The New England Patriots will kick off their 2022 mandatory minicamp on Tuesday, meaning that for the first time all offseason the entire roster with the exception of rehabbing or excused players will hit the practice fields together. The three-day camp is the most action the team will see until the start of training camp in late July, making it a marquee event at this time of the year.
But what exactly will be happening during minicamp? Basically, it is an extension of organized team activities meaning that there will be no contact or full pads while the focus lies on teaching rather than competition.
Accordingly, the Patriots’ goals for those next three days are more diverse than just “finding 53 players to make the regular season roster.”
Get the scheme implemented
The offseason is for learning and building a foundation for the upcoming season. Workouts such as minicamp’s are therefore an opportunity to move the schemes that were implemented in the class room to the practice fields — a process that is especially important for those who newly arrived through draft, trade or free agency.
New England will not see a lot of fundamental changes on defense or special teams. The club’s offense is a different story, though: with long-time coordinator Josh McDaniels now in Las Vegas, wide receiver Kendrick Bourne recently hinted at the Patriots changing their entire system on that side of the ball. Mandatory minicamp will therefore be crucial in getting all of the players ready within the framework of that new-look system.
Try out things
As opposed to training camp, which focuses primarily on competition rather than scheme implementation, minicamp and organized team activities allow players and coaches more wiggle room to try out things. Be it related to training methods, specific play calls or different techniques, now is the time to try to get comfortable within the system both on and off the field.
Accordingly, not every bad rep is necessarily just that. Whereas it might have a negative impact on a player’s chances at making the team or regular rotation in August, spring practices are an opportunity to see what does and doesn’t work.
Build team chemistry
The Patriots preach the concept of “team defense,” meaning that every player on the field has to be on the same page with those around him and know what every one of them is doing on each play. For this to work and the team to play successful football on a down-to-down basis, chemistry is highly important. Minicamp, with all players present, is when building that chemistry has to happen.
Of course, using the defense as an example is pretty broad; chemistry can be much more nuanced than that. The secondary, offensive line, quarterback-receiver combinations or communication within coaches, you name it — the team as a whole is built from the chemistry between its members. If players and coaches start working on this aspect of the game by the time training camp starts rolling around, it will be far too late.
The old adage “you can’t win the Super Bowl during the offseason but you can lose it” rings especially true during workouts such as the ones taking place during minicamp. While the absence of full contact limits the risk for players, injuries ranging from soft-tissue ailments to ligament tears can still happen and challenge a team’s depth before a single down is even played.
The Patriots have been quite lucky in this area as of late, and avoided major medical issues. However, freak accidents can happen quickly at this time of the year. New England therefore has to hope for the best, while also creating an environment that allows for post-practice recovery to limit the chances of players getting hurt.