The New England Patriots haven’t even received their Super Bowl LIII rings yet, but they’re already back at practice.
Patriots organized team activities started Monday, and the first session open to the media takes place Thursday.
OTAs are unpadded practices that focus on the passing game. With that in mind, here are eight players we’ll be keeping a close eye on:
QB JARRETT STIDHAM
The Patriots used a 2019 fourth-round pick to take Stidham, and we believe it was well spent. Stidham has an impressive, strong arm, and he showed tremendous deep-ball accuracy as a sophomore in 2017. He wasn’t quite the same player in 2018. So, we’ll be watching to see if Stidham looks like his 2017 self or the 2018 version.
WR N’KEAL HARRY
Harry is the first wide receiver Bill Belichick has selected in the first round of the NFL Draft since taking over the Patriots in 2000. Harry excels on contested grabs and at picking up yards after catch. He won’t be able to flash his agility at OTAs, but we’re hoping to see some highlight grabs as he leaps over Patriots defensive backs.
WR BRAXTON BERRIOS
Berrios was hurt last spring, and he was mostly invisible over the summer. If he’s the next-in-line slot receiver, then he’ll have to flash this offseason.
Berrios was a 2018 sixth-round pick who spent all of last season on injured reserve.
TE RYAN IZZO
Izzo, a late 2018 seventh-rounder, also spent last season on injured reserve. The Patriots’ tight end room is crowded but should be wide open. We’ll find out if Izzo has the talent to compete for a spot on the 53-man roster against Ben Watson, Matt LaCosse and Austin Seferian-Jenkins.
We’re also eager to see LaCosse, who was one of the Patriots’ first 2019 free-agent signings.
LB JA’WHAUN BENTLEY
Bentley, a 2018 fifth-round pick, finished his rookie season on injured reserve. He’s competing with Jamie Collins and Elandon Roberts, among others, for a starting role behind Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy. We’re interested to see if Bentley is still in the starting defense during OTAs.
CB JC JACKSON
Jackson was one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL last season as an undrafted rookie. He took on a lesser role in the postseason as the Patriots moved to more zone coverage. So, who starts opposite Stephon Gilmore in OTAs and minicamp? Will it be Jackson, Jason McCourty, Jonathan Jones, Keion Crossen or one of the players listed below?
DB DUKE DAWSON
Dawson was a second-round pick last year and didn’t play a single game even after being activated off of injured reserve at midseason. Will Dawson play cornerback in an already crowded group this spring? Will he exclusively play in the slot? Or will the Patriots experiment with him at safety?
This is an important offseason for Dawson.
DB JOEJUAN WILLIAMS
Williams is a 2019 second-round pick. He’s 6-foot-4, 211 pounds and pretty much exclusively played boundary cornerback in college. We’ve hypothesized that the Patriots could use him in coverage against more athletic tight ends. So, where will Williams play this spring?
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images