With rookie mini-camps and OTA’s underway, that means many NFL teams are already looking ahead to training camp. When it comes to excitement, the New England Patriots position battles are possibly going to be the best thing to watch all camp. The Patriots missed the playoffs last season and if they are going to make it back, these battles could go a long way in deciding that.
Everyone knows that the Pats made a splash in free agency and had a good draft. The roster was depleted last season due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which had a total of eight Pats opt-out. The roster needed to be overhauled and that is exactly what Bill Belichick did. So there is no doubt that there will be some competition for a few positions come training camp.
So where exactly will these battles occur? Well, the quarterback, running back, defensive tackle, and outside linebacker stand out. With all the free-agent signings and draft, this roster is much improved and these position battles will be interesting to watch. With that being said, the Pats will hope to get back to the playoffs in 2021.
Key Patriots Position Battles: Offense
QB l Cam Newton vs Jarret Stidham vs Mac Jones
It is no secret that the Patriots struggled mightily at the quarterback position last season. After losing Tom Brady in free agency, the team signed Cam Newton. Yet despite playing well in a few games he struggled. He threw for 2,657 yards with eight touchdowns and ten interceptions.
Jarret Stidham, a fourth-round pick in 2019, made a couple of relief appearances last season but had his struggles. He was 22 for 44 and threw for 256 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions. He hasn’t played much but should enter camp as the backup to Newton.
With the uncertainty at the quarterback position, the Pats drafted Mac Jones in the first round. Jones is the first quarterback New England has taken in the first round since Drew Bledsoe in 1993. Jones had a terrific season at Alabama leading the Tide to an undefeated season and capped it off with a national championship.
Bill Belichick does not start rookie quarterbacks, so expect Cam Newton to be the starter even if he struggles. If the Pats fall out of playoff contention, Jones could start the last few games of the season.
RB l Sony Michel vs Rhamondre Stevenson
Michel is a former first-round pick who has played well in his four seasons in Foxborough. With that being said, it appears he has fallen out of favor as he had his fifth-year option declined. Damien Harris led the Pats in carries and rushing yards. James White is the third-down back and the undrafted free agent, JJ Taylor impressed in limited action last season.
If that wasn’t enough, the Pats drafted Stevenson in the fourth round. Stevenson is a bigger back than Michel and can play special teams. Because of this and his contract situation, Stevenson could be behind Michel on the depth chart early on but could easily surpass him during the season.
Key Patriots Position Battles: Defense
DT l Christian Barmore vs Byron Cowart vs Davon Godchaux
The Pats run defense was suspect last season, to say the least so they addressed that in free agency. They brought in reinforcements to shore it up and they also traded up in the second round to draft Barmore out of Alabama. Barmore can play multiple positions on the line and can be a three-down player.
Cowart, a 2019 fifth-round pick from Maryland, started 14 games but missed time last season due to Covid-19. Davin Godchaux played his first four seasons with the Miami Dolphins and comes over as a free agent. He played in only five games last season due to injury. Both Cowart and Godchaux will add depth and should help to make the run defense a lot better than it was in 2020.
The defensive tackle position will be interesting with these three players. I expect Barmore to eventually become a starter as he is versatile and can play anywhere on the line. Plus he played under Nick Saban at Alabama and if he can play under Saban he can play for Belichick.
OLB/Edge l Ronnie Perkins vs Chase Winovich vs Josh Uche vs Anfernee Jennings
The Pats drafted Perkins in the third-round out of Oklahoma. Perkins is undersized so he may need to move inside. Even though he is undersized, he can be a productive pass rusher. He will be able to help the Pats in their run defense.
Winovich was a third-round pick in 2019 out of Michigan. He started nine games last season and played well at times. He finished with 48 tackles, 5.5 sacks, and had one interception. The Pats brought back Kyle Van Noy and signed Matt Judon. Van Noy was great when he was with the Pats before leaving to Miami and Judon was named a Pro Bowler the last two seasons. So they should be the starters outside.
Josh Uche, a second-round pick in 2020, will join Winovich and Perkins who will be competing for reps. He finished last season with nine tackles and one sack. He played well when he was healthy. Anfernee Jennings, a third-round pick in 2020, started four games as a rookie and finished with 20 tackles. He will join the competition at OLB as well. It will be interesting to see what happens with the rotation. This, of all Patriots position battles, will be a good one to watch at Pats camp.
The 2021 Pats will look very different from what they did in 2020, especially with all the new faces in Foxborough. These Patriots position battles will be fun to watch and with this depth, the Pats will be much better.
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