Patriots: 5 areas I am watching in this week’s mandatory mini-camp

The Patriots kick off three days of mandatory mini camp today. Mini camp is the last stop of the off-season in the NFL before training camp, which kicks off at the end of next month.

The Patriots made plenty of moves this off-season between free agency and the draft so there will be plenty to watch for over the next three days.

Here five areas I am focusing on.

1. Development of Mac: I know it is only mini camp but I want to see how much quarterback Mac Jones has progressed this off-season. We know he is in better shape and we know he spent time this off-season throwing to his teammates but this will be our first true look at him since the playoff loss to Buffalo in January.

Year two is crucial to the long term development of a quarterback. Seeing Jones working with the new offensive staff will also be intriguing.

2. Seeing the revamped receivers in action: Bill Belichick added veteran wide receiver DeVante Parker in a trade and drafted wide receiver Ty’Quan Thornton out of Baylor this off-season. The additions give the Patriots size and speed on the outside. It will be interesting to see how the incorporate the two receivers into the offense.

The Patriots all of a sudden have a lot of mouths to feed at receiver. How they use these receivers in their personnel packages will be fascinating to watch this week and in training camp.

3. The rookies: Aside from Thornton, we will also be getting out first look at first round pick Cole Strange and the rest of this draft class.

Picking Strange in the first round was certainly surprising but he fills a need and has the physical tools to be a very good player. This week will be our first opportunity to see him practice with the starting offensive line.

It will also be our first chance to see cornerbacks Marcus Jones and Jack Jones and running backs Pierre Strong and Kevin Harris in action.

The Patriots added more speed to the roster in this year’s draft. Now we will see if any of these rookies can make an impact.

4. Veteran additions: The return of old friend Malcolm Butler will garner the most attention when it comes to seeing the veteran additions in action but I am also interested in seeing safety Jabril Peppers, cornerback Terrance Mitchell, linebacker Mack Wilson and running back/receiver Ty Montgomery in action as well.

Belichick was limited in terms of how much he can spend this off-season so he focused on bringing back several key veterans like free safety Devin McCourty, offensive tackle Trent Brown, special teams ace Matthew Slater and linebacker J’Whaun Bentley. He spent the remaining cap space on veterans who can fill needs.

5. The debuts of Cam McGrone and Ronnie Perkins: The Patriots turned some heads in the draft when they didn’t draft a linebacker or edge rusher. They didn’t because they have linebacker Cameron McGone and EDGE Ronnie Perkins coming back from injury.

Both missed their rookie season last season so they are essentially rookies. Barring anything unexpected, this should be our first opportunity to see them in action.

Both have ideal physical traits and fit the Patriots scheme to a tee. We will get a better look at them in training camp but for now, this week will be our first opportunity to see how the Patriots might use them this upcoming season.