1. There’s no question N’Keal Harry has a ton of talent, especially when it comes to his hands and making contested catches. This is what really stood out in the earlier OTA session open to the media, but over the three days of mandatory minicamp last week what really stood out was him still working on perfecting his routes. Tom Brady and the Patriots offense runs on precise route running and it seemed Harry is still working on that part of his game. All three days saw the Patriots coaching staff, mostly offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, speaking with him to let him know what he did wrong and what he needed to do to ensure the routes were how Brady expects them. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing because Harry seems to take coaching well and it’s better to get these things worked out now opposed to during training camp, but it was a reminder that Harry is still a rookie and it’s difficult to pick up the Patriots offense right away. When speaking Thursday, Brady noted how tough it is to transition to the NFL from college and sometimes the expectations placed on rookies are too high. So while it’s easy to get excited with Harry’s talent, this week offered a reminder he’s still a rookie and there’s still a lot to learn and grow.
2. One of the players who stood out the most this past week was wide receiver Maurice Harris. The veteran wide out appeared to have solid chemistry with Brady and was thrown to a ton in 11-on-11 work. Of the new receivers, there’s no question he was the best and is heading into training camp in a good place. On the other hand, Dontrelle Inman was the opposite. He didn’t do anything to stand out and was barely targeted. Many thought Inman had the best chance of making the team of the new receivers when signed, but following mandatory minicamp we don’t get the same vibe.
3. Former Patriots receivers Deion Branch and Troy Brown were at all three sessions this past week helping with the wide outs, and it’s worth wondering why they were called in after not attending anything in recent years. One thought is with Joe Judge catching both special teams and receivers, the team wanted to give him some assistance, especially at the beginning. Brown and Harry saw extensive 1-on-1 time together over the three days.
4. On the defensive side of the ball, Stephon Gilmore was one of the biggest standouts as he broke up a number of passes in 11-on-11 work and is in a prime position to build on his Pro Bowl season from a year ago. Another standout was Jamie Collins, as it seems like the team will be able to find a role for him to help the defense in a big way. Much more will be known come training camp when the pads come on, but things are looking up for those two.
5. Interesting times in Houston with the firing of general manager Brian Gaine and the organization reportedly interested in interviewing Nick Caserio to fill the vacancy. From this viewpoint, it doesn’t seem likely as Caserio is basically the de facto GM in New England and it’s well known around the league how involved he is in the decision-making process. While Bill Belichick gets the final say, Caserio basically is allowed to do what he wants, so why would he leave? Also, it’s worth noting former Patriots character coach Jack Easterby reportedly will have more of a role in personnel moves in Houston, which shows he likely had some role in decision-making with the Patriots, which not many believed.
6. It was nice to see all the members of the Super Bowl winning team from a year ago come back together Thursday night to get their rings at Robert Kraft’s home in Brookline. A number of players who departed via free agency — Chris Hogan, Trey Flowers, Cordarrelle Patterson, Trent Brown, etc. — attended and it shows how despite the NFL being a business, players can still come back and be friendly with Kraft and Belichick.
7. This is the last week of work for the Patriots before an extended break prior to training camp at the end of July. As of now, there are two OTA sessions scheduled for Monday and Tuesday with Monday’s being open to the media, but there is a chance these are canceled and the Patriots hold team-building activities instead. Regardless, this is the last week of activities before training camp.