5 things we’ll be watching for in Thursday’s Patriots OTA session

Ryan Hannable
May 23, 2019 - 7:02 am

For the first time since Super Bowl LIII, the Patriots will be on the field in front of the media Thursday morning.

A lot has happened since February, most notably the retirement of Rob Gronkowski and also a number of changes on the coaching staff. Like last year, Tom Brady is not expected to attend, which means plenty of reps for the young quarterbacks on the roster, along with Brian Hoyer.

While there’s no contact, there is offense vs. defense in 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills where much of the observations take place.

Here are five things we’ll be keeping an eye on.

1. Battle at wide receiver

This is likely the top positional battle that won’t be decided until the initial 53-man roster. Besides Julian Edelman, there are a ton of question marks and not all of them will be answered this spring. For now, we’ll be looking at how N’Keal Harry looks in his first time on the field as a member of the team, and also how Braxton Berrios looks following a full year in the system. It will also be worth noting if anyone looks further along between Maurice Harris and Dontrelle Inman. With that being said, it will be hard to get a full gauge on the situation without Brady being present.

2. New positional coaches

It will be worth keeping an eye on how the new positional coaches are working with their players, perhaps getting a sense for what kind of style they will bring. For example, former defensive line coach Brendan Daly was very loud and vocal — are any of them like him? Joe Judge will also be a person of interest to see how he manages his time between coaching special teams and wide receivers.

3. Young quarterbacks

Without Brady on the field, this means there will be plenty of reps to go between Hoyer, Danny Etling and Jarrett Stidham. Everyone has a good idea of what Hoyer can do, so the two to really watch are Etling and Stidham. This is a big spring for Etling following a full season in the system. If he doesn’t show signs of taking big step, he’s a candidate to be cut at some point this summer. If he shows well and exceeds expectations, there’s a chance he could force Hoyer out. As for Stidham, it will be tough to get a read on him when it comes to his grasp of the system since he’s so new, but it will be his first chance to show off his athleticsm and arm.

4. Any signs of cornerbacks depth chart

Like wide receiver, the cornerback position will be one of the most competitive on the entire team and will likely not be decided until the end of the summer. As of now, it seems like Stephon Gilmore and J.C. Jackson are a step ahead of everyone else, but Jason McCourty, Jonathan Jones, Duke Dawson, Keion Crossen, Joejuan Williams and Ken Webster will all be competing for not only playing time, but a spot on the roster.

5. UDFAs standing out

Last year, it was J.C. Jackson who made a statement during OTAs, which carried over into training came and eventually earning a spot on the 53-man roster. The Patriots have had an undrafted rookie make the team in 15 straight seasons, so it’s likely it happens again. Names to keep an eye on are wide receiver Jacobi Meyers, linebacker Perez Hall and tight end Tyler Beck.

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