New England Patriots

May 23, 2022; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver DeVante Parker makes a catch at the team's OTA at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

  • The Patriots began the third phase of their offseason program on Monday, with their first OTA practice of the spring. This is the first phase of the offseason workouts that includes offense versus defense, and the first time outside eyes get a look at the 2022 Patriots with the practices being open to the media.

    That being said, there’s only limited information that can be taken away from the practice. Based on the current CBA, teams can’t hold fully padded practices until training camp. With that, Monday’s session was held in shorts and shells, and most of the drills were done at just above a walkthrough pace.

    As Bill Belichick likes to mention this time of year, this is more of a teaching period than an evaluation period. The goal is to nail down concepts and sure up technique, so that when the fully padded and full speed practices begin in late July the team can hit the ground running.

    Keeping that in mind, there are obversions to be made from this first look at this newest iteration of the team. Here’s what stood out on Day 1.

  • Taking attendance

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - SEPTEMBER 27: Isaiah Wynn #76 of the New England Patriots looks on after the game against the Las Vegas Raiders at Gillette Stadium on September 27, 2020 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – SEPTEMBER 27: Isaiah Wynn #76 of the New England Patriots looks on after the game against the Las Vegas Raiders at Gillette Stadium on September 27, 2020 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    This stage of offseason workouts is optional, and will remain so until Mandatory Minicamp in early June. It’s rare to see perfect attendance at OTA practices for any team.

    There were 12 players not spotted on the field during Monday’s session. That doesn’t mean they’re not in attendance in the building, but they did not take part in practice.

    The most notable absence was left tackle Isaiah Wynn. Wynn is entering a contract year, and will be playing next to a new left guard following the departure of Ted Karras. Without Wynn on the field, there were more opportunities for some of the depth linemen including Justin Herron and Arlington Hambright.

    Two of the Patriots’ rookie offensive lineman didn’t take part in the practice. Sixth-round pick Chasen Hines and seventh-round pick Andrew Stueber were not spotted on the field.

    Neither kicker was on the field during practice, with both Nick Folk and Quinn Nordin not seen. However, kickers will at times get work in inside the field house or Gillette Stadium itself, so it’s possible they were in the building but practicing elsewhere.

    Additionally, wide receiver N’Keal Harry did not take part in Monday’s session. Harry has not been with the team this offseason and has reportedly requested a trade.

    Other veterans not spotted were Matthew JudonAdrian Phillips Lawrence Guy, Jahlani Tavai, Harvey Langi, and Byron Cowart.

  • Latest on the coaching staff

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - SEPTEMBER 01: Head Coach Bill Belichick talks with Outside Linebackers Coach Stephen Belichick during New England Patriots Training Camp at Gillette Stadium on September 01, 2020 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – SEPTEMBER 01: Head Coach Bill Belichick talks with Outside Linebackers Coach Stephen Belichick during New England Patriots Training Camp at Gillette Stadium on September 01, 2020 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    During his pre-practice press conference, Belichick was peppered with questions about the Patriots’ coaching staff. Specifically, there was a focus on who would be the offensive play caller, and when that role would be announced.

    “Do we have titles? Yeah, look, there’s a lot of jobs that we have to do, we’re all working on those things now but – it’s May,” Belichick said. “They’ll change in June, they’ll change in August, they’ll change in September. So, we’ll evolve it to the things timely that we need to do. If you’re asking about game plans, we’re months away from that – months.”

    Belichick wouldn’t budge when pushed on the issue of play-calling. “The execution of the plays, I think, are a lot more important than the plays themselves,” he said. “I’ve called them, I’ve not called them. I’ve called them, I’ve not called them. And so has everybody else.”

    “We’re gonna coach the team, coach the players, we’re gonna get them ready to go. We’re gonna game-plan when we have to game-plan, we’ll play-call, do all the things we need to do to compete in games,” he added. “Right now, we’re months away from that.”

    As for the structure at practice, Belichick and Joe Judge spent most of their time with the offensive skill positions, with Belichick playing the coaching role in the offensive huddle at times. Matt Patricia was involved during periods as well, but spent most of his time with the offensive line.

  • Rookie standouts

    May 23, 2022; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots offensive linebacker Cole Strange (50) heads to the practice field for the team's OTA. Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

    May 23, 2022; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots offensive linebacker Cole Strange (50) heads to the practice field for the team’s OTA. Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

    The majority of the Patriots’ rookie class was limited during Monday’s practice. However, fourth-round pick cornerback Jack Jones was highly involved in a number of different drills.

    Watching Jones in person for the first time, it stands out how fluidly he moves especially when quickly changing direction. That’s a key trait for a cornerback to have, especially in a defense like the Patriots’ that tries to disguise things pre-snap.

