The media will get its second look at the 2021 New England Patriots on Friday during another open organized team activities spring practice.
To hold you over until our weekly observations are posted, watch above and read below for this week’s mailbag.
How important will Kyle Dugger be to the Patriots defense this year?
Let’s first see if he cracks the starting defense, because that is a question.
If the Patriots play more nickel (five defensive backs) this season, then they’ll probably have three cornerbacks and two safeties on the field. We know Stephon Gilmore, JC Jackson, Jonathan Jones and Devin McCourty will be four of those players. So, the second safety spot comes down to Dugger and Adrian Phillips. Dugger was a second-round pick last year and has loads of upside because of his combination of size and athleticism, but Phillips also was really solid in his first season with the Patriots in 2020.
Dugger wound up playing 50.9 percent of snaps while Phillips was on the field for 73.4 percent of snaps. Those rates could flip in 2021 but only if Dugger can take a significant leap forward this offseason. Baiscally, he has to be better than Phillips. And that’s not necessarily easy.
If Dugger can’t crack the starting nickel secondary, then there certainly will still be a role for him. And it’s possible that the Patriots could lean heavily on dime packages like they did in 2020 (especially if their linebacker depth is less than desired). In that case, there could be room for Phillips and Dugger as starters. Dugger and Phillips also face competition from offseason signing Jalen Mills.
It’s a complicated process to find snaps for a bunch of talented defensive backs.
There’s a lot to like about Dugger, and he certainly looks better than past defensive backs selected by the Patriots in the second round. But let’s not put the cart before the horse. We’ll see if he can move his way up the depth chart first.
What is your best guess for the starting OL?
Based on what we were seeing at OTAs last week, my best guess would be either:
LT Isaiah Wynn
LG Michael Onwenu
C David Andrews
RG Shaq Mason
RT Trent Brown
LT Trent Brown
LG Michael Onwenu
C David Andrews
RG Shaq Mason
RT Isaiah Wynn
Brown and Wynn weren’t present for last Thursday’s practice, but I would assume Wynn will stay on the left with Brown playing next to Mason on the right.
Of the players that were not at practice last week who are you most interested in seeing on Friday?
Probably rookie running back Rhamondre Stevenson. There isn’t a lot to glean from running backs in OTAs, but I’m interested to see how the fourth-round pick is used as a pass-catcher. Patriots running backs coach Ivan Fears praised him in that role Thursday. Stevenson also looks enormous from pictures posted on the Patriots’ website.
That makes sense since he’s listed at 6-feet, 227 pounds on New England’s roster.
Is there a true QB competition or we just getting lip service
I think there will be if rookie quarterback Mac Jones forces one during preseason and training camp. Currently, I don’t know if the Patriots view there as being one. They’re content to let Cam Newton be the starter during spring practices. There’s no real rush to get a legitimate QB battle going until the pads come on.
But if Jones looks better than Newton this summer, then you bet the Patriots would consider starting someone other than Newton, who signed a one-year, $5 million contract with incentives this offseason.
Of our current WR core, which do you think will see the most snaps this season?
My guess is Nelson Agholor will lead wide receivers in snaps. Then I’d predict Jakobi Meyers finishes second and Kendrick Bourne comes in third.
I just don’t really see how you can take Meyers out of the starting lineup (unless the Patriots trade for someone like Julio Jones) after he was so good last season and led the team in receiving. Kendrick Bourne is a solid addition, but he’s not exactly a clear upgrade over Meyers.
Agholor should be the top receiver, however.
Let’s go rapid fire.
Why does college arm strength matter when physically it can improve. No one in baseball or football doesnt increase arm strength as they turn pro… including Brady
I think there’s a threshold. You don’t necessarily need to be Randy Johnson out there, but you need to have base arm strength that’s good enough to be improved through weight training.
I got donuts this morning. They were good.
Any news on Hightower? I really hope hes coming back…thanks!
We’ll know more during mandatory minicamp from June 14-16.
Who’s your dark horse for making the team this year?
I’ve talked enough about wide receiver Kristian Wilkerson, so I’ll throw out some other names.
Tight end Matt LaCosse, wide receiver Isaiah Zuber and cornerback Mike Jackson are some interesting players to watch who could sneak onto the roster.
Who is picking No. 1 in next years draft?
Cookies or ice cream #maildoug
As a reporter when do you sleep? It seems like you guys are machines Smiling face with open mouth and cold sweat #MailDoug
I definitely don’t sleep enough, but that’s also because I have two children. But you definitely have to be available to write at any hour of the day as an NFL beat reporter.
Lots of talk about Jacobi Meyers improvements last year & what his role will be. Is he even a lock to make the roster? I don’t see him as a lock.
If Meyers isn’t a roster lock, then your standards for a roster lock are extremely high.
The wide receiver fifth on the Patriots’ depth chart is a punt returner/converted Division II cornerback.
Late but McGrone doesn’t seem to be in a cast so do you think he plays? I wouldn’t read into BB’s comment tbh
Also, what’s the Plan at FS if McCourty would hypothetically get injured
It’s possible rookie linebacker Cameron McGrone could play this season after tearing his ACL in November, but I don’t think he’d be in any sort of cast at this point in his recovery.
It’s in the Patriots’ best interest to protect McGrone by placing him on the PUP list to start the season. But if the Patriots feel they need linebacker depth, then I’d certainly like to see him play. He’s an intriguing young defender.
And my guess is it would be either Jalen Mills or Jonathan Jones playing free safety.
My 4 year old daughter wants to know if you like playing Hello Kitty bingo?
Tell your 4-year-old that I haven’t played Hello Kitty bingo, but I’m sure my 3-year-old would like it.
Hmm, great question. I’m going to say life insurance.
What are the best type of m&m’s? And why is it peanut butter?
Here are my M&M rankings:
4. Peanut butter
5. Dark chocolate
I’m not buying anything else. All of the flavored M&Ms with a white chocolate base are collectively the worst.
You check out the new Bo Burnham special yet?
No, but I am seeing John Mulaney in August.