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3 things to watch on the first day of the Patriots’ 2022 training camp

Related: Pats Pulpit Training Camp Guide: Schedule, position battles, practical info, and more

NFL: JUN 08 New England Patriots Minicamp Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With training camp having finally arrived in Foxborough, we will be able to get our first extended look at the 2022 New England Patriots. The team will hold its first practice of the summer on Wednesday morning, even though camp — just like the Patriots as a whole — is a work in progress.

The team as it currently presents itself is therefore not the one that will be taking the field against Miami Dolphins come the regular season opener. And Wednesday’s practice will also look differently from what is to follow, something head coach Bill Belichick reiterated during a pre-camp media conference call on Tuesday.

“When we get to the field, we’ll be able to pick up where we left off at the end of the spring,” Belichick said. “It will be a very similar structure to that, where we were at veteran minicamp in terms of practice opportunity, meeting time and so forth. But that’s all part of the buildup for training camp; padded practices will begin the following week.”

Despite training camp not arriving at full steam, there will be plenty to watch and talk about. When it comes to Day 1, here are three things we will keep a close eye on.

Mac Jones’ momentum

Mac Jones is the most important player on the Patriots’ roster and the team’s overall success will be closely tied to his ability to make the famous second-year jump. The sophomore quarterback showed plenty of promise in that regard during offseason workouts and mandatory minicamp, but it remains to be seen whether or not he will be able to carry that momentum into training camp as well.

Obviously, the first week of camp is only an appetizer for what is to come. Jones continuing to show the command of the offense he had in spring would still be an encouraging development, regardless of the QB-friendly nature of Wednesday’s workout.

Defensive starters

The Patriots face some serious questions on the defensive side of the ball, especially when it comes to the starter-level players at linebacker and cornerback. Both positions underwent some serious overhaul this offseason, and it remains to be seen how the main vacancies will be filled:

  • Outside linebacker: Only Matthew Judon is locked into a starting spot on the edge, with Josh Uche and Ronnie Perkins expected to compete for the other one opposite him. Uche in particular has received some offseason hype, but he has yet to prove himself worthy of it.
  • Off-the-ball linebacker: Ja’Whaun Bentley will fill a starting spot on early downs, but the rest of the spots on the depth chart are up for grabs. Raekwon McMillan, Cameron McGrone and Mack Wilson project to be the frontrunners but their training camp performance will decide who earns himself some prominent playing time.
  • Outside cornerback: With J.C. Jackson now in Los Angeles, the Patriots have a massive hole to fill opposite last year’s CB2, Jalen Mills. They have plenty of bodies competing for a job — veterans Malcolm Butler, Terrance Mitchell, Joejuan Williams, Shaun Wade and rookie Jack Jones among them — but time will tell who will emerge among them.

With Day 1 of camp essentially a continuation of spring, no final answers will be given just yet. However, Wednesday’s practice could give us an early indication about who is in the best position to answer the call and establish himself as a core contributor.

Injury questions

The Patriots have a combined eight players on the physically unable and non-football injury/illness lists, including key players such as center David Andrews, running back James White and slot cornerback Jonathan Jones. How will they be replaced? Wednesday’s practice will give us some answers about the depth chart at their respective positions.

Those eight players on PUP and NFI are not the only ones entering camp with some question marks attached to their names. The aforementioned Raekwon McMillan is coming off a season-ending ACL tear, for example, while rookie cornerback Marcus Jones underwent surgery on both his shoulders during the offseason. Wide receiver Jakobi Meyers also was a limited participant in spring.

Wednesday’s practice will not be the most physical affair yet, but how they are used will give us some clues about their status heading into camp.