You’ve all heard the tropes before. The same ones seem to pop up every time an NFL team hits the field for organized team activities, minicamp or training camp.
“Player X is catching everything!” “Player Y is in the best shape of his life!” “Player Z is taking on a leadership role!”
We typically try to stay away from these tired narratives in our New England Patriots coverage. But today, we’re making an exception and taking a trip straight to Cliché Land.
Enjoy our eight superlatives from Patriots mandatory minicamp, which wrapped up Thursday afternoon:
The guy who’s catching everything: WR Maurice Harris
No player helped his own cause more this week than Harris, a 6-foot-3 slot receiver who caught all 13 passes thrown his way during team drills (including eight in 11-on-11s and eight from Tom Brady) and consistently lined up alongside Julian Edelman and Phillip Dorsett in the first-team offense. It’s been a meteoric rise for the former Washington Redskin, whose decision to sign with the Patriots in March was met with little fanfare.
The guy who’s in the best shape of his life: TE Stephen Anderson
This isn’t a perfect fit, but Anderson did say he hit the gym hard this offseason and added 10 pounds in an effort to improve his blocking. He’s one of four tight ends currently engaged in the team’s most wide-open roster battle.
The out-of-nowhere long shot who’s turning heads: WR Gunner Olszewski
A former Division II cornerback/punt returner trying to make it as an undrafted wide receiver? That’s quite a story. And here’s the craziest part: Olszewski doesn’t look out of place. He’s had a few hiccups thus far and clearly is a long shot to make the roster, but he’s displayed sure hands, great quickness and better route-running ability than one would expect from a newly converted DB. The Bemidji State product will become a fan favorite if he keeps this up in training camp.
The sage veteran who’s taking a rookie under his wing: WR Julian Edelman
Edelman has taken on a mentorship role this spring. His pupil: first-round draft pick N’Keal Harry, who’s already seeing the fruits of his work with the Super Bowl LIII MVP.
The oft-injured guy who’s not participating: RB Sony Michel
Michel was one of seven players who did not participate in any of the team’s three minicamp practices — not the best sign for a player whose knee issues were a major storyline last summer.
The “change of scenery” guy: LB Jamie Collins
Will Collins’ return to New England unlock the potential he never reached in Cleveland? It’s way too early to make that proclamation, but the veteran linebacker looked good this week, regularly running with the first-team defense and causing a good deal of disruption as a pass rusher and in coverage. At the very least, he now seems like a sure bet to make the roster.
The experienced receiver who won’t last long: WR Dontrelle Inman
This might just be a New England thing, and it typically doesn’t get rolling until August, but Inman — who was a valuable weapon last season for an Indianapolis Colts team that won a playoff game — appears well on his way to becoming the next Reggie Wayne, Eric Decker, Nate Washington or Andrew Hawkins. He didn’t catch a single pass in team drills during minicamp and already is buried far down on the depth chart.
The guy who’s playing a new position to boost his value: QB Danny Etling
As soon as Brady arrived for minicamp after skipping OTAs, Etling immediately became QB4, taking by far the fewest reps of any signal-caller this week. It’ll be all but impossible for him to crack the 53-man roster unless Brady, Brian Hoyer or Jared Stidham suffers an injury this summer. No one can knock Etling’s effort, though. With his QB snaps limited, the 2018 seventh-round pick has hopped in as the personal protector on the punt team.