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The New England Patriots are on the doorstep of opening up training camp as they start to put their foot on the gas en route to the 2023 regular season. The club will hold its first practice in Foxborough just outside of Gillette Stadium on July 26 and continue their on-field preparations over the next few days as they lead up to their preseason opener against the Houston Texans on Aug. 10. 

As is the case every year, training camp does present the opportunity for players to duke it out for substantial roles within a given team. Sometimes it could be for a starting spot or simply a workload increase from the previous year. The Patriots have several battles worth keeping an eye on this summer, but three, in particular, stand out above the rest. Below, we'll highlight a trio of camp battles that could have a sizable impact on the team when Week 1 rolls around. 

Right tackle

New England didn't make any major splashes at the offensive tackle position this offseason. Instead, Trent Brown is likely slated to be the club's starting left tackle once again, while the right side is still up for debate. The Patriots did sign veterans Riley Reiff and Calvin Anderson in free agency and they're expected to battle it out along with 2022 carryover Conor McDermott for the starting right tackle position. 

The 34-year-old Reiff does have the most experience of the bunch as he has 149 starts under his belt throughout his career. However, he did spend the 2022 season along a Chicago Bears offensive line that ranked dead last in the NFL in pass protection. In 542 offensive snaps played last year, Reiff allowed three sacks, according to Pro Football Focus. 

As for Anderson, this is technically his second go around with the Patriots as he initially signed with the team as an undrafted free agent in 2019 but was waived in mid-May before his rookie training camp even began. Since then, he had a cup of coffee with the Jets but has primarily been with the Denver Broncos. In 2022, Anderson started sevens games during the regular season and gave up two sacks. 

McDermott was signed by the Patriots late last season off of the Jets practice squad and started the final six games of the season at right tackle. He inked a two-year extension with the team this offseason after allowing just one sack in 2022.

Wide receiver

The Patriots lost the DeAndre Hopkins sweepstakes to Tennessee, so, barring an unforeseen acquisition, what they currently have at receiver is what they'll open camp with. There are currently four receivers vying to carve out substantial roles in Bill O'Brien's new offense, including JuJu Smith-Schuster, who was arguably the team's biggest free agent signing this offseason. Smith-Schuster comes over from Kansas City and is likely to replace Jakobi Meyers after he signed with Las Vegas. Smith-Schuster should be looked at as a prime candidate to be New England's slot option while also lining up in various other spots. 

JuJu Smith-Schuster
NE • WR • #7
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Then, there are the carryovers from last season headlined by 2022 second-round pick Tyquan Thornton, Kendrick Bourne, and DeVante Parker. Last month, New England signed Parker to a three-year extension, solidifying the wideouts spot on the roster for the 2023 season and has him contractually linked to the team through 2025. Parker was acquired by the Patriots last offseason in a rare inner-division trade with the Dolphins. In 13 games played (11 starts), the deep threat caught 31 of his 47 targets for 539 yards and three touchdowns. Parker should continue to serve as a deep-threat option within New England's offense and be a big-bodied target in the red zone on 50/50 balls. 

Bourne, meanwhile, is arguably the most fascinating receiver in this group. He brought a spark to the offense whenever he was able to get onto the field last year, but he did seem to fall out of favor with the coaching staff and started just two games. If he remains in the good graces of both Belichick and O'Brien, he could be that explosive piece that this offseason has been missing, and already has a solid rapport with Mac Jones

As for Thornton, he was greatly limited throughout OTAs and minicamp as he dealt with a reported soft tissue injury. The second-year speedster flashed some of his potential at times last season, but injuries should have New England proceeding with caution. Thornton suffered a broken clavicle during the preseason last year which forced him to begin the year on injured reserve. It'll be interesting to see if that spring injury bleeds over into training camp and possibly derails him once again. 

If he ends up missing substantial time, that would give more opportunity to Bourne, Parker, and possibly even a first-year pass catcher. That said, if all four of these players are healthy going into the season, it'll likely be Bourne and Thornton fighting it out for that third starting receiver spot. 


Mac Jones
JAC • QB • #10
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Who doesn't love a little QB competition? Now, it should be pointed out that the Week 1 job under center isn't explicitly up for grabs between Mac Jones and Bailey Zappe. Jones did get the lion's share -- if not all -- of reps with the first-team offense throughout OTAs and minicamp, so he does seem locked into the QB1 role entering training camp. 

That said, it will be fascinating to see what -- if anything -- Zappe can do to force a competition or at least make Jones sweat a little bit. The Patriots went 2-0 in Zappe's two starts last season and the 2022 fourth-rounder completed 70.7% of his passes in his four games played to go with a 100.9 passer rating. Belichick was even willing to bench Jones for Zappe in the middle of a "Monday Night Football" loss to the Bears in Week 7 where the then-rookie immediately led the Patriots to consecutive touchdown drives. 

While it doesn't feel like Zappe will be able to unseat Jones even with a stellar summer, if he impresses that could be worth monitoring as we enter the regular season, especially if Jones struggles.