafted rookie Liam Shanahan after failed physical

NCAA Football: West Virginia at Baylor Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The New England Patriots did not open their rookie minicamp to members of the media, but there are still some takeaways that can be drawn from the limited information available. After all, the team released a series of photos from the three-day workout that took place at Gillette Stadium between Friday and Sunday.

A total of 41 pictures were published, with all of them showing the first-year players going through various drills.

While those pictures are quite literally just a snapshot, and rookie minicamp only the first step in the process, they did tell us a few things. Let’s dive in.

Several rookies might have been absent

Let’s start by making a roll call. The Patriots’ brought 18 drafted or undrafted rookies in on draft weekend, but not all of them were spotted on the pictures: excluding center Liam Shanahan, who was released after failing his physical on Friday, four were not accounted for: cornerback Marcus Jones, running back Pierre Strong, and offensive linemen Chasen Hines and Andrew Stueber.

Jones apparently missing rookie minicamp did not come as a surprise. The third-round pick, after all, underwent surgery on both his shoulders since December and is still in the process of recovery. He is expected to be ready by training camp, but the team holding him out this weekend would make sense.

As for Strong, Hines and Stueber, there is no obvious reason why they might have been absent. Hines did end his 2021 senior campaign at LSU sidelined due to an undisclosed injury, but the sixth-rounder was able to participate in the Scouting Combine and the Tigers’ pro day. Strong and Stueber, who were drafted in the fourth and seventh rounds, respectively, are not coming off any major injuries.

New England had additional tryout players present

Speaking of attendance, the Patriots’ drafted rookies and UDFAs were not the only players present. The team also had at least five other players in for apparent tryouts: defensive back Coby Tippett was already reported as a tryout, while linebacker Omari Cobb, defensive lineman Keyshawn James, wide receiver Jake Parker and one player who could not clearly be identified.

James and Parker are undrafted rookies, with the former spending his college career at Fayetteville State (D-II) and the latter playing at Howard Payne (D-III). Cobb, meanwhile, is entering his third year in the NFL after previously having spent time with the Kansas City Chiefs and New York Giants.

As of Monday, none of the players have been signed by the team. The Patriots do have four open spots on their 90-man offseason roster.

Jack Jones is getting some work in the return game

The 121st selection in this year’s draft, Jack Jones projects primarily as a physical press-man cornerback on the outside. However, that does not mean the Patriots will not try him out at other positions as well. It seems one of those is at either punt or kickoff returner.

Jones’ experience running back kicks is limited. Between stints at USC and Arizona State, he returned 10 punts for an average of 7.1 yards per runback as well as six kickoffs for 12.7 yards per return.

Jones was a four-unit special teamer during his time at USC and also found success in the game’s third phase while at Arizona State, but earned most of his playing time as a coverage player. He also blocked a field goal attempt in 2021.

UDFA QB D’Eriq King saw action at receiver

D’Eriq King wore multiple hats during his six-year college career at Houston and Miami. He attempted 1,048 passes, carried the football 423 times and caught 61 passes.

The Patriots did announce him as a quarterback upon signing him, but it appears his future might be at another position. Based on the pictures shared by the team, the 24-year-old will compete for a spot on the wide receiver depth chart rather than serve as QB4 behind Mac Jones, Brian Hoyer and Bailey Zappe.

King, who measured at 5-foot-9, 196 pounds at the Combine, will try to follow some big footsteps: the last quarterback to arrive in New England and make the transition to wide receiver turned into a three-time champion and Super Bowl MVP, Julian Edelman.