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When media members and fans go to Patriots training camp or look online for news and updates coming out of Foxboro, more often than not it’s because of quarterback Mac Jones. Everybody is intrigued to see how the second-year quarterback builds off his rookie season and what direction New England is headed in the post-Tom Brady era.

Long-time Patriots beat reporter Mike Reiss of ESPN joined the Zolak and Bertrand show on Wednesday to discuss takeaways from the first day of training camp along with what he’s looking for. He both sees and believes the hype in Jones, believing he can be in the “Burrow conversation.” Where he has more concerns is actually on the other side of the ball.

“To me, I have more questions about the defense than the offense,” Reiss said. “I was looking at cornerback, because I wanted to see who they were lining up at J.C. Jackson’s old spot. … To me, that’s a huge question mark. [New England] didn’t make the Bills punt the last two time [they] played them.”

“I was looking at the inside linebackers, who’s playing in there? No [Dont’a] Hightower, no [Kyle] Van Noy, no [Jamie] Collins.”

As Reiss mentioned on the show, Jackson was a part of those two games where the Bills torched the Patriots defense. Jackson also had eight interceptions and 23 pass breakups. He signed a much-deserved five-year, $82 million deal with the Los Angeles Chargers in the off-season, leaving the Pats thin in terms of experience – and possibly talent – at cornerback.

Safety Devin McCourty enters his 13th season with the team, but past him, Bill Belichick has a doesn’t have a ton of players with Patriots experience or experience in general. Terrance Mitchell was the first player that took cornerback snaps in the spot held by Jackson last season, according to Reiss. He also believes that Malcolm Butler and rookie Jack Jones will get opportunities in that position. Mitchell was a seventh round pick in 2014, and is now on his sixth NFL team. He had 10 passes defensed, three forced fumbles and one interception last season with the Houston Texans.

Raekwon McMillan and Ja’Whaun Bentley replace the aforementioned inside linebackers that are no longer with New England. McMillan is in his first season with the team and Bentley led the Patriots and tackles last season. Both players are 25 years old.

Excluding Week 17 of last season — when New England played the dumpster fire that was the Jacksonville Jaguars — the defense allowed an average of 35 points in the last four games of the season. That includes when they got flattened, 47-17, by the Buffalo Bills in the Wild Card round.

The headlines will continue to be on Jones, because he’s young with potential and football is always quarterback-driven. That doesn’t mean the defense shouldn’t be watched closely. If anyone is going to make lemonade out of this defense, it’s Belichick, but make sure to listen to what someone as smart and plugged in as Reiss has to say about this defense.

Zolak: 4 thoughts from Day 1 of Patriots training camp

  • Zolak and Bertrand at Patriots training camp. (Jim Louth)

    Zolak and Bertrand at Patriots training camp. (Jim Louth)

    Day one at Patriots 2022 training camp is in the books. I thought there was great energy throughout the team, both offense and defense and a lot of special teams. They did a lot of red zone work, the offenses. One thing I did see that stood out for Bill Belichick moving around from group to group. He spent a lot of his time. I’d say 80 percent of his time with the offense, the offensive side of the football, overseeing Matt Patricia and Joe Judge meaning.

  • Who’s calling the plays on offense?

    Matt Patricia

    Rich Barnes – USA Today Sports

    When they got the huddle with the first seven on seven group Mac Jones in the huddle. He was also in the huddle with the first ones with the team drills. It was Matt Patricia that had the walkie talkie. So when he has the walkie talkie, he’s calling in the plays to Mac, then Mac calls the plays, and it’s sort of all pre scripted.

  • DeVante Parker popped in first practice with Patriots

    DeVante Parker

    Eric Canha – USA Today Sports

    I thought DeVante Parker, the new wide receiver that they got through free agency with the Miami Dolphins, I thought he popped a little bit today. Three really good catches in the end zone all of the times, point one contested catch kind of thing you wanted N’Keal Harry to become. And I think it can be a great layer for Mac Jones inside the red zone with the offense.

  • Guardian Caps

    Guardian Cap

    Bob Socci

    Another little new wrinkle, helmet pads on top of the helmet that will be worn throughout the National Football League with inside guys meaning interior linemen, defensive linemen, tight ends, running backs and linebackers throughout the first two and a half weeks of camp. Then they come off. So another nice job by the NFL protecting the head in the early days and next with the CTE and everything that they’ve been studying.

  • Slow ramp up to “real training camp”

    Patriots head coach Bill Belichick speaks to reporters before practice at the start of training camp on July 27, 2022. (Matt Dolloff/98.5 The Sports Hub)

    Patriots head coach Bill Belichick speaks to reporters before practice at the start of training camp on July 27, 2022. (Matt Dolloff/98.5 The Sports Hub)

    Coach Belichick is calling this sort of extensions of the OTAs, the minicamps that they’ve had. It’ll be a slow build up until next week when the pads come on. And I think that’s where you can really see the defense start to make the move, the thuds, the ability to fit, to grab a tackle with taking care of everybody.