It’s growing increasingly difficult to nitpick the New England Patriots.
They’re now so good and so difficult to criticize that they’re almost uninteresting. And they proved this week they’re stacked at quarterback, running back, wide receiver and in the secondary.
Because there are so few areas to criticize, life has become exceedingly difficult for players on the team who do not live up to the high standards set. The few issues then are blown up to epic proportions.
But since we’ve discussed positives coming out of this week’s three-day minicamp, let’s also look at some areas where the Patriots could improve.
— Jimmy Garoppolo looked better last spring. In this minicamp, he completed just 55 percent of his passes in team drills, with two interceptions, and he was 17-of-40 in 11-on-11 drills. It would be a stretch to say Garoppolo struggled, but he was expected to take another giant step forward this spring, and he hasn’t thus far. Garoppolo still is the best backup QB in the NFL, but we’d like to see him return to form in training camp.
— Tight end Dwayne Allen dropped a few too many passes early in minicamp, and he had some miscommunication with Tom Brady on Thursday. Allen should settle down, and it’s worth noting Rob Gronkowski dropped a ton of passes last offseason as well, then dropped only one pass during the 2016 season. Allen dropped just two passes last season, so this could be new team-related jitters.
— Defensive line addition Lawrence Guy missed practice Wednesday and Thursday for undisclosed reasons. New defensive end Kony Ealy left the field midway through Thursday’s session. We’ll monitor those situations Monday when the Patriots reconvene for organized team activities. Defensive line depth could become shallow if those players miss any time.
— Nose tackle Josh Augusta, who weighed as much as 390 pounds in college, had trouble completing two laps around the practice field Thursday. He’s trying to get down from 347 pounds to 335 pounds. Perhaps he’s trying to hit that weight too quickly.
— Jonathan Freeny continues to wear a red non-contact jersey, and fellow linebacker Dont’a Hightower didn’t participate in team drills at all in minicamp. Those are couple more injuries to monitor.
— Cornerback Cyrus Jones still is having trouble fielding punts. He muffed multiple punts two weeks ago in OTAs, and he missed another one Thursday after being perfect Tuesday and Wednesday. Jones also isn’t standing out on defense. If Jones can’t return punts, then Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Brandin Cooks, Will Likely, D.J. Foster or David Jones could get a shot. They all practiced in the role.
— The Patriots will need to figure out who will be their third cornerback against traditional slot receivers. Safety Patrick Chung could handle those duties in some circumstances. Cyrus Jones, Jonathan Jones and Justin Coleman also received reps in that role. Undrafted rookie Kenny Moore, who has the size and agility typically valued in the slot, also could be a fit.
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