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Patriots training camp preview: Will Mac Jones build on his encouraging offseason?

Related: Mandatory minicamp left no doubt: Mac Jones has taken full control of the Patriots offense

NFL: JUN 07 New England Patriots Minicamp Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The New England Patriots’ 2022 training camp is right around the corner. Later this month, the team will reconvene at Gillette Stadium to kick off its next level of preparation for the upcoming season — and all that goes with it: full-contact practices, camp competitions, joint sessions, you name it.

Leading up to this year’s camp, we will take a look at all position groups on New England’s roster to give you some idea about the key actors, battles and storylines at each of them. Today, we will start at quarterback.

Position group

The most important position group on New England’s roster currently stands at three deep, with Mac Jones undisputed as the top option among them:

Entering his second year in the system, Jones is a lock to retain the starting role he earned last summer. Behind him, Brian Hoyer is currently penciled in as QB2 after returning on a two-year contract extension ahead of free agency. Bailey Zappe, meanwhile, was added in the fourth round of this year’s draft.

The Patriots might add another camp arm to the equation before the start of camp next week, but three players is still sufficient to run practice. Last year, for example, the team had three QBs on the practice fields as well: Mac Jones and Cam Newton were the top two, with Hoyer as the number three; Jarrett Stidham was on the physically unable to perform list throughout camp.

Camp competitions

Brian Hoyer vs. Bailey Zappe: The Patriots’ quarterback position will see only one potential competition this summer, with incumbent Brian Hoyer and rookie Bailey Zappe competing for the number two spot on the depth chart behind Mac Jones. Hoyer getting unseated by a first-year QB would be nothing new — Jarrett Stidham managed to do that in 2019 — but his recent contract extension in combination with his value as a well-respected leader in the locker room might make this a clear-cut affair in his favor.

Stories to watch

Will Mac Jones build on his encouraging offseason? Coming off an impressive albeit at times inconsistent rookie campaign, Jones appears to be in the process of taking the famous second-year jump. The former first-round draft pick impressed during offseason workouts, showing a clear command of an offense that lost long-time coordinator Josh McDaniels earlier this year. This is Jones’ offense now and his ability to keep his offseason momentum alive could go a long way toward New England’s offense showing some marked improvements in 2022 despite McDaniels’ departure.

Is Brian Hoyer’s spot on the depth chart in danger? As noted above, Hoyer and rookie Bailey Zappe will compete for the QB2 role behind Mac Jones this year. The veteran is the clear favorite: he has experience in the system, is a mentor for Jones, and was the number two during mandatory minicamp as well. No matter how the competition unfolds, however, both will make the 53-man team based on their contract situation and draft status, respectively.

Who will send in the plays? The quarterback is the most important player on the field due to his lead role within the operation — one that involves receiving plays from the sidelines. The question as far as this year’s Patriots are concerned is who will send in those plays with McDaniels gone. During offseason workouts head coach Bill Belichick and assistants Joe Judge and Matt Patricia were all involved in this process, but a frontrunner emerging at one point throughout training camp should be expected.