After a long offseason of rumors, speculation, and the idea that the Patriots franchise as we knew it was on the cusp of extinction, New England took the field last Monday to start its 2023 voluntary organized training activities.
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Last Friday was supposed to be the first practice open to the media, but an OTA rules violation caused the NFL to take away two of their practice sessions - one of which was Friday’s.
We’ll now get our first look at the 2023 New England Patriots during Wednesday’s session. Here are five reasons why you should be excited about this team hitting the field again:
5. Football is BACK!
It’s cliche, but it’s true. Football is back and we’re going to have it covered for you every single day here at WEEI.com. All news is news - and we’ll touch on all of it.
Sure, the Red Sox can be interesting and the Celtics run was fun while it lasted, but football season is here again, and It’s extremely refreshing.
4. Where is Joe Judge?
While this one isn’t exactly exciting, it will be interesting to see where, and if, Joe Judge is on the practice field on Wednesday afternoon.
After an abysmal season as New England’s quarterbacks coach in 2022, the Patriots brought Judge back in 2023 as an “assistant head coach.” His first order of business as AHC? Being the centerpiece of the team’s OTA violations, which were reportedly special teams meetings that held both offensive and defensive players at the facility longer than they were allowed to be there. The NFLPA’s complaint stated that these meetings were being scheduled and run by Judge.
Could Judge already be in the dog house? Will he be with the special teams? Offense? DEFENSE?! We’ll have to see.
3. Christian Gonzalez
After falling into New England’s lap at pick 17, Christian Gonzalez is set to make his Patriots practice debut in front of the media on Wednesday.
Though it’ll be a first look for media, New England fans already got their first look at Gonzalez in a Pats uniform when the team’s social account posted a video of the 6-foot-1 corner. Though it was just a six-second clip, his fluid hips and lack of unnecessary movement are what stood out:
The boundary cornerback out of Oregon will immediately be tasked with improving New England’s defensive back room, and will likely step in as a day one starter opposite Jack Jones. While cornerbacks Jalen Mills and Jonathan Jones both re-signed with the team heading into 2023, the rumor is they’ll both be used as hybrid players at corner and safety.
Gonzalez will have his work cut out for him in the AFC East covering the likes of Stefon Diggs, Garrett Wilson, and either one of Miami’s dominant receivers. With Josh Allen, Aaron Rodgers, and Tua Tagovailoa throwing them the football, it’ll be sink or swim for the rookie.
2. Bill O'Brien’s Offense
Offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien was given the keys to New England’s offense. While anything is better than an offense led by Matt Patricia, O’Brien’s matchup-driven, pre-snap-read, win-from-the-slot philosophy actually fits New England’s personnel very well with guys like JuJu Smith-Schuster and Mike Gesicki being brought into the fold. Mainstays Hunter Henry, Kendrick Bourne, and Tyquan Thornton should benefit from this system as well. It will be interesting to see what formations they bring out mixed with how and where they use everyone.
O’Brien is also know to have his “have to’s” in a quarterback, saying that they have to be:
- able to throw the ball accurately.
- able to make good decisions.
- intelligent with a great football IQ.
He also says that coaches have to train their QBs in order to help them develop said great football IQ.
This a) sounds like Mac Jones and b) sounds like the way he wants to be coached (he told reporters in 2022 that he wants to be coached harder). This should be an exciting tandem.
1. Quarterback Reps
Speaking of Mac Jones, while it’s unlikely and frankly would be silly, there’s a chance that Bill Belichick throws a curveball at us on Wednesday and unleashes a true quarterback competition between Jones and Bailey Zappe.
While Belichick told us during draft week that he “absolutely” views Mac Jones the same way he did a year ago, constant offseason rumors of a potential trade of the third-year quarterback say otherwise.
Though it may never be a true “competition” per se, it will be worth keeping an eye on who reps with Zappe and how often they do so.