For New England Patriots players, this essentially is the last week of school.
After grinding away at Gillette Stadium for the past two-plus months, the Patriots have just four more days of organized team activities (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday) before breaking for the summer. They’ll then enjoy a nice five-week break before reconvening for training camp in late July.
These final few OTAs, all of which are voluntary for players, come on the heels of the only mandatory portion of New England’s offseason program: minicamp, which was held over three days last week.
Here’s a look at five winners and three losers on the offensive side of the ball from those mandatory practices:
Jacob Hollister, tight end
No offensive player improved his stock more this spring than Hollister, who caught all but one pass thrown his way during the three minicamp sessions. After catching just four passes last season as an undrafted rookie while playing primarily on special teams, Hollister currently looks like the leading candidate to earn the No. 2 tight end spot behind Rob Gronkowski, though he’ll need to beat out the likes of Dwayne Allen, Will Tye and Troy Niklas in camp.
Tom Brady, quarterback
You’ll never believe this, but the team’s quarterback play improved dramatically once Brady returned to the field on Day 1 of minicamp. The reigning NFL MVP still looks very much like an elite QB. New England will need Brady to be at his best this fall with wide receiver Julian Edelman potentially sidelined for the first month of the season (more on that in a bit).
Rob Gronkowski, tight end
Like Brady, Gronkowski also showed no rust after choosing to skip OTAs. The superstar tight end was uncoverable during minicamp — safeties Jordan Richards and Patrick Chung had a particularly rough time against him — and also added some levity to the proceedings with a series of enthusiastic celebrations. Oh, and his horse placed second in the Belmont Stakes.
Danny Etling, quarterback
Etling, the Patriots’ seventh-round selection in this year’s draft, has been a pleasant surprise thus far. He hasn’t thrown an interception in any of the five practices that have been open to the media, and the work he put in with throwing coach Tom House to improve his mechanics appears to be paying off. Who knows how the LSU product will fare once the pads come on, but he’s looked better than expected for a late-round flier.
Sony Michel, running back
Michel, who caught some heat from running backs coach Ivan Fears in OTAs, showed a lot of potential as a pass catcher during minicamp. It will be exciting to see how offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels utilizes the first-rounder’s playmaking ability this season.
Malcolm Mitchell, wide receiver
It wasn’t that Mitchell performed poorly field last week. It’s that we hardly saw him at all. After missing all of last season with a knee injury, the 2016 fourth-round pick still isn’t healthy enough to be even a limited participant in practice. That’s a bad sign, especially with nearly a dozen talented receivers vying for Patriots roster spots this summer. The only sighting of Mitchell during minicamp came when he briefly did conditioning work on a separate field last Wednesday.
Julian Edelman, wide receiver
Edelman, who’s coming off a torn ACL suffered last August, actually looked great in limited reps over the past few weeks. Shortly after the final minicamp practice, however, news broke that he’s facing a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing drug policy. Edelman later apologized for his failed test and confirmed he is appealing the ban, which would keep him out until early October.
Brian Hoyer, quarterback
Hoyer played well on Day 1 of minicamp (11 of 13 in 11-on-11s; 25 of 28 overall) but struggled later in the week, throwing a bad interception to Richards on Day 2 and going just 2-for-8 in 11-on-11s on Day 3. He also had to run a lap during the final practice after the defense took a fumble off his back for a touchdown.