    Jones is also at a position that appears to be wide open in terms of earning snaps. Beyond Jalen Mills, there isn’t a ton of certainty at the outside cornerback spot, and if Jones can have a strong spring and summer he should put himself into a position to compete for at least a rotational role alongside Mills and Malcolm Butler.

    First-round pick Cole Strange also stayed involved in the practice, in terms of usage. However, given the low-tempo and non-contact nature of the session, it would be shortsighted to make a full evaluation of his performance. Strange also spent a lot of the day following around David Andrews.

  • Mac Jones’ growth and leadership continue to show

    May 23, 2022; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) with the ball during the Patriots OTA's at Gillette stadium. Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

    May 23, 2022; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) with the ball during the Patriots OTA’s at Gillette stadium. Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

    Four notes in before we get to Mac Jones? Jones is no longer a rookie or in a true 50/50 battle for the starting quarterback job like he was last year. This time around, he’s cemented as the starter and has more of an ability to take command of the offense – both in the huddle and as a team leader.

    The big note on Jones from Monday comes from his post-practice press conference, when he confirmed he spent time this offseason working with world-renowned throwing coach Tom House. Jones didn’t mention any specifics of what they worked on, and due to the nature of the practice it was tough to tell if the ball was really coming out of his hand much differently. That will be something to watch for once training camp beings.

    Jones also said he’s put more focus into his diet in order to work on his physical build. “I’ve learned more this offseason than I probably ever have about nutrition, sleep, wellness, all that stuff. So I’m kind of taking what I learned that I feel will help me and apply it,” he noted. “I’ve definitely trimmed down on the body fat a little bit and then I’ll get a chance to bulk back up before the season starts and be able to absorb the hits.”

    As a leader, Jones’ enthusiasm showed early. While the quarterbacks threw back corner fade passes to the wide receivers in an early drill. Jones was audibly excited after each catch, hyping his teammates up even when he wasn’t the one throwing the ball.

    Throughout this offseason, it’s become apparent how close Jones and the receivers on the roster have become. This is something Jones spoke about after practice, as well as wide receiver Kendrick Bourne.

  • Plays of the day

    May 23, 2022; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Kendrick Bourne (84) works with a training aid at the team's OTA at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

    May 23, 2022; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Kendrick Bourne (84) works with a training aid at the team’s OTA at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

    Speaking of Bourne, he had what was likely the play of the day during that back corner drill. With the coaches holding pads in front of the pass catchers to simulate defenders, most of the passes required the receivers to get up to get the football. On one of the higher throws, Bourne perfectly high-pointed the ball and secured it with one hand, while tapping both feet in bounds before landing to secure the catch.

    Another highlight play came later in practice, when DeVante Parker beat a safety on a deep post and hauled in a deep pass from Brian Hoyer for a touchdown grab. Bourne met Parker in the end zone, and the two went through a relatively intricate celebratory handshake.

  • Raekwon McMillan picking up where he left off

    Jul 28, 2021; Foxborough, MA, United States; New England Patriots linebacker Raekwon McMillan (46) during training camp at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

    Jul 28, 2021; Foxborough, MA, United States; New England Patriots linebacker Raekwon McMillan (46) during training camp at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

    During spring practices and into early training camp last year, linebacker Raekwon McMillan was one of the Patriots’ standouts, and seemed to be poised for a highly involved and even potentially starting role. That momentum was derailed when he tore his ACL, costing him his season.

    Monday was the first chance we’ve had to see McMillan since that injury, and he appears to be picking up where he left off. He was heavily involved in the practice, and appeared to be moving well. Speaking with the media after practice, he told reporters he’s “pretty much full go.”

    Behind Ja’Whaun Bentley, snaps at inside linebacker seem open for the taking this spring and summer. McMillan is off to a strong start, and if he can keep building momentum projects to be helpful part of the Patriots’ defense this year given his football IQ and athleticism.

  • James White returns

    May 23, 2022; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots running back James White (28) works on a footwork drill at the team's OTA at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

    May 23, 2022; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots running back James White (28) works on a footwork drill at the team’s OTA at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

    Those players who didn’t participate in Monday’s practice are mentioned above, but one notable name who was on the field was running back James White. White missed most of last season after suffering a serious hip injury, and reports had indicated he may not be ready to start the upcoming season.

    While White was limited throughout the practice, just his presence on the field highlights how far he’s come since that injury last September. The Patriots missed him badly at times last season, and if he can get back into the offense in 2022 it could be a major development. Even if he’s not playing right away, the presence and leadership offered but the multiple-time captain’s presence is also valuable, especially with so many younger running backs on the roster.

  • What’s next?

    May 23, 2022; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick watches players practice at the team's OTA at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

    May 23, 2022; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick watches players practice at the team’s OTA at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

    The Patriots have two more OTA practices scheduled for this week, on Wednesday and Thursday. Both of those will be closed to the media. Their next open practice is a week from Tuesday, on May 31.