It’s all been doom and gloom around Foxboro, Mass., since New England Patriots organized team activities started Monday.
It might be time to bestow some sunshine and puppy dogs on Gillette Stadium. Here are some reasons Patriots fans should be feeling optimistic after the team’s first open OTAs session.
— First things first, Brady and Gronkowski eventually will be back on the field, and the offense no longer will look so anemic. Both players reportedly are expected on the practice field for mandatory minicamp.
— Wide receivers Julian Edelman and Jordan Matthews, running back Jeremy Hill, offensive linemen Trent Brown, Marcus Cannon, Andrew Jelks and Isaiah Wynn, defensive ends Adrian Clayborn and Derek Rivers, defensive tackle Vincent Valentine, linebacker Harvey Langi, safety Nate Ebner and cornerback Cyrus Jones all were on the field as they recover from injuries. Edelman, Brown, Cannon, Wynn and Ebner were limited in their returns.
— Edelman looked like his old self, despite being limited.
— Some young players already are standing out. Cornerback Keion Crossen, a 2018 seventh-round pick, was one of the best players on the field. He didn’t allow a catch on six targets and notched an interception and pass breakup.
We assumed the Patriots really liked cornerback Ryan Lewis, then on the practice squad, last year when they convinced him not to sign to the Buffalo Bills’ 53-man roster by offering him an active roster salary. Lewis also won “Patriot of the Year” in 2017 (whatever that is).
Well, on Tuesday, Lewis was playing with the first-team defense opposite Stephon Gilmore. Crossen or Lewis could become the next Malcolm Butler as an out-of-nowhere cornerback contributor.
— Rookie quarterback Danny Etling wasn’t an outright disaster in his first practice in front of the media. Sure, he only went 4-of-9, but he didn’t throw any interceptions, had zip on the ball and was generally accurate. His first real test will come in the preseason when pressure is bearing down, but his mechanics looked better Tuesday than they did during his college career.
— Despite shaky quarterback play, Kenny Britt and Cordarrelle Patterson stood out on a couple plays at wide receiver. The Patriots currently have a lot of raw talent at the position.
Britt, Patterson and Phillip Dorsett were first-round picks in their respective NFL Drafts, Braxton Berrios and Riley McCarron are speedy slot options, Jordan Matthews has been a productive receiver in his four NFL seasons and Edelman and Chris Hogan are roster locks. Malcolm Mitchell was great as a rookie in 2016, but he wasn’t on the practice field Tuesday.
It’s amazing to think Britt is two years removed from a 1,000-yard season, and now he’s left out of many 53-man roster projections. He has a lot of upside if he can still play to his full potential.
And a couple more:
— Bill Belichick still is head coach.
— Rookie punter Corey Bojorquez has a boot.
Thumbnail photo via Stew Milne/USA TODAY Sports Images