With OTAs a thing of the past, we’ve officially hit a lull in the Patriots offseason.
New England sports fans will have no choice but to turn their attention to the Sox (they’re actually not bad this year) and/or the Celtics (they’re hoping for a big offseason).
But the football hiatus is only temporary.
The summer weeks fly by, and late July will be here in no time. That’s when the Patriots will once again take the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium for training camp - where we’ll have a much bigger microscope on them.
So what changes are we hoping to see from now until then? Here are three.
It was great to see Rob Gronkowski and Dion Lewis return during the last week of OTAs. Lewis practiced for the first time since surgery on his torn ACL last November. But the Patriots have other injury concerns. Both Julian Edelman (foot) and Danny Amendola (knee, ankle) are recovering from offseason surgeries. They may still not be ready for the start of camp, but the hope is that they’ll be ready for the regular season. A hip injury ended LeGarrette Blount’s season in Week 14, and although the team did re-sign him, he’s yet to take the field. Nate Solder and Logan Ryan also didn’t practice in front of media.
Big decisions on defense
Since the Patriots won’t be on the practice field again for a bit, perhaps that will allow time for a couple players to reach a contract extension. It’s no secret that the Patriots have some big, big decisions to make with their impending free agents after this season. Jamie Collins, Dont’a Hightower, and Malcolm Butler are all going to hit free agency, and they’re also arguably the defense’s most important players (along with Devin McCourty). Jabaal Sheard, also set to hit free agency, also has a case. New England already dished Chandler Jones, another impending free agent, to Arizona because Bill Belichick knows he can’t have everybody back. Free agency can be a distraction during the season, so locking one or two of these guys up before camp, while difficult, would be huge.
This one is wishful thinking. The truth is, Deflategate may never be done. It’ll just haunt our dreams forever. But at some point we’re going to find out if Tom Brady really is suspended for the first four games of the season or not. If his suspension is upheld, then it’s all aboard the Jimmy Garoppolo train to begin the season. Hopefully he uses this time to fine-tune some things, because he may be getting plenty of first-team reps in camp including joint practices against the Bears and possibly the Saints. And you can bet he’ll get plenty of preseason game action, too.