New England Patriots: 3 things to look for during Training Camp

FOXBOROUGH, MA - JUNE 16: Mac Jones #50 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Kathryn Riley/Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JUNE 16: Mac Jones #50 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Kathryn Riley/Getty Images) /

It’s almost that time again. Football season is right around the corner, and the New England Patriots will kick off their training camp at the end of the month. And for the fans looking to grab their first glimpse of the team, the opening practice is set for July 28th.

This roster has seen serious changes since the start of free agency, and both sides of the ball have been re-tooled. On top of those additions the team got back Dont’a Hightower, the quarterback of the defensive side of the ball.

With so many story lines, there’s going to be lots to look for when the boys are back at practice. Let’s dive into three storylines to pay attention to once training camp is underway.

New England Patriots defense vs. Pats’ offense

The New England Patriots defense is going to be an absolute unit this upcoming season. Dont’a Hightower is back to wreck havoc, as is Kyle Van Noy after spending the 2020 season with the Miami Dolphins. Coach Bill Belichick brought in Matthew Judon as a free agent – who had 50 tackles, six sacks, and nine tackles for a loss in 13 starts with the Baltimore Ravens last year – to help shore up a now dangerous looking front seven.

On top of the front seven being loaded, the secondary is once again going to be one of the best in football. J.C. Jackson is back after having a Pro-Bowl level season last year, totaling nine interceptions, good for second in the NFL. Amid their free-agent frenzy, the Pats also added the versatile Jalen Mills, who’s comfortable playing multiple positions on the back-end of the field.

Over the last month or so, there has been speculation on what the situation is revolving around Stephon Gilmore. He wants more money, as he should, and that has brought into question if he’d be traded as a result. Well, over the last few days, reports have been coming in saying the New England Patriots and Gilmore will sit down soon to work out a new deal.

Gilmore wasn’t with his teammates during OTA’s, but it sounds like he could be when the last week of July rolls around.

And that brings me to the offense. Cam Newton had limited weapons to work with last season, and because of that the offense struggled. He doesn’t have that same excuse this time around. Belichick brought in the two best available tight ends in free agency – Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith – as well as two talented veteran wide receivers in Kendrick Bourne and Nelson Agholor.

Jakobi Meyers outperformed all expectations last season, hauling in 59 catches for 729 yards in 12 games. His route-running ability is elite, making him a great inside option which will create down-field opportunities for Agholor.

The only “weapon” the New England Patriots might be without is N’Keal Harry. Earlier this week, his agent formally asked for him to be traded. Rumors about this happening have been going around for months, so it came as no surprise.

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What all this means: the competition is going to be insane in training camp. It may just be practice, but these boys are competitive. The defense isn’t going to sit back and let Mac Jones and Cam Newton let it fly all over the field. They’re going to be coming, and coming hard. The secondary will look to take it the other way on every snap.

I can’t wait. 

The New England Patriots tight ends

As mentioned earlier, Belichick was able to grab the two best available tight ends in free agency. Hunter Henry, who Bill has loved for years, and Jonnu Smith, who Coach called the best tight end in the game with the ball in his hands after the catch.

I can’t wait to see how he uses both of these guys. Two tight end sets, blocking schemes, mis-direction, I want all of it.

We haven’t had a set of tight ends like this since the Rob Gronkowski/Aaron Hernandez days. And to be honest, we haven’t had a reliable option in that position since Rob retired and then fled south to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with old friend Tom Brady.

It’s going to be nice to see stud tight ends occupy the middle of the field, with the ability to make huge plays.

The New England Patriots Quarterback Battle

This is the one everyone is waiting for. This is probably the main reason why you want to go watch training camp. Hell, it’s the reason I’m headed to Gillette in a few weeks. I want to see what Mac Jones has got.

During OTA’s, Mac Jones was the best quarterback. Over those few weeks, he changed the narrative on what training camp was going to be. Instead of learning under Cam Newton and becoming comfortable with the system, he’s gunning for the starting spot.

I understand that OTA’s are a glorified walk-through, but they’re like that for all quarterbacks on the field. And Mac was the best one. Aside from the last day, Cam Newton didn’t go away laying down, and had a fantastic day of OTA’s.

I still think this is Cam’s job to lose. He has a year plus under his belt within this system, is a 10 year veteran, and has a re-tooled offense. Bill has put him in a great spot to have success, so he better take it, or he may be taking a seat when Week 1 rolls around.

On Mac’s side, his play style couldn’t be more Patriots-esque. Fast to process, incredibly accurate, smart. Sound familiar? Sounds a whole lot like 12.

For Mac, training camp is going to be a whole new level. No more jogging, less hand-holding, and pure competition. To be honest, I think he’s going to be great. Everything you hear from Alabama teammates is how competitive the kid is. How hard he works. How he prepares. I’ll be rooting for him.

dark. Next. Don't count out Cam Newton just yet

If you’re interested in seeing some off-season action, this is the schedule for Training Camp

July 28th-31st: Open to the public. Time has not been announced.

August 6th: In-Stadium – Open to season ticket holders, waitlist members, and Foxborough residents only. Time has not been announced.

August 10th: In-Stadium – Open to the public. Time has not been announced.