The New England Patriots opened their 2021 training camp on Wednesday. Fans were there to see their Pats, but the rain made for an interesting day of practice. The weather was much better on Thursday. Now that training camp is underway, let’s take a look at the three biggest question marks the Pats are facing early in camp.
Bill Belichick has stated all along that Cam Newton is the team’s starting quarterback. He made this clear even though the Pats used their first-round pick to draft Mac Jones with the 14th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Newton struggled in his first season in Foxborough, while Jones led the Alabama Crimson Tide to a National Championship. Newton has two things going for him: 1) he is familiar with the offense and 2) Belichick doesn’t like starting rookie quarterbacks. So even if Newton doesn’t have the best camp or doesn’t perform well in the preseason, he should remain the starter at least early in the season. So far Newton seems to be ahead of Jones in the competition, while Jones has had his good moments followed by his bad ones. It will be a good competition for all of the training camp.
Jones performed well in mini-camp and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels has marveled at his ball security and how well he is picking up the offense. Jones should see plenty of action in the preseason. Will it be enough to overtake the starting job away from Newton? Probably not, but the competition will be good for both quarterbacks and it will not only make them better but the Pats better as well.
Stephon Gilmore Situation
Stephon Gilmore is at training camp but is on the physically unable to perform list (PUP) due to a quad injury. Due to his injury, J.C. Jackson is now number one on the depth chart at cornerback. With that being said, Gilmore is still in the last year of his contract and it remains to be seen what is going to happen with that situation. There were rumors in the off-season that he could be traded but he is still a Pat.
Gilmore is one of, if not the most important players in the Pars defensive scheme. If you didn’t know how much, just look at what Dont’a Hightower had to say: “Any time you can put a guy on somebody and he’s locked up for the game, and you don’t have to worry about that guy, it makes my job a lot easier. It makes the offensive coordinator’s job a hell of a lot harder…” Hightower is not just the only Pat that feels that way. Hopefully, Gilmore can get his injured quad taken care of and get back on the practice field. Then we will wait and see what will happen with his contract situation. This much is clear, Hightower and the rest of the Pats defense wants him back in the huddle as soon as possible,
Who Will Become The Go-To Receiver
Julian Edelman retired and now is time for the next man to step up to see who will become either Cam Newton or Mac Jones’s go-to receiver. Jakobi Meyers was probably the best receiver on the 2020 Pats as he led the team with 729 yards receiving. Meyers could be primed for a better season in 2021, but he will have some competition to be the go-to guy. The Pats signed wide receivers Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne and tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith in free agency. One of these guys will become the go-to guy but who?
So far in camp Agholor has had the best camp. The wideout who signed as a free agent from the Las Vegas Raiders has caught a touchdown pass from all the Pats quarterbacks. He caught two TD passes on Saturday that was said to be “among the two best grabs of camp.” If Agholor can make plays downfield consistently, it will open up things for Henry and Smith. Meyers and Bourne would also benefit greatly. This wide receiver unit should be much better than the 2020 unit depending on the quarterback play. We will see just how much better in due time.
The Patriots are five days into camp and will have their preseason opener on Thursday, August 12th at home against the Washington Football Team. The kickoff is set for 730 PM.
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