Now that the Patriots’ minicamp and voluntary OTA practices are done with—this summer will be critical for the New England squad. With training camp being the next time we see them hit the field, and the preseason in August, there will be plenty of storylines to follow. However, here’s the 5 biggest things to watch out for this summer.
Play calling for Mac Jones
After what many considered a ‘successful’ rookie season for Mac Jones—there’s more work to be done. Plenty sports analyst criticized the run-heavy play calling last season. Rightfully so, for most of the season, the Patriots have been a smash mouth running, and defensive-minded team. Now, it’s time for Mac to shine in order for the Pats to take that next step. With a number of acquisitions on the offensive side, Mac will have his fair share of weapons to play with. The interesting thing is whether the playbook will open up for Mac. Allowing him to make more passes down the field other than screens and slants will be huge. Seeing whether he can thread the needle in tight spots no matter the down or weather condition.
However, in order for that to happen, the Pats will need to fill an other void…
Offensive Coordinator position
Since Josh McDaniels took the head coaching position in Las Vegas—the Patriots are left without their longtime offensive coordinator. Last season we saw a lot of run, run, then play-action plays. Before that, with Cam Newton, we saw funky formations and some wildcats plays. There’s a few coaches in the running, and when one is officially announced, that’ll be a big factor in what we may expect this season offensively.
Figuring out the secondary
Fans weren’t expecting to see J.C. Jackson walk off to the Chargers. I know I sure wasn’t. It seemed like he was the answer after pro-bowler Stephen Gilmore left. Jackson led the league in defended passes last year with 23 and finished second in interceptions with eight. He came up big in key moments, and was a hawk to top receivers.
Now we have Malcolm Butler back and out of retirement. It’s been some years since he gave New England one of the biggest moments in sports history. We have Devin McCourty still rocking and likely to play at a high level. But with the league passing at a high rate—Patriots will need to develop some of these young guys like Marcus Jones on the roster. I’m sure Bill Belichick will develop blitz schemes and have Matthew Judon orchestrate the front line—it’s the pass coverage that deserves attention this summer.
Real New England fans know how big special teams play a factor into the Patriots game plan. Longtime Patriot and pro-bowler Matthew Slater is still there directing the guys on the field. And if the Patriots decide to be a run heavy and defensive-minded squad, then field position, kicking, and returning will play an even bigger role. With the new signee Tristan Vizcaino at kicker—he’ll play a huge factor. Following a short line of longtime kickers for the Patriots that have gone to help win Lombardi trophies. This summer we’ll how he develops with his accuracy and range.
Running back battle
It’s no secret that Belichick loves running backs, fullbacks, and tight ends. Last month the Patriots signed rookie Kevin Harris—bringing the current number of running backs to six. Whoever ends up in the rotation will most likely be able to catch, run, return, block and… maybe even tackle knowing the ‘Patriot Way’. This will most likely be the most intriguing battle for the top spot. Because although James White and Damien Harris have proven to be versatile and effective, no position is safe in Foxboro.