Perry: Five bold predictions for Patriots training camp

With the final hours before training camp, it’s a good time to make some bold predictions about what we’ll see this summer. There’s a lot of uncertainty around this year’s club – over the attacking coaching staff and the defensive depth chart, in particular – so predictions of all kinds are a bit of a wild ride.

But that has never stopped us before.

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Here are five things I predict will happen over the next month in Foxboro…

Mac Jones will be STRONG

I can already imagine you. You do not say ? Will the starting quarterback be talkative? Way to be bold, Perry! I understand. But think back to where we were at this time last year. Mac Jones was fighting for a job with a former MVP. He was inundated with new information, a new coaching staff and new teammates. He was confident – ​​we’ve seen him correct players on the pitch and he reportedly gave a rousing performance impersonating Cam Newton during annual rookie skits – but he was still a rookie. And he was aware of it.

This year will be different. He should be named captain whenever that vote takes place and that announcement is made. And he will have a different approach in year 2. He will be more demonstrative with his teammates, as he was during the OTAs. He can show some of the emotion on the pitch that we sometimes saw last season. He will be more vocal on the line of scrimmage. He can have a minute-to-minute say in how things play out offensively, especially with the departure of Josh McDaniels.

A league source told me this offseason that if Jones wanted to retire tomorrow and become offensive coordinator, he could. He’s so brilliant, the source explained. It won’t be his job this season, but he will be tasked with putting his stamp on the attack. And that will become clear after seeing and hearing him operate during his second professional training camp.

Patriots will part ways with a starting receiver

The logic here is quite simple. They have a deep receiving body that can have up to six pro-caliber wides: Jakobi Meyers, Kendrick Bourne, DeVante Parker, Nelson Agholor, Tyquan Thornton and surprise spring training star – Tre Nixon. With an offense expected to feature more than two tight sets this season (more on that in a minute), i.e. more two-receiver sets, how can they afford to keep so many gaps?

Leaving Agholor would seem like the most sensible move, if the Patriots can pull it off. But he has a base salary of $9 million in 2022, which could make him difficult to trade unless there’s an injury elsewhere in the league that forces a team to despair.

The other possibility? It could be Meyers. Switching from their most productive receiver is not a decision I would advocate for. But that sounds rather Belichickian, doesn’t it? Meyers is in the final year of his contract and is earning a modest $4 million as a restricted free agent this past offseason. He would have value in a trade. The Patriots could end up using Parker and Bourne as their top two receivers with Agholor, Thornton and Nixon mixing in when they want a third.

Again, that’s not what I would do. Meyers has tremendous value as a reliable short-to-mid threat. In addition, he is their best blocker in this position. (Mike Vrabel called Meyers their best blocker period last year.) But there is a blockage in this post. The Patriots are not leaving Parker, Bourne or Thornton. And Meyers — who may want to test free agency next offseason — would fetch more in a trade than Agholor or Nixon.

Jonnu Smith will be the star of the camp

Do you want boldness? I have your audacity here. But if the Patriots are to switch to the type of offense they seemed to favor in the spring – a Shanahan-style scheme that we now see not only the Niners but also the Rams, Packers, Browns, Vikings and others – that would mean good things for Smith.

An AFC offensive assistant told me that emphasizing this type of system would “absolutely” benefit Smith as well as Hunter Henry. They are not behemoths. Traditional “Y” tight ends are also not inline blockers. They are smaller and faster and would be augmented by an approach that a) promotes athleticism at the line of scrimmage in the running game and b) catching and running ability for short to medium guns in the running game. passes. It’s Smith.

The Patriots are determined to make the most of their high-priced tight end, and streamlining their offense to focus on concepts that exploit his physical skills will help make him one of the stars of the summer at One Patriot Place. .

Josh Uche will be everywhere

This is partly based on what we saw of Uche during OTAs. He was both off the ball and at the end of the line of scrimmage as a pass thrower, giving him the look he had during his Michigan days when he was a versatile quarterback chaser. for then-defensive coordinator Don Brown. This prediction is also based on what we heard from Bill and Steve Belichick earlier this offseason when they indicated that Uche would be a key piece of the puzzle for this year’s defense.

I’m also wondering if there might be a schema change going on that will impact the use of Uche. We can see a pattern that has less separation between “outside” linebackers (usually pass throwers standing at the end of the line of scrimmage) and “inside” linebackers (a few yards behind the line of scrimmage). Although seven-man fronts are rare in today’s NFL, the Patriots have been built more in the mold of a 3-4 defense since 2019. If they move to more than 4-3 this season, with Matt Judon and Deatrich Wise at defensive end and three linebackers (or linebacker-safety hybrids) off the line, which could allow Uche to play the ball on first downs. The Patriots would still have the freedom to put him on the line in passing situations, while protecting him from having to be a true passer on first downs.

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A plan that deploys Uche more versatile in 2022 — he played 218 of his 241 defensive snaps last year, according to Pro Football Focus — could help the Patriots get the most out of their 2020 second-round pick.

Jack Jones will gain a starting job

Arizona State’s fourth-round pick has had a bumpy ride between the five-star high school rookie and Foxboro. He started his career as a ball peddler at USC, then ran into academic trouble, landed in a community college in California, and was arrested for breaking into a Panda Express. He went to the Sun Devils and was suspended there by the coaching staff at one point for getting into a fight in practice. But he has the fast-twitch movement skills the Patriots love at this position, and he showed good ball skills in the spring.

While Jalen Mills and Malcolm Butler could be named favorites to start on the outside for Belichick, I think Jones has enough playing ability to make it difficult to keep him off the field. People within the organization are optimistic about his ability to contribute and contribute early.

Bonus prediction? The other rookie corner named Jones, Marcus, will see some shots from the offensive side. His potential there is real.

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