The New England Patriots' abysmal 7-9 record that left them near the bottom of the AFC East last season is something the team is looking to put behind them. After being aggressive in free agency and the 2021 NFL Draft, the Patriots have kept their foot on the gas pedal this offseason in hopes of competing against the Buffalo Bills for the division title and a trip back to the playoffs.
With preseason geared towards righting the wrongs of last season, there have been quite a few notes from the Patriots' training camp this year. Here are five takeaways from what the Patriots have been doing to get into shape for the season.
New England Patriots training camp: What we've learned so far
#1 - Patriots coaching staff tough on rookie Mac Jones, and he can handle it
Being a rookie quarterback for the New England Patriots is a tall order. When the team drafted quarterback Mac Jones out of Alabama, he was clearly seen as the future quarterback of the legendary franchise.
Now, with the possibility of sitting behind Cam Newton this season, the Patriots coaching staff is making sure that Jones is ready when his time comes. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was recently asked what Jones' strengths are and he replied, "He's good at getting yelled at." The Patriots clearly aren't afraid to tell the rookie how they feel about his play.
That said, Jones has been praised by his teammates who are impressed with how well he can take the yelling and bounce back with his performance on the field.
The Patriots see a future for Jones and want him to be the best QB he can be. So far in training camp, Mac Jones has shown the ability to take his game to the next level. He could be a starter sooner rather than later.
#2 - Stephon Gilmore might not return anytime soon
The Patriots and cornerback Stephon Gilmore have been in contract discussions practically the entire offseason. Gilmore was a holdout during offseason activities but did report for training camp earlier this summer.
Gilmore is also currently on the PUP (Physically Unable to Perform) list as he continues to rehab a quad injury from last season. Gilmore does report to daily practice and continues to rehab, but there hasn't been any word on the contract negotiations. This could take a while.
#3 - Kicking competition
Veteran kicker Nick Folk is currently not practicing due to an undisclosed injury, which has opened the door for rookie kicker Quinn Nordin.
The rookie out of the University of Michigan has been outstanding so far during training camp and will get the start in the Patriots' first preseason matchup against the Washington Football Team on Thursday night. At Tuesday's practice, he was three for three on 40+ yard field goals and was right on target in last week's scrimmage as well.
#4 - Jonnu Smith has proved to be a good addition to the Patriots roster
The Patriots signed tight end Jonnu Smith during free agency as Bill Belichick was looking for a strong, reliable tight end, a Rob Gronkowski-type presence, perhaps. Smith has proved to be a good target for both quarterbacks down field.
He's only 25 and his athleticism has proven that he can continue to build on the career numbers he had last season with the Tennessee Titans. So far, Smith's talents appear to be exactly what the Patriots offense needs.
#5 - J.J. Taylor has the opportunity to make the team
Running back J.J. Taylor has a real chance to make an impact with the Patriots this season and his first opportunity to do so will be against Washington on Thursday with the recent release of Tyler Gaffney.
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