FOXBORO, Mass. — This time a year ago, Cole Strange was one of the top storylines of Patriots training camp. Now, he’s kind of flying under the radar.

Strange arrived in New England last year as one of the most polarizing picks from the 2022 NFL Draft. It wasn’t his fault that the Patriots used a first-round pick on an offensive guard, but the Chattanooga product nevertheless was expected to be an impact start from Day 1.

Strange endured some ups and downs as a rookie, especially against larger defensive linemen. But he finished the campaign on an upward trajectory, showing the kind of athleticism and tenacity that makes it easy to envision him as a franchise left guard.

Still, this is a big training camp for the 24-year-old. With his rookie year behind him, Strange had a full NFL offseason to put himself in a position to reach his obvious potential.

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And it sounds like Strange did exactly what he was supposed to do over the last six-plus months.

“Had a great offseason,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said before Friday’s practice. “Had an opportunity to train this offseason. He really took advantage of that. Physically, obviously. Mentally, he’s light-years ahead of where he was — like all (second-year players) are. Just knowing what to expect, knowing the offense, knowing defenses and can anticipate things better.

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“His communication’s way better on the offensive line. Experience. Yeah, he’s had a really good offseason and it’s been evident all through the spring, even a few days out here.”

Strange hasn’t looked overmatched this summer, something you couldn’t always say during last year’s training camp. And he certainly appears to have put on weight, which is a goal he set for himself after last season.

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That said, we’ll get a far better feel for where the second-year guard is once padded practices start and the Patriots conduct one-on-one linemen drills.

Featured image via Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images