5 things to watch for during final Patriots OTA session

A few things to keep an eye on as the Patriots head into minicamp.

Patriots quarterback Mac Jones. John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

The Patriots will wrap up their organized team activities on Friday before starting minicamp next week.

OTA’s are optional, and several big names were missing Tuesday (the last day open to the media) including Matthew Judon, Juju Smith-Schuster, and Trent Brown.

But, Mac Jones was there getting some reps in before mandatory minicamp begins. So was backup quarterback Bailey Zappe.

Tuesday was also a chance to get a glimpse at first-round pick Christian Gonzalez. He made a smooth one-handed catch before the scrimmaging started.

So, what should fans keep an eye out for on Friday? Here are five things to watch during New England’s final OTA session.


1. Mac Jones’ performance

Mac Jones has made a strong impression during OTAs so far.

Granted, players are without pads and not allowed to make contact during these sessions, but Jones has quieted a lot of the talk about a quarterback battle between him and Zappe.

He went 10-14 during Tuesday’s session without many of his top receivers including Smith-Schuster, Kendrick Bourne, and Tyquan Thornton, according to MassLive’s Mark Daniels.

The quarterback spoke last week about regaining his teammates’ and coaches’ respect. Better performance and body language compared to last season could go a long way.

2. Christian Gonzalez hype

Several Patriots teammates praised Gonzalez for his athleticism and smarts.

Kyle Dugger remarked that the way he moves looks effortless. Jalen Mills said Gonzalez is taking what the coaches are saying and applying it on the field. Former Patriots defensive back Devin McCourty said he’s hearing that Gonzalez really “can play.”

Gonzalez lined up on the outside during his appearances on Tuesday, often opposite Jonathan Jones and Jack Jones. As a potential Day 1 starter, how many first-team reps Gonzalez gets could be worth a look.

3. Who’s in at safety?

The Patriots have big shoes to fill at the safety position after McCourty retired, from both a football and a leadership standpoint.

They also have a variety of solutions.


Jalen Mills is moving to safety from the cornerback position. Kyle Dugger said he’s looking to step up and be more of a vocal leader. Jabrill Peppers should be in the mix, and rookie Marte Mapu is viewed as a hybrid player who can slot in at linebacker and safety.

4. Will the receivers show up?

Friday could be the chance to see Smith-Schuster in a Patriots uniform. He has missed both OTA practices.

Pro Football Hall-of-Famer Ty Law said during an appearance on WEEI’s Greg Hill show that Smith-Schuster’s absence isn’t concerning, but added that he “probably should be here” to familiarize himself with the Patriots system.

“It ain’t like he’s Randy Moss,” Law said.

With Smith-Schuster, Bourne, and Thornton missing Tuesday, Jones and Bailey Zappe spent a fair amount of time throwing to rookies and new additions.

5. How will the revamped special teams look?

The Patriots put a fair amount of resources into upgrading their special teams unit in the offseason.

They drafted a kicker [Chad Ryland], a punter [Bryce Baringer], and a return specialist [Isaiah Bolden]. They also signed punter Corliss Waitman, and signed linebacker Chris Board who Bill Belichick said was “the best special teams player we’ll play against all year” during the regular season last year.

There are plenty of new faces to keep an eye on.


This discussion has ended. Please join elsewhere on