Before partying it up to celebrate receiving their Super Bowl LIII rings, the New England Patriots held three days of mandatory minicamp this week.
Here are the biggest standouts — both positive and negative — from the three practice sessions.
Perhaps the biggest winner of the week, Harris emerged as a potential starting slot receiver in the Patriots’ offense. He received the bulk of top-team reps next to Julian Edelman and Phillip Dorsett with quarterback Tom Brady at the helm.
We kind of wrote off Harris when the Patriots signed him on the first day of free agency since he was non-tendered by the lowly Washington Redskins as an exclusive rights free agent. But Harris showed an ability to high point the ball, make contested catches and snag everything out of the air.
We’re not ready to write his name in ink on the Patriots’ 2019 53-man roster, but we’re at least penciling him in for now.
Below Edelman and Dorsett, another tier of outside receivers consists of Meyers, N’Keal Harry, Dontrelle Inman and Damoun Patterson. Harry, a 2019 first-round pick, is a lock to make the roster. But Meyers looked best this week out of the rest of the pack. He also showed more than fellow undrafted rookie receivers Ryan Davis and Gunner Olszewski.
Meyers even got some time with Brady while the rest of the Patriots participated in punt drills Thursday. That’s a nice step for a UDFA receiver.
Unless the Patriots acquire another tight end prior to Week 1, LaCosse is the presumptive starter. Since he was signed, a lot has bounced his way. Rob Gronkowski retired, Ben Watson was suspended four games and Austin Seferian-Jenkins was cut.
LaCosse has a nice mixture of size and athleticism. He won’t be Gronk, but he can replace him as a starter.
Second-year pro Isaiah Wynn was limited all week in practice and didn’t participate in team drills. That left Thuney as the top-team left tackle.
In previous years, the Patriots hadn’t tried Thuney, their starting left guard, at tackle despite his experience at the position in college. His reps at the position this spring could indicate the Patriots view him as their swing tackle option this season. If that’s the case, and if he plays there in 2019, his value could be even higher as a free agent in 2020.
Collins, sporting No. 8, was another beneficiary of circumstance. Kyle Van Noy was limited in practice early in the week, thrusting Collins back into a top role.
He had a really nice string of practices, and we’re now more open to the possibility that he could beat out Ja’Whaun Bentley for a starting role next to Van Noy and Dont’a Hightower. That’s an intimidating trio.
Dawson failed to stand out last spring and summer as a rookie then didn’t play a single game after being selected in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft.
He flashed this week, however. He broke up passes Tuesday (from Brian Hoyer) and Thursday (from Brady). That’s a nice start for a guy battling for a roster spot.
We’ve watched four practices this spring. Inman has yet to catch a pass in team drills. And he’s been a full participant. That’s almost impossible. Even converted cornerback Gunner Olszewski has three catches in team drills.
We thought Inman would make the Patriots’ 2019 53-man roster, but we see him on the outside looking in at this juncture.
There’s still plenty of time to make up ground.
Michel came to the Patriots with concerns over his knees. He missed time last summer in training camp and during last season with knee injuries, and now he’s not practicing this spring.
For Michel’s sake, hopefully, the Patriots are just managing his workload or he’s dealing with something minor. If it’s the former, it is a little concerning. The Patriots used a similar approach with former wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell, and it didn’t work. Mitchell’s knees still wore out after just two seasons.
This is a little harsh, but Davis dealt with some drops over the last couple of sessions, and he already was sitting behind Harris and Braxton Berrios as the Patriots’ third-string slot receiver. Obviously, Julian Edelman also spends time in the slot.
Davis has an uphill battle to earn a roster spot, but there’s still time.
Davis played with Patriots third-string rookie quarterback Jarrett Stidham at Auburn. Stidham likely will be throwing to Davis in the preseason, so the undersized receiver will have plenty of time to shine during the summer.
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images