5 bold predictions for Patriots training camp 

New England Patriots v Buffalo Bills
New England Patriots v Buffalo Bills / Rich Barnes/GettyImages

NFL training camps are part of the offseason when coaches determine whether their initial assessment of players was right. If they haven't evaluated their talent correctly, it becomes when they try throwing stuff against the wall to see what sticks.

This Patriots training camp will be the first one in 24 years that isn't guided by Bill Belichick. The only coach with any experience in leading a training camp is new senior offensive assistant Ben McAdoo.

So, it's impossible to know what to expect with so many new components trying to settle into their respective grooves. Here are five things that could happen in the next few weeks.

5 bold predictions for Patriots training camp 

Kendrick Bourne tumbles down the depth chart 

The Patriots’ receiving corps has a lot of talent, but it’s a lot of similar talent. Anyone from Bourne, K.J Osborn, Tyquan Thornton, Juju Smith-Schuster, Ja’Lynn Polk, Javon Baker, Kayshon Boutte, or even the new arrival JaQuae Jackson could end up as the number one guy. 

That’s fine before the preseason games have begun, but the coaches don’t have much time to nail down the order. Bourne signed a 3-year deal worth $15 million in March, but he hasn’t caught more than 37 passes in a single season since 2021, so he’s by no means a number-one receiver. 

Alex Austin becomes the top nickelback 

Austin only wound up in New England because eight defensive backs suffered injuries in 2023. But he settled in quickly, and by the end of the season, he was the Patriots’ best pass defender. 

Quarterbacks had a passer rating of just 35.4 when they targeted Austin, who intercepted a Josh Allen pass in Week 17. Marcellas Dial was drafted in the sixth round, so the Patriots now have 11 cornerbacks. 

Austin will have a vital role to play in New England this season, though. Even if he doesn’t start, he will provide important injury cover. Most depth charts have Marcus Jones lining up at nickelback, but Austin will be the Patriots' third-best cornerback, so he may well leapfrog the 5-foot-8 Jones. 

Marcellas Dial lines up as a safety 

Dial is a defensive back with a very specific set of skills. He’s great at blowing up screen plays and making one-on-one tackles when the ball carrier is in front of him. 

However, he struggles with the more traditional aspects of cornerback play. He isn’t great in coverage, and his tendency to over-pursue sees him give up big chunks of yardage when he’s in zone coverage. 

If the Patriots coaches decide to keep him at the corner, he’ll wind up on the practice squad. 

Antonio Gibson becomes the number 1 running back 

Gibson arrived from Washington alongside Jacoby Brissett, and that familiarity could be essential. According to reports, the Patriots made Gibson a top free-agency target because he’s such a good pass catcher out of the backfield. 

Rhamondre Stevenson has a 77.1% catch rate and averages 5.0 yards per target in the passing game, too, so Gibson isn’t all that different (he’s caught 80.8% and averages 6.0 yards per target).

The more you dive into the numbers, the less reason you can see for making Gibson a top free-agency target; Stevenson averages 2.2 yards after contact compared to Gibson’s 1.9 yards.  

The coaches must have high expectations for the former wide receiver. They can’t have just signed him to return kicks. If they liked him enough to sign him, surely they liked him enough to start him?

Mike Onwenu lines up at left guard so Caeden Wallace can play left tackle 

Ok, this one isn’t all that bold. The 2024 Patriots' offensive line promises to be a series of square pegs rammed into round holes

You could probably pick the names of offensive linemen out of a hat to decide who will play left guard. Cole Strange would probably be the first choice, but he is still recovering from the knee injury that ended his 2023 season prematurely. 

Onwenu began his Patriots’ career at right tackle, but at 350 pounds he is a little on the heavy side for a modern tackle (30 pounds heavier than Chukwuma Okorafor). The former Michigan Wolverine played right guard for three years in college. 

He also played right guard and left guard during his rookie season in New England. His versatility will be the key to the Patriots’ offensive line. But shifting him across the line throughout the season instead of allowing him to settle in one position isn’t fair to the team's highest-paid lineman. 

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