Three Studs, Three Duds From Patriots’ First Open OTA Practice

Football is back in Foxboro


May 31, 2023

FOXBORO, Mass. — Wednesday gave reporters their first real look at the 2023 Patriots, and initial returns are… largely positive.

Perhaps that’s because, unlike last year, New England’s offense looked clean, crisp and effective during the first organized team activity (OTA) practice open to reporters. Players weren’t wearing pads and live contact wasn’t permitted, but the team-drill portions of practice looked much better for the Patriots offense than this time a year ago.

Of course, things weren’t perfect. Some players looked great, while others didn’t stand out in any meaningful way. Moreover, with the lack of contact, it’s difficult for defenders to make an impression during these kinds of practices. And, really, it’s best to not read too much into any of these sessions, as the Patriots are more teaching players than evaluating them.

With that said, here are three studs and three duds from Wednesday’s OTA practice:

QB Mac Jones
Again, you don’t want to go overboard with these practices. But Jones was the clear top quarterback — although Bailey Zappe did see some noteworthy time with the offensive regulars early in practice — and played well during competitive drills. The third-year pro looked calm, decisive and in control of the offense. It was a decidedly uncontroversial day for Jones, which at this point is a victory in and of itself.

LB Marte Mapu
The third-round pick wore a red non-contact jersey as he works his way back from a pectoral injury, so he was limited in what he was able to do. But Mapu saw a ton of time with the defensive regulars early in practice, mostly as a sub-linebacker. That’s a big deal, as the Patriots typically don’t put that much on a rookie defender’s plate so early in the summer. They might have big plans for Mapu in his rookie season.

WR Tyquan Thornton
This was a tossup between Thornton and rookie sixth-round receiver Demario Douglas, who got a lot of run as a jitterbug weapon on screens and quick-hitting passes. But we went with Thornton, who was Jones’ top target during competitive drills and made plays both on the boundary and over the middle. The second-round pick, who was alarmingly lean as a rookie, said after practice that he bulked up during the offseason, and it showed on the field.

CB Christian Gonzalez
This probably isn’t fair, as Gonzalez was one of nearly a dozen players who didn’t participate in practice. But the fact that he wasn’t spotted on the rehab field might be a cause for concern. We don’t yet know why Gonzalez sat out Wednesday, but the first-round corner can’t afford to miss much practice time this summer given his potential importance to the defense.

RB James Robinson
With Rhamondre Stevenson limited, we got a decent look at New England’s complement of depth running backs. Second-year back Pierre Strong handled himself well, as did sophomore Kevin Harris. And veteran Ty Montgomery looks ready to step back into the role of third-down back, a job he clearly had last year before suffering a season-ending injury in Week 1. Even J.J. Taylor got involved in the passing game and showed his usual elusiveness. But Robinson, one of the Patriots’ free agent acquisitions, didn’t see the field much and didn’t show much burst when given opportunities. It was just a very nondescript day for a player who’s competing for an important job in the offense.

QB Trace McSorley
The third-string quarterback looked the part, throwing a bad interception during 11-on-11s and failing to make many standout plays throughout the day. Obviously, we’re talking about someone who in an ideal world never will game action this season, so his on-field performance during OTAs isn’t that important. Nevertheless, it wasn’t a great first impression.

Thumbnail photo via Paul Rutherford/USA TODAY Sports Images
New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones
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