4 roster battles to watch for as the New England Patriots return for training camp

  • Who will become the next go-to guy for Mac Jones?
  • Will a rookie kicker win the job from Nick Folk?
  • Can a second-year running back secure the backup role behind Stevenson?
New England Patriots v Buffalo Bills
New England Patriots v Buffalo Bills / Bryan M. Bennett/GettyImages
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Wide receiver

With the departure of the most recent WR1, Jakobi Meyers, this offseason and the arrival of JuJu Smith-Schuster, the Patriots' receiving corps will look a lot different in 2023.

Because Smith-Schuster seemingly replaced Meyers on the team, the assumption has been that he will immediately slide to the top of the depth chart. Although that's possible, and training camp will answer that, it seems premature to write off Kendrick Bourne or DeVante Parker to take that position instead.

Based on what we saw from Bourne last season, there hasn't been much optimism regarding his game. He went from having the best season of his career in 2021 with the Patriots to nearly falling entirely off the map the following year.

Why that may have happened could be debated for hours, but from the work we've seen Bourne putting in this offseason, it's clear he is far more motivated and determined to get back to the type of player he was just two years ago.

He's addressed his failures and setbacks of last season, even acknowledging he wasn't in the right mindset nor putting in the appropriate work to be an asset on the team, and vowed not to repeat that this year.

But can we rely on that? Was Matt Patricia's influence really what held him back? Or was it more than that, like a decline in performance that may show up again this year?

As training camp begins next week, we'll surely find out, so don't rule out Bourne's potential to move up the depth chart again.

Then there's Parker, who was recently extended with a new contract that keeps him in New England through 2025. It was initially an unexpected re-signing, as the general belief was that he would be on the roster bubble throughout the summer.

However, with few receivers on the roster next season, it made sense to retain Parker ahead of time, even if he does become trade leverage down the road.

As for the upcoming season, he will continue to serve as the group's big-bodied, contested catch receiver and consistently be the deep threat Mac Jones will need, especially as they hope to be more efficient in the end zone.

However, the biggest issue he will need to overcome to secure himself the top spot as the WR1 will be improving his skill of gaining separation from defenders. Parker has consistently fallen to the bottom of the league in that measurement, which isn't helpful for an offense needing a significant boost.

Watching these two compete in training camp will be one of the most must-see roster battles of the season, especially with so much on the line for both of them.