New England Patriots

New England Patriots

Mike Gesicki of the New England Patriots runs during a drill with quarterback Mac Jones during 2023 minicamp in Foxboro. (Matt Dolloff/98.5 The Sports Hub)

The New England Patriots are done with their spring practices after the conclusion of 2023 minicamp on Tuesday. Plenty of players stood out, in both good and bad ways, and for various reasons.

Here’s a look at who we graded “UP” and “DOWN” based on the spring practices we were able to attend…

  • UP: TE Mike Gesicki

    Jun 12, 2023; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots tight end Mike Gesicki (88) does a drill at the Patriots minicamp at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

    Mike Gesicki (Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports)

  • Of all the Patriots’ new faces, Gesicki made the best first impression and could make the biggest impact. He and Mac Jones looked in sync throughout the spring, and he seems like a much better fit for what they want to do than Jonnu Smith ever was.

    Smith looked good in camp at first, too, but Gesicki has always been a more natural pass-catcher at the position and it feels like Bill O’Brien knows how to use him. So, if and when the Patriots improve on offense in 2023, Gesicki should be a big reason for that.

  • DOWN: WR JuJu Smith-Schuster

    SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 23: JuJu Smith-Schuster #9 of the Kansas City Chiefs carries the ball for a touchdown in the fourth quarter against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium on October 23, 2022 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

    JuJu Smith-Schuster (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

    Smith-Schuster is down only because he was completely absent from all open practices, as he works his way back from injury. It’s not ideal that a receiver in his first year with the Patriots, who is replacing one of their most consistent and dependable players, missed the early install period.

    That doesn’t necessarily mean Smith-Schuster’s season is done or he’s a disaster. Bill Belichick didn’t seem concerned about it. But Smith-Schuster already needs to play catch-up, so he will start in the “down” pile.

  • UP: DT Christian Barmore

    Jan 1, 2023; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots defensive tackle Christian Barmore (90) reacts after a sack against the Miami Dolphins during the second half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

    Christian Barmore (Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports)

  • Barmore continues to look like a monster on the defensive interior, with a chance to take another step forward in 2023. Once he got regular reps with the starters in 11-on-11, Barmore consistently disrupted things for a Patriots offense that desperately needs to rebound from a terrible 2022 season.

    If Barmore can play even better than he did in 2022, he could become the centerpiece to perhaps the most dominant defense in the AFC.

  • DOWN: OT Trent Brown

    Aug 19, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; New England Patriots offensive tackle Trent Brown (77) against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

    Trent Brown (Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports)

    Brown finally showed up on the field on Tuesday, but was limited, and later fired off a cryptic tweet with a zipped-lips emoji. It feels like Brown isn’t totally with the program at the moment, for whatever reason.

    It’s unfortunate that Brown might not be ready to resume his regular spot at left tackle without issues, because they were hurting for depth to begin with. His stock will be low heading into training camp, and he’s taking the entire offensive line down with him.

  • UP: RB Kevin Harris

    LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - AUGUST 26: Running back Kevin Harris #36 of the New England Patriots runs with the ball against the Las Vegas Raiders during the second half of a preseason game at Allegiant Stadium on August 26, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Getty Images)

    Kevin Harris (Chris Unger/Getty Images)

  • Harris gets a nod here mainly because of his mere usage. With Rhamondre Stevenson limited in OTAs, he assumed the lead back role in the ground game, and even after Stevenson returned, Harris continued to get regular looks with the starting offense in running drills.

    The newer, younger Harris looks like the clear replacement for the departed Damien Harris, and the next man up if Stevenson gets hurt. And he looks like he’s got a good combination of power and burst, to boot.

  • DOWN: LB Anfernee Jennings

    Jan 8, 2023; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) and New England Patriots linebacker Anfernee Jennings (58) in the fourth quarter at Highmark Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

    Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

    We’re putting Jennings in the “down” category because he had not one but two scraps with his own teammates during 11-on-11 drills. The fights themselves aren’t a big deal, as they happen often and all over the league during camps. But the fact this happened twice with Jennings gives us a vibe of “What’s up with this guy?”

    Jennings hasn’t seemed to lose a ton of reps for his behavior, but his emotional reactions in practice seem like a bad sign for him individually. As a player who has taken a while to gain traction in the lineup in three seasons, his roster spot isn’t guaranteed.

  • UP: CB Christian Gonzalez

    New England Patriots cornerback Christian Gonzalez at 2023 minicamp in Foxboro. (Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports)

    Christian Gonzalez (Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports)

  • The rookie first-round pick gets an “UP” because he was often used like a starting outside corner in 11-on-11. This is no redshirt season. He is no backup. Jonathan Jones and Jack Jones continue to get plenty of time on the perimeter, but realistically, Gonzalez should soon be a top-2 option at those spots.

    Long way to go, of course, but it was great to see Gonzalez so heavily involved in his first spring practices.

  • DOWN: S Joshuah Bledsoe

    Safety Joshuah Bledsoe of the New England Patriots practices during 2023 mandatory minicamp in Foxboro. (Matt Dolloff/98.5 The Sports Hub)

    Joshuah Bledsoe (Matt Dolloff/98.5 The Sports Hub)

    Admittedly, this isn’t totally fair to Bledsoe, considering these are light practices and largely a teaching period. But the Patriots have had a deep, versatile rotation of safeties among their starters on defense, and Bledsoe hasn’t been a big part of it.

    Entering a crucial third season, Bledsoe still finds himself well behind Kyle Dugger, Adrian Phillips, and Jabrill Peppers among the safeties. And for that matter, rookie Marte Mapu. He may be running out of time to carve out a role for himself.

  • UP: LB/S Marte Mapu

    Jun 12, 2023; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots linebacker Marte Mapu (52) warms up at the Patriots minicamp at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

    Jun 12, 2023; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots linebacker Marte Mapu (52) warms up at the Patriots minicamp at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

  • Mapu was listed among the daily standouts almost every time, and we only excluded him to mix it up a bit. The rookie has been surprisingly involved and active in the defense, and versatile on top of that.

    If he is actually used in all the ways we saw him used in spring practices, it will be hard to categorize him as either a linebacker or safety. Guess he’s just a football player, and possibly a surprisingly good one, considering the confusion that arose over the Patriots drafting him in the third round.

  • DOWN: DT Lawrence Guy

    PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - NOVEMBER 17: Lawrence Guy #93 of the New England Patriots reacts after recovering a fumble during the first half against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on November 17, 2019 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

    Lawrence Guy (Elsa/Getty Images)

    Like Smith-Schuster, Guy is only “down” because he was totally absent. But in Guy’s case, he’s not injured but holding out for a new contract. That was probably the most surprising development of the spring.

    Even if Guy gets his contract, he’s on the back end of his career and the Patriots seem to have plenty of options at defensive tackle at this stage. So, in 2023, Guy is either going to be minimized or shown the door altogether.

  • Click here for complete New England Patriots coverage at

    Matt Dolloff is a writer and podcaster for Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff and follow him on Instagram @realmattdolloff. Check out all of Matt’s content here.

  • Sports Hub Patriots Podcast // Minicamp Reactions

    (Click here to subscribe to Patriots Audio on 98.5 The Sports Hub.)

Sign me up for the 98.5 The Sports Hub email newsletter!

Get the latest Boston sports news and analysis, plus exclusive on-demand content and special giveaways from Boston's Home for Sports, 98.5 The Sports Hub.

By clicking "Subscribe" I agree to the website's terms of Service and Privacy Policy. I understand I can unsubscribe at any time.