Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

5 things that make this week so intriguing for Patriots

Ryan Hannable
June 04, 2018 - 11:16 pm

After just over two months of the voluntary offseason workout program, including OTAs, the next three days the Patriots will hold mandatory minicamp at Gillette Stadium. While the sessions are the same as the OTAs (a glorified passing camp with no pads), there’s a lot more anticipation for it than in years past.

Of course this is due to the anticipated returns of Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, who haven’t attended anything yet this offseason. It would not be a surprise to see their returns raise the overall intensity on the field.

Here are five things to keep an eye on this week.

1. How will Brady and Gronkowski look?

Even though the two have been working out hard on their own, they haven’t been on the field with the rest of their teammates for OTAs, so it’s conceivable they may be a little behind everyone else. A few have thrown out there the idea that Bill Belichick may have the two players take third string reps as a way to send a message to them for missing the OTAs, but from this viewpoint it seems very unlikely because what would that really accomplish? Brady is going to be the starting quarterback come September, so why take time away from him getting to know his new offensive targets? Given how talented the two are, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them not miss a beat and be the stars of the week.

2. Will Malcolm Mitchell make an appearance?

Mitchell was seen in photos at the first OTA session, but hasn’t been spotted since, including at the two sessions the media have been present at. After missing all of last season, this is an important offseason for him and not being on the field in the spring is not a good sign. For someone who battled knee injuries in college, still not being 100 percent following a missed season seems like bad news.

3. How does Brady look with newcomers?

Everyone knows how complex the Patriots offense is and how difficult it can be to get on the same page as Brady, so it will be interesting to see where the newcomers are at. These players include wide outs Cordarrelle Patterson and Jordan Matthews, along with rookie running back Sony Michel. For Matthews especially, most of his routes are timing routes, so it will be worth watching where he and Brady are at, and also the rest of the receivers considering Brady hasn’t been around at all this offseason.

4. What’s Julian Edelman’s status?

The Patriots seem to be staying patient with the 32-year-old wide receiver as he comes back from tearing his ACL last preseason. Edelman has been on the field all spring, he just hasn’t been a full-go yet to this point. He was on the field the entire session last week open to the media, he just didn’t get that many reps in 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills. Maybe that changes this week with Brady back on the field.

5. Which defensive players stand out?

As we said before, this is essentially a passing camp without contact, so it’s hard for defensive players other than the members of the secondary to stand out much. Two youngsters to keep an eye on are undrafted rookies Keion Crossen and JC Jackson. Crossen stood out in the first OTA session open to the media, but spent last week on the lower grass field with players rehabbing injuries. In his absence, Jackson got some reps with the starting unit and made them count. These two players will be battling for a roster spot come July and training camp.

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