Five Predictions for Patriots’ 2020 Training Camp

The Patriots spent some time on the practice field last week, but the real portion of this year’s unique training camp is set to begin this week with padded practices now allowed. The evaluation process of a roster never truly begins until the pads come on. With the Patriots entering the ramp-up phase, we thought it would be a good time to give our predictions for this year’s training camp.

The quarterback battle remains close, but Cam Newton pulls it out.

Like we’ve said all along, the starting quarterback spot won’t be handed to anyone, it will be earned. Reports coming out of New England after the first initial practices had Jarrett Stidham outperforming Cam Newton. It’s just a couple of practices, but it’s a good reminder that there is, in fact, a quarterback battle in New England. The battle will remain close throughout the training camp period, but if all goes well health-wise, we expect Newton to go into the season as the Week 1 starter. It’s understated how good Newton has been throughout his career. He’s thrown for over 29,000 passings yards, 182 passing touchdowns, 4,806 rushing yards, and 58 rushing touchdowns. If Newton can be the guy he’s always been, lookout. We previously wrote about what a Cam Newton led Patriots offense would look like here.

At the end of the day, the Patriots are in a good spot with whoever starts at quarterback. If Stidham beats out Newton, that says a lot about Stidham’s chances to succeed in the NFL. If Newton wins the job, it likely means he’s healthy and at the top of his game. Plus, it’s a chance for Stidham to sit and learn for another year. It’s a win-win situation for the Patriots.

Damien Harris earns himself a bigger role.

With Sony Michel still on the PUP list, there’s a clear void at running back, specifically the early-down role. How long he stays on PUP is anyone’s guess, but it’s telling that Lamar Miller was signed as insurance. Miller is also on the PUP list, as he’s working his way back from injury.

That leaves four running backs on the active roster; James White, Rex Burkhead, J.J. Taylor, and Damien Harris. Between those backs, Harris is the obvious fit to slide into Michel’s lead-back role. Harris showed flashes of potential in the preseason last year against the Titans. He had a couple of catches and some good runs in Tennesse, but that’s really all we saw from Harris last season. In the play below, Harris displays good vision, makes one cut, and hits the hole hard.

Because of all the injuries, Harris has a golden opportunity in front of him. We predict he takes full advantage and at the very least, puts himself in a nice one/two punch with Michel (if healthy). Even before Michel was placed on PUP, we projected Harris to take some of his snaps.

Devin Asiasi is the real deal.

If you’re looking to join the Devin Asiasi hype train, the time is now. He runs well, he’s got good hands, and his route running is pretty advanced for a rookie. Asiasi makes for a solid middle of the field option, as seen below.

Through the first week of practice, all we’ve heard are positive things surrounding Asiasi. We expect him to carry that momentum into the next phase of training camp.

It’s tough to project how much he produces in year one, as rookie tight ends tend to produce at low rates, but Asiasi has a bright future. Because proven talent is lacking at tight end, it’s likely he slides right into the starting tight end spot. The only real competition for the starting spot, barring a roster move, is fellow rookie Dalton Keene. We see Keene as more of a hybrid fullback/tight end type while Asiasi is the more pro-ready pure tight end. Both will contribute, but Asiasi is going to open a lot of eyes.

The secondary dominates and remains the strength of the team.

Remember last year when the Patriots secondary dominated the offense in training camp? Look for history to repeat itself in this year’s training camp. The Patriots return reigning Defensive Player of the Year, Stephon Gilmore along with the entire corner group from the 2019 season. In that corner group is J.C. Jackson. Jackson held quarterbacks to an NFL low 35.6 passer rating last season. Not even Gilmore, the best corner in the league, could beat those numbers. Just look at how Jackson picks off the Super Bowl MVP.

On top of two shutdown corners, the secondary also features Jonathan Jones, a top slot corner, and veteran Jason McCourty. In 12 games last season, Jason McCourty held quarterbacks to a 54.7 passer rating. When those are your third and fourth corners you know you’ve got a deep group.

The safety position, anchored by Devin McCourty, will look slightly different with Patrick Chung opting out but we expect training camp to prove that Adrian Phillips, Kyle Dugger, and Terrence Brooks will fill the void. Phillips, in particular, will shock a lot of people this season. It’s even possible the Patriots use Jason McCourty, Joejuan Williams, or even Jonathan Jones at safety in specific packages. With so much positional versatility in the secondary, the Patriots can move players around and see what works.

The EDGE position proves it can sustain offseason departures.

After several offseason departures, there’s some concern about the edge spot, but we predict training camp eases your mind about the postion. While the group is very young, it’s also very talented. The lead man on the edge is veteran John Simon. A household name? No, but he’s severely underrated. He played 48% of the defensive snaps last season and put up four sacks and 44 combined tackles. He did most of his work setting the edge in the run game.

The rest of the group includes hybrid linebacker/edge guys in Brandon Copeland and Josh Uche, as well as strict edge guys in Chase Winovich, Shilique Calhoun, and Anfernee Jennings. Again, there aren’t any names listed that will blow you away, but there’s a ton of promise. Uche and Winovich have all the skills necessary to become a very reliable pass-rushing duo, while Jennings is a pro-ready run defender.

Without any dominant three-down players, there’s going to be a fall-off from last year’s loaded edge group, but the question is just how much? In terms of edge groups, we’d rank the Patriots in the middle of the league, which is enough to sustain great defensive success when you have the best secondary. The upside of Uche, Winovich, and Jennings tempted us to rank them higher, but without a real offseason, the rookies, in particular, are bound to have growing pains.

Let us know your training camp predictions in the comments below!

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2 thoughts on “Five Predictions for Patriots’ 2020 Training Camp

  • August 17, 2020 at 10:22 pm
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    Good points, now what about the receivers?
    How do you see this group development and who is going to be the surprising young gun?(s)??
    im also curious about how the LB core will do this year with all new names manning the the base of the defense ??
    looks like you got another article to write??
    cheers

    Reply
    • August 18, 2020 at 5:19 am
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      Thanks for reading! And yes, the wide receiver position and linebacker spot are both positions to watch. We’ll probably touch up on it soon, but I do like Ja’Whaun Bentley as the leader of the linebacking core. At wide receiver keep an eye on Damiere Byrd

      Reply

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