With the Patriots' mandatory mini-camp in the books, we can finally put our finger on the pulse of this year's team and make some pretty educated predictions on where they're headed, right?


As much as some of us football geeks would love to dissect every play in OTAs and mini-camp with the hope that it will translate into what to expect in Week 6 of the regular season, that just isn't what these offseason programs are intended for.

And don't expect Bill Belichick to put much stock into the whole product at this point.

"It’s really a teaching camp," Belichick said. "We have OTAs next week too."

Numerous integral players on offense like Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Dion Lewis, and LeGarrette Blount didn't even suit up for the mini-camp workouts. But that isn't to say the time spent at these practices isn't important. While the actual performance between the whistle is nowhere near full throttle (the players don't even wear pads), it's what goes on before and after that really matters.It's players getting acclimated to their coaches, teammates, and playbook so when things pick up in training camp and then preseason, there’s at least something to build off of.

It's nice that rookie wideout Malcolm Mitchell reportedly made a great one-handed catch on Thursday, but even he knew not to focus on that, telling reporters he was thinking more about what his job was on the next play.

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"I think for me right now it's coming in every day learning,” Mitchell said. “And I trust how the coaches are installing the plays, I trust the amount of plays they're putting in for us to learn. And after that it's not really up to them anymore. It's our responsibility to make sure we stay up an extra hour, to wake up an extra hour early to make sure we know everything coming in. I think once you get your priorities straight in that area you'll come in and kind of know what you're doing. Still have a lot of room to grow and a lot to learn."

Devin McCourty is going through his seventh OTA/mini-camp with the Patriots and is well aware that the goals in June are much different than in the late summer into fall.

"I don't even know what looking good in June means. This is not really football in a sense,” McCourty said. “We have a ton of guys that are very physical. They're hitters. They're guys that make a living off being physical and punishing guys. They don't get to do that out here. “

That’s true – but a defense filled with returning and new veterans - along with young players - does get some valuable time together.

"We're just trying to come together as a group, learn the playbook together and just working together as a whole defense and progressing all together," Terrance Knighton said.