If you’re in line at the Patriot Place Trader Joe’s Monday morning, you might just hear some pads clanging in the distance.
Unfortunately, that’s as close as fans are going to get to New England Patriots training camp this summer. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, fans are not permitted at this summer’s training camp practices. Limited media, including NESN.com, will be on hand for the next 14 days of practice.
The NFL canceled organized team activities and minicamp practices this summer and pushed back training camp. The Patriots, following NFL guidelines, closed the first four “ramp-up” days of practice to non-internal media. So, Monday will be the first time we’re seeing a full Patriots practice since last summer.
These 10 players, many of whom are newcomers, are the ones we’re most excited to see take the field for the 90-minute session.
We’re used to watching Tom Brady, who was obviously better than his competition at quarterback. We’re curious to see if Newton looks the same way.
QB JARRETT STIDHAM
Stidham was great last training camp and preseason as a rookie. We’re excited to see how much he’s improved over the offseason and how he stacks up to Newton.
If Newton’s not the guy this season for one reason or another, it will likely be Stidham.
RB DAMIEN HARRIS
Harris could be the Patriots’ top bell-cow running back in Week 1 if Sony Michel stays on the PUP list. Harris will have to outperform Lamar Miller and Rex Burkhead to earn that nod. He showed the talent at Alabama but received very few chances as a rookie in 2020 with a packed Patriots depth chart in front of him. We’re interested to see him catch the ball out of the backfield.
WR N’KEAL HARRY
The 2019 first-round pick only contributed 12 catches for 105 yards, five carries for 49 yards and two total touchdowns in 2019 as a rookie. Now, the pressure is on for him to contribute as a starter opposite Julian Edelman in 2020.
He showed flashes in brief practice and preseason time last summer. The opportunity is his. Now we’ll see if he can take it and run with it. He’s definitely got some natural talent after the catch.
Harry should be helped by his new quarterback position. Brady was difficult to please.
WR JEFF THOMAS
Patriots fans are itching to get any information whatsoever on Thomas, one of the team’s most intriguing undrafted free agents in years. He hasn’t been mentioned in a single Patriots.com practice report, and he hasn’t been pictured in a photo gallery. He’s bigfoot up to this point. Now we’ll see if his performance Monday was worth the wait.
TE DEVIN ASIASI
TE DALTON KEENE
We’ll combine these because at least one of the two Patriots third-round picks needs to step up at tight end this season. The only other options here are Ryan Izzo and undrafted free agent Jake Burt.
Asiasi and Keene are both athletic options with the size to block. Keene also could contribute as a blocker.
OT YODNY CAJUSTE
He’s the front-runner for the starting right tackle job, and Monday will mark his first-ever Patriots practice in pads. Marcus Cannon opted out for the 2020 NFL season, leaving Cajuste, who missed the entire 2019 spring, summer and season with injury, to battle Korey Cunningham, Justin Herron and possibly Jermaine Eluemunor for the starting position.
LB JOSH UCHE
There’s a lot to like about the Patriots second-round pick, but we’re mostly curious to see where he’s lining up, whether that’s at inside linebacker or on the edge. The Patriots need more help inside, but he might be more ready to contribute early as an outside linebacker.
S KYLE DUGGER
He’d be the most exciting candidate to take over for Patrick Chung, who also opted out, at strong safety. Adrian Phillips, Terrence Brooks or one of the cornerbacks is more likely to beat out Dugger, however. But the Patriots’ top 2020 draft pick can also return kicks and punts.
The Patriots are certainly hoping Dugger winds up better than their string of defensive backs taken in previous second rounds like Jordan Richards, Cyrus Jones and Duke Dawson. The jury is still out on 2019 second-round pick Joejuan Williams.