Seven weeks into the offseason workout program, the New England Patriots finally have reached the mandatory portion which stretches for just three short days.
That means we’ll likely see Tom Brady show up at minicamp for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday’s sessions after skipping New England’s voluntary sessions, and Patriots practice will actually feel like Patriots practice again. Voluntary organized team activities don’t quite have the same feel when Brian Hoyer, Danny Etling and Jarrett Stidham are taking all of the throwing reps.
Brady was far from the only player missing from the lone OTAs session open to the media. Safeties Patrick Chung and Nate Ebner, running backs Sony Michel and Nick Brossette, linebacker Kyle Van Noy, offensive tackles Isaiah Wynn and Yodny Cajuste, defensive ends Michael Bennett and Deatrich Wise, wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, punter Ryan Allen and long snapper Joe Cardona also were absent.
Bennett is an annual skipper of OTAs, so we’ll likely see him on the field for minicamp. We’ll see if any of the other 12 players are spotted Tuesday through Thursday.
These three minicamp sessions are probably most meaningful for Patriots pass catchers because Brady will be present. Rookie wideout N’Keal Harry worked out with Brady and fellow receiver Julian Edelman over Memorial Day weekend, but it’s entirely possible that guys like wide receivers Ryan Davis, Maurice Harris, Dontrelle Inman, Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski, tight ends Andrew Beck and Matt LaCosse and running backs like Brosette and Damian Harris haven’t even met the Patriots starting QB yet.
They say first impressions are everything, right? We remember back to 2017 when tight end Dwayne Allen had serious issues with drops during spring practices and then was barely used as a receiver during his two years in New England.
That means these sessions very well could be paramount for roster bubble pass-catchers like Harris, Inman and LaCosse. A strong spring could mean the difference between a significant role and an early September team change. We liked what we saw from LaCosse in OTAs. We’ll see if Brady likes him too.
Brady’s attendance also makes life for difficult for Patriots defensive backs. Players like Stephon Gilmore, JC Jackson and Joejuan Williams had strong showings in the OTAs session we observed. That will be more difficult with Brady making throws rather than Hoyer, Etling and Stidham.
We’re also curious to see how the team splits up QB reps. Brady obviously will be the top quarterback, and Hoyer will likely get No. 2 reps, but how do the Patriots split time between Etling and Stidham? Etling took No. 2 reps last month, but Stidham was a fourth-round pick in April. He clearly should be higher on the depth chart than Etling. And it seems like kind of a waste of time to give Etling too many throws when the Patriots almost certainly won’t be carrying four quarterbacks come September.
The Patriots probably want Stidham to earn that No. 3 spot, but at a certain point being productive with limited time should be more important.