FOXBORO, Mass. — Overall, Cole Strange played well in his rookie season with the Patriots. It wasn’t perfect, but the 2022 first-round pick showed franchise guard potential.

However, one thing was obvious: Strange needed to get bigger and stronger after struggling against some of the NFL’s larger interior defensive linemen. And he knew it.

“Lifting, trying to get stronger, trying to get bigger, gain weight,” he said in January when asked about his plans for the offseason. “Continue working on position-specific drills. So pretty much attacking it from every angle.”

Strange basically missed all of training camp due to a left leg injury, so the jury’s out on whether he’s made the necessary technical improvements to his game. But the second-year guard believes he accomplished his primary offseason goal of beefing up his athletic frame.

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“Yeah, I have,” Strange said after participating in Wednesday’s practice in New England.

“I (might) have to cut back on my eating at some point,” he added with a laugh. “But I feel good about that.”

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Strange weighed 307 pounds at the 2022 NFL Combine and last season was listed at 305 pounds on the Patriots’ official website. Currently, the website lists him at 310 pounds.

So, which is it?

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“I’m about 308 right now,” Strange said.

That might not sound like a huge increase from 305 pounds, but it’s not all about the number. If Strange strengthened his upper body while moving some of the weight to his lower half, that should help him with anchoring against larger D-linemen. And he needs to strike a balance between adding weight and maintaining the athleticism and quickness that made him a unique prospect.

Plus, the injury probably limited what he was able to do in the training room. But Strange believes he’s getting closer to 100%.

“It does feel really good to be back out there,” he said. “Watching the game is kind of a weird experience. I haven’t watched my own team… ever. So, I was just itching to get back out there.

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“I’m not doing everything yet, but it feels good.”

New England’s offensive line is a big concern with the 2023 season just around the corner. But if everyone is at full strength, the group has the potential to be the best in the AFC East. And a Year 2 jump from a bigger and stronger Strange could make all the difference.

The Patriots will open their season on Sept. 10 at home against the Philadelphia Eagles. New England’s over/under win total for the 2023 season currently is 7.5 at FanDuel Sportsbook.

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