BOSTON (CBS) — The Patriots are back to work at Gillette Stadium, with the team’s mandatory three-day minicamp kicking off on Tuesday. It will give us our first look at the 2019 New England Patriots as they look to defend their Super Bowl LIII title.
While we won’t be seeing players in pads or doing what football players normally do (read: hit each other), these sessions will give us our first look at the team’s depth and young players. It’s all to lay the groundwork for the start of training camp next month. Here are a few storylines we’ll be watching over the next three days:READ MORE: New Memorial In Worcester Honors Firefighters Killed In Line Of Duty
Tom Brady opted to skip out on voluntary sessions again, but reported to Gillette for minicamp on Monday. These next few days will be his first time on the field with his new teammates.
Most of them, at least. He and first-round pick N’Keal Harry had a little catch session at Brady’s home a few weeks ago (along with Julian Edelman, making sure Brady hasn’t found a new Binky), but will now take the field together in Foxboro. If Harry is as good as we’ve been hearing, this will be the start of a promising QB-WR relationship.
Brady will also get to work with new receivers Demaryius Thomas and Dontrelle Inman, plus a whole crop of new tight ends.
Rob Gronkowski is enjoying retired life, leaving a Gronk-sized hole on the tight end depth chart. The Patriots have filled that cavern with veterans Ben Watson and Austin Seferian-Jenkins, and fourth-year tight end Matt LaCosse.
Watson should be familiar with the Patriots system, though it’s changed quite a bit since he last suited up for the Patriots. All three have a lot to learn, and none of them will be able to fill the void left by Gronkowski’s retirement. But if the Pats can get some solid tight end play out of them, they can worry about filling in Gronk’s lost production elsewhere.
Update: The Patriots reportedly released Seferian-Jenkins today, so he is no longer in the mix at tight end.
Brady’s Blindside Protection
Trent Brown is a rich man in Oakland, leaving the Patriots without their starting left tackle and Tom Brady without his blindside protector from last year. The job should be Isaiah Wynn’s, but he was not on the field during the Patriots voluntary minicamp a few weeks back. Mix in the surprise retirement of veteran lineman Jared Veldheer after he joined the Patriots, and there are some serious questions at left tackle heading into the new season. Joe Thuney got some run at left tackle a few weeks ago, the position he played in college.READ MORE: 2 Extricated From Car After Crash In Medford
These things tend to work themselves out, but it’s a situation worth monitoring all summer.
The Patriots have a stout secondary, led by veterans Stephon Gilmore, Jason McCourty, Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung. In addition to those savvy vets, New England also touts a great collection of young players in their secondary, highlighted by last year’s breakout star, J.C. Jackson. 2019 second-round pick Joejuan Williams has been added to the mix, with second-year corner Duke Dawson also out to prove he deserves some playing time.
Williams could become a great matchup player for Belichick given his size and ability to move around the field, and he could spend plenty of time on Harry over the next few days.
Michael Bennett is now a Patriot. He’s still a damn good pass rusher, with nine sacks last season, and the Patriots are going to need that with Trey Flowers getting a truckload of cash from the Detroit Lions over the offseason.
What will be really interesting is how Bennett handles the media now that he’s in New England. He’s never afraid to speak his mind, so we’ll see if the Patriots have turned him into a robot at some point this week.
BONUS: Punter Fight!
We promised you a punter battle last summer, and it never really materialized. (Really, we just liked to say the name Corey Bojorquez as much as possible.)
But this time, there’s really going to be a punter battle. You could argue that Ryan Allen and his left leg where the MVP of Super Bowl LIII, but he’ll be kicking to keep his job once again after the Patriots drafted Jake Bailey. The Patriots must really like Bailey, since they traded up to draft him in the fifth round in April.MORE NEWS: 'Loss Of A Beautiful Boy': Candlelight Vigil Held In Memory Of 5-Year-Old Elijah Lewis
Allen signed a one-year deal a few months ago, so the Patriots could easily move on from the veteran if the rookie comes in and outkicks him in camp.