The New England Patriots are off for the next month, which means even more time to reflect and overanalyze the last month of spring practice sessions.
Patriots organized team activities and minicamp didn’t bring anything too surprising — quarterback Tom Brady looked great, rookie signal-caller Jimmy Garoppolo was up-and-down and the team’s resident Sasquatch Armond Armstead appeared briefly (and blurry) then was nowhere to be found.
To put a cap on the spring sessions, check out the Patriots offseason superlatives and awards:
The Zach Sudfeld Award
The inaugural Zach Sudfeld Award, named after the 2013 undrafted rookie tight end who shined last spring and summer before bombing in the regular season, goes to this year’s unexpected standout: cornerback Daxton Swanson. Swanson wasn’t an undrafted rookie, but he still came out of nowhere to shine in OTAs and minicamp.
Swanson went undrafted out of Sam Houston State (after transferring from Toledo) last year. He caught on with the Indianapolis Colts and San Francisco 49ers, but injuries derailed his rookie season.
Swanson was constantly making plays during the Patriots’ offseason sessions, pulling in interceptions and deflecting passes on the second-team unit. Swanson could compete for the Patriots’ fifth cornerback role to start the season.
Second-year wideout Kenbrell Thompkins takes home this year’s most improved player of the spring award. Thompkins obviously added some bulk over the offseason and didn’t appear to lose any speed or agility. Thompkins looked more comfortable in the offense, and he already appeared to be earning the trust of his quarterback, Tom Brady.
Rookie of the Offseason
Running back James White was the best rookie on the field for the Patriots this spring. White showed impressive hands in the passing game, though we’ll have to see how he performs in the running game until pads are strapped on in training camp.
Most Likely To Win Fans’ Hearts During Preseason
Undrafted rookie running back Roy Finch is a tiny ball of energy when he’s on the field. At 5-foot-7, 180 pounds, Finch is severely undersized for an NFL running back, but he could find snaps in the return game and at receiver. Fans will no doubt be clamoring for Finch to make the 53-man roster once they see him on the field in training camp and during preseason matchups because of his impressive speed and agility.
It appeared that all of the Patriots’ second-year players spent time in the weight room, but linebacker Jamie Collins looked the most bulked up. Collins still moved like a linebacker, but the second-year pro looked like a defensive lineman on the field. Collins looked undersized for a Patriots linebacker last season, but now he looks in place next to fellow mega-linebacker Dont’a Hightower.
Thompkins, safety Duron Harmon, cornerback Logan Ryan and wide receiver Josh Boyce all looked bigger coming into the spring.
Comeback Player of the Offseason
It was impressive how well veteran nose tackle Vince Wilfork could move after undergoing surgery to repair a torn Achilles last season. Wilfork was a full participant by the end of minicamp, and he looks primed to be ready to start training camp.
Most Overwhelmed Rookie
Bryan Stork has a promising future with the Patriots, but the rookie center looked overwhelmed at times this spring. Stork took a few laps during the offseason sessions open to the media for blowing snap counts. OTAs and minicamp are the perfect time to get mistakes like those out of the way.
Julian Edelman obviously isn’t the type of player who’s solely motivated by money and contracts. Edelman came into the spring looking even better than he did last season, when he caught over 100 passes and 1,000 yards. Edelman was on the same page as Brady throughout OTAs and minicamp, and if he can stay healthy, he could be primed for another Wes Welker-esque season for the Patriots.
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