Patriots training camp preview: Position battles, storylines, and rookies to watch

It's a make or break Year 3 for Patriots QB Mac Jones. Jack Jones has a pending legal case. Will Christian Gonzalez start on Day 1? Here's a training camp preview.

Mac Jones. AP Photo/Steven Senne

The Patriots are scheduled to kick off training camp this week, and they’ve announced open practice dates for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. The team will hold camp at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough for about two weeks until the preseason starts.

Here’s a Pats training camp primer, focusing on position battles, key storylines, and newcomers who could make an impact.

When do players report?

Rookies: Friday, July 21st.

Veterans: Tuesday, July 25th.

Five impact newcomers

WR Juju Smith-Schuster: Smith-Schuster had more catches, targets, and receiving yards than any other receiver on the 2022 Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs.

TE Mike Gesicki: A big, athletic target who Bill Belichick described as more of a tall receiver than a tight-end.


CB Christian Gonzalez: The Patriots picked Gonzalez in the first-round of the NFL Draft. He’s expected to compete for a starting cornerback spot on Day 1.

OT Riley Reiff: A veteran offensive tackle who has started 149 NFL games over a decade-long career. At age 34, he’ll attempt to help the Patriots fix their issues at the position.

LB Chris Board: Last year, Belichick said that Board was the best special teams player that New England would face all season. Now he’s here to bolster the Patriots’ special teams.

Five impact departures

DB Devin McCourty: The two-time Pro Bowler and three-time Super Bowl champion was a fixture in the Patriots secondary for over a decade. He retired during the offseason.

WR Jakobi Meyers: Meyers, who was Mac Jones’s favorite target last season, is now playing for Josh McDaniels after signing a deal with Las Vegas.

OT Isaiah Wynn: The 2018 first-round pick signed with Miami on a one-year deal after a lackluster 2022.

RB Damien Harris: After notching a career-high 929 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2021, Harris had his production virtually slashed in half during an injury-filled 2022. He signed with division rival Buffalo.

WR Nelson Agholor: Agholor, who had a combined 835 yards and five touchdowns over two seasons in New England, signed with Baltimore.

Key storylines

Make-or-break year for Mac Jones: All signs from OTAs and minicamp point to Mac Jones starting at quarterback for the Patriots, but he still has a lot to prove in his third season. Bailey Zappe played well enough in Jones’s absence last season to spark a debate on if he should be starting over Jones. It’s a pivotal year for the 2021 first-round pick, who has two years left on his rookie deal.


The Jack Jones case: The Patriots cornerback is scheduled to appear in court for a probable cause hearing on Aug. 18 following a June arrest at Logan Airport when officials found a pair of guns in his luggage. Jones, who pleaded not guilty and was released on bail, attended OTAs and minicamp before his arrest.

Finding a replacement for McCourty: New England is without McCourty for the first time since 2010. Kyle Dugger and Jabrill Peppers are projected to start at safety according to ESPN and Jalen Mills has talked about playing the position, and rookie Marte Mapu could find himself in the mix as well.

Position battles to keep an eye on

Cornerback: The Patriots return Jonathan Jones, who recorded a career-high four interceptions last season on the outside. There’s also Jack Jones, who depending on how his legal situation plays out, could be in the mix for a starting spot. As a first-round pick at a position where the Patriots need size and athleticism, Gonzalez will have an opportunity to compete on the outside as well. Marcus Jones and Myles Bryant could get looks in the slot position.

Offensive tackle: Wynn’s departure opened up a spot at right tackle. The Patriots brought in Reiff and Calvin Anderson during the offseason. Connor McDermott, who appeared in six games last season, could compete also. Trent Brown returns at left tackle.


Wide receiver: There were a lot of questions about why Kendrick Bourne didn’t play more last season. Tyquan Thornton is healthy after recovering from a broken collarbone. The Patriots drafted a pair of receivers this year in Kayshon Boutte and Demario Douglas.

Offseason addition JuJu Smith-Schuster figures to be the new No. 1 receiver with Jakobi Meyers gone, and DeVante Parker seems like a good bet to get plenty of snaps. But the Patriots should have plenty of competion at this spot.

Rookies to watch

CB Christian Gonzalez: All eyes are on the first-round pick, who was selected at a position the Patriots needed to upgrade.

DE Keion White: A 6-foot-5, 285 pound athletic defensive end with a serious personality. White is still learning after switching from tight-end, but could make an impact if he catches on quickly.

LB/DB Marte Mapu: The versatile Mapu was all over the field in OTAs and minicamp, making an impression on McCourty, who said he could see Mapu realistically getting playing time at his old position of safety.

K Chad Ryland: Although Nick Folk set the record for most consecutive made field-goals 50-yards and under last season, the Patriots’ decision to take Ryland in the fourth-round probably indicates he’ll have a shot to compete for the starting job.


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