Following two decades of Tom Brady at the wheel, it looks like Bill Belichick found his next long-term signal-caller in Mac Jones as the New England Patriots returned to the playoffs in 2021 after a one-year absence. Heading into the 2022 NFL season, the question is which players will step to help Jones and Belichick take the next step from the playoff team to title contenders? As New England Patriots training camp gets underway, here are three positional battles to watch closely.
New England Patriots Training Camp Info
Location: Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Massachusetts
Rookies report: Tuesday, July 19, 2022
Veterans report: Tuesday, July 26, 2022
First game: at Miami Dolphins, Sunday, September 11, 1:00 p.m. EST
Battle No. 1: OC — Bill Belichick vs. Joe Judge vs. Matt Patricia
The most interesting New England Patriots training camp battle isn’t on the field. It’s on the sidelines. Longtime offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels moved on to the Las Vegas Raiders this offseason, and Bill Belichick hasn’t named an official replacement.
Without a designated OC, the play-calling duties could fall to “offensive assistant” Joe Judge or “Senior Football Advisor” Matt Patricia. Tight ends/fullbacks coach Nick Caley’s name has also been in the mix for that job.
Watching who calls the plays in camp (and who’s most successful doing it) will be fascinating to watch. Will the cream rise to the top? Are there too many cooks in the kitchen? Will Belichick just take over himself? We’ll know soon enough.
Battle No. 2: WR1 — Nelson Agholor vs. Kendrick Bourne vs. Jakobi Meyers vs. DeVante Parker
The N’Keal Henry era is mercifully over in Foxborough, but the organization still doesn’t have a proven No. 1 wideout for Mac Jones to throw to.
Last season, the team’s leading pass-catchers were returning wide receivers Jakobi Meyers (83 catches, 866 yards, three TDs) and Kendrick Bourne (55 catches, 800 yards, five TDs). Big-time 2021 free-agent signing Nelson Agholor (who has a $14.8 million cap hit this season) disappointed with just 37 catches for 473 yards and three TDs.
This offseason, the Patriots traded for the talented but oft-injured DeVante Parker from the Miami Dolphins. In his last (and only) full season in 2019, he put up 72 catches for 1,202 yards and nine TDs.
The winner in New England Patriots training camp should be Parker if he can stay healthy. But if not, look for a similar breakdown to last season.
Battle No. 3: OLB2 — Josh Uche vs. Anfernee Jennings vs. Ronnie Perkins
Matthew Judon is a lock as one of the Patriots pass-rushing outside linebackers. The other side is up for grabs, with Kyle Van Noy leaving this offseason.
The options currently in New England Patriots training camp are third-year player Josh Uche and second-year players Anfernee Jennings and Ronnie Perkins. The latter spent most of 2021 on IR. Uche has 4.0 career sacks, and Jennings and Perkins have none.
Jamie Collins is still an unsigned free agent, so if none of these players step up in New England Patriots training camp, the veteran could come back in the mix. However, it does seem like the Pats’ staff are high on Uche, so he’s the likely pick.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference