The Patriots enter a second consecutive season with more question marks than answers in regards to their staff and roster.
Bill Belichick is historically known to not provide the media with much clarity to questions asked about the team, and this year is no different. With so many aspects of the group remaining unknown, will minicamp this week bring the clarity needed?
Who Will Be Calling Plays?
With Josh McDaniels moving on to the Las Vegas Raiders, the question of who will replace the offensive play-calling duties continues as the hottest topic of conversation.
Since McDaniels’ departure, Bill Belichick hasn’t addressed the question head-on, giving his usual vague answers that leave a lot to interpretation. However, the clear candidates appear to be Joe Judge or Matt Patricia with their early involvement with the offense so far during OTAs and camp.
But when will the decision become official? Will it ever be made official? This decision wouldn’t be the first time that Belichick has had a season with personnel not given proper job titles. Could that happen once again?
As mandatory minicamp begins this week and voluntary workouts are quickly approaching, we may get a better glimpse of who will be McDaniels’ replacement. With Belichick, Judge and Patricia all having taken turns calling plays during earlier OTAs, there’s a unique possibility that any of them could become the offensive signal-caller.
Update as of 6/8/2022: In the two days of mandatory minicamp, Patricia has been seen calling plays during offensive drills.
Could These Players Be Traded Before The Regular Season?
There will always be questions regarding the completion of a roster as the regular season nears. But the Patriots have had a handful of players rumored as possible trade candidates over the last several weeks.
It’s no secret that N’Keal Harry hasn’t been New England’s greatest draft choice over the years. Harry’s name has been heavily involved in the Patriots’ rumor circuit for over a year now. Unfortunately, it’s been hard to find a way to trade him, given his lack of production. But it may be in the interest of both if they can do so.
Harry has quickly moved down the depth chart with the acquisition of DeVante Parker a few months ago and with Kendrick Bourne and Jakobi Meyers becoming Mac Jones’ favorite WR targets. The team also drafted a WR this year, Tyquan Thornton, who will add a lot of what the Patriots were hoping to get out of Harry when they originally drafted him.
Apart from his potential trading, the idea of Harry switching positions has been brought up this past week as well. A lot has been discussed around the possibility of transitioning him into more of a tight-end role. But that also brings up many questions:
- Would switching positions now be beneficial for both Harry and the Patriots?
- Does New England need another TE behind Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith, with Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene waiting in the wings?
- Could this be their best option if Belichick can’t find a trade partner?
Although seemingly unlikely, Nelson Agholor could also be traded before week one. His first season in New England was not necessarily a failure, but it also wasn’t near the caliber of his production with the Raiders. Having him on the roster would not be a mistake, as he gives Jones another down-field option.
With the increase in targets to Bourne last season, the possibility of Agholor moving down the depth chart doesn’t seem improbable. Only six targets separated them in 2021, but the most significant difference came from their catch percentage: 78.6% to 57.8%.
Will this greatly impact Agholor’s targets this upcoming season? At this moment, it’s difficult to say. This year, a lot will be riding on minicamp and training camp, especially with Tre Nixon entering his second season and Tyquan Thornton added to the mix.
As a first-round draft pick in 2018, there were high expectations for Isaiah Wynn when he joined the Patriots.
Now that he is entering his fifth season, courtesy of Belichick exercising his fifth-year option, there is a lot of focus on if Wynn can maintain consistent and be the type of player that the team hoped he would be.
Not all has been bad with Wynn since entering the league, despite what the naysayers claim. But the biggest hurdle facing him this season is avoiding the injury bug and “doing his job” the way the Patriots need. If that doesn’t improve during camp, it wouldn’t be shocking to see the team shop Wynn around the league.
Will A WR1 Become Obvious During Camp?
|Current Patriots WR|
Since Julian Edelman retired after the 2020 season, the Patriots have yet to establish a true WR1. Since Jakobi Meyers had the most targets last year, he is arguably the front-runner. But with his unreliability of getting into the endzone, it seems fair to not award him that title just yet.
New England is overloaded with offensive talent, from their free-agent pickups and newly drafted players to those drafted last season but has not yet played for the team.
DeVante Parker has been a favorite to slide into the WR1 pretty quickly, given his production value when healthy. And at the start of minicamp on Tuesday, it appears his connection with Mac Jones is already apparent.
But of course, the familiarity Jones has with his returning receivers makes it challenging to ignore. The comfort he has with Bourne and Meyers will continue this season, with more targets likely going towards Bourne’s way.
But when will we have a definitive answer? Will a star break out in camp? Could it be an unexpected performance that launches a receiver to the top?
How Much Involvement Will These Players Have In 2022?
A few names have floated around this offseason that have the potential to add intriguing depth to the offense in particular.
Entering his third season with New England, J.J. Taylor has seen limited time on the field during that time. The RB room continues to be crowded, especially after the additions of Kevin Harris and Pierre Strong Jr. from this year’s draft. But is it possible Belichick can find a way to utilize Taylor as well?
Because it seems doubtful that he will see the backfield much this season, however, Taylor could be used on special teams. With their top return specialists having signed elsewhere this offseason, Taylor could quickly slide into that role.
Although he hasn’t been given many opportunities just yet, Kristian Wilkerson has shown he can be a valuable asset to the team. In his most notable game of the 2021 season, he totaled four receptions for 42 yards and two touchdowns.
Will he finally get the chance to show more of what he can do this year?
With the WR room in flux, Wilkerson’s potential on top of his seniority could help his chances of making the 52-man roster. If not that, he could follow the same path of last season with bouncing from practice squad to the main roster when needed.
Wilkerson joins the list of players needing an impressive camp and preseason, as his future remains in the air. With so many new offensive pieces needing evaluation, can Wilkerson stand out amongst the rest?
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