The New England Patriots’ 2022 mandatory minicamp is in the books, coming to an end a day early. The team decided to cancel its third and final practice on Thursday due to an unfavorable weather forecast.
Even with just two practice sessions taking place on the lower fields behind Gillette Stadium, however, we were able to get a first relatively close look at the current Patriots team. As a result, a few conclusions about the roster and individual players on it can still be drawn.
Obviously, though, they have to be taken with a grain of salt given the nature of spring practices in the NFL. There was no contact, players did not wear any pads, and the general focus was on teaching and scheme installment rather than competition.
Nonetheless, things like usage and indeed even performance during the two minicamp practices — to a degree at least — does give us some idea about where certain players might be headed not even two months before the start of training camp.
QB Mac Jones: Jones’ status as the Patriots’ starting quarterback is without question, but that does not exclude the second-year man from still being named a minicamp winner. After all, he put on a show during those two practices. Yes, he was playing in a setting very much favoring the offense — there was no pass rush or press-man coverage —, but Jones did what you would want him to do: consistently make high-level throws and showcase full command of the offense . New England’s QB1 is in line for a major second-year jump.
WR Tre Nixon: Selected 227 spots after Jones, second-year wideout Tre Nixon was given plenty of opportunities and ran with them. He made the top plays on both days of minicamp, and showed the ability to reel in challenging catches both from the slot and on the boundary. Nixon will need to build his momentum in training camp and show that he can hold his own against press-man looks, but his performance this week was nothing if not encouraging.
RB JJ Taylor: With James White limited throughout minicamp, the Patriots gave third-year man JJ Taylor added opportunities to showcase his skills as a receiving back. He did not disappoint, and was actively involved with the starter-level offense led by Mac Jones. In total, the two connected six times during 7-on-7 or 11-on-11 drills.
TE Jonnu Smith: There is no way around it, Smith’s 2021 season was a disappointment. The big-money free agency acquisition is also a candidate to make the Year 2 leap, however, and his minicamp outing him was a step in that direction. Smith was actively involved as a top tight end and made a few impressive catches between Tuesday and Wednesday.
CB Jack Jones: As noted above, minicamp is very much favoring the offense. That said, fourth-round rookie cornerback Jack Jones still stood out in a positive way. While not in lockdown mode by any means, he regularly ran with the starter-level defense as a perimeter cornerback and showed some good ball skills by registering an interception and also forcing a fumble. Additionally, he saw action as a punt returner and also signed his rookie contract. A good week all around.
WR N’Keal Harry: Joining his teammates after not participating in voluntary offseason workouts, Harry played a marginal role within the Patriots offense in minicamp. He spent most of his time with the scout team offense, which can be seen as additional proof that the end is near: the former first-round pick seeing any meaningful snaps for the New England offense this year would be a surprise.
WR Malcolm Perry: Trying to carve out a role on a deep wide receiver depth chart, Perry did not have any team-drill catches on Tuesday and dropped one of his three targets the following day. He also muffed a punt that led to him being sent on a penalty lap. Players, especially near the bottom of the depth chart, need to take advantage of the limited opportunities they are getting. Perry did not do that this week.
TE Dalton Keene: The story of Keene’s career so far has been one of being unable to get onto the field on a consistent basis. Minicamp was more of the same for the former third-round draft pick, which was limited both days due to an apparent injury. He mostly participated in positional drills and a handful of scout-team snaps, but appears to be significantly behind Devin Asiasi in the race for the TE3 job.