Hottest position battles set to be waged at Patriots training camp

Hottest position battles set to be waged at Patriots training camp originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

If you’ve been around Bill Belichick long enough, you know that he calls training camp a “competition camp.” That’s not to be confused with the “teaching camp,” which occurs in the spring during OTAs and mandatory minicamp.

That means now is the time to battle. And while many of those battles will come into clearer focus as the summer wears on, some are already readily apparent. Here are the five that — should you make the trip to Gillette Stadium to see a practice in person — will be the most entertaining to watch.

And, no, you won’t see the quarterback position listed. Explanation here.

Now that we know DeAndre Hopkins won’t be coming to New England, it’s up to one of these two to establish himself as a dependable option here. DeVante Parker looks like the team’s outside-the-numbers “X.” JuJu Smith-Schuster should have dibs on the slot role. Then it could come down to Kendrick Bourne or Tyquan Thornton to serve as the movable “Z” in three-receiver sets. This player usually has the versatility to play inside and out and often goes in motion.

It’s hard to ground any strong opinion in what the Patriots put on the field last season, but it’s interesting to look at what these two did on third (and fourth) down last season. Both ran 96 routes, per Sports Info Solutions. Bourne was targeted 15 times and caught 11 for 144 yards (9.6 yards per target) that included 37 yards after the catch and 14 yards after contact. Thornton was targeted 13 times and caught eight for 101 yards (7.8 yards per target) that included 16 yards after the catch and just one yard after contact. Both reeled in seven first downs.

Bourne was more productive not only from a yards standpoint, but also in terms of expected points added on those third and fourth-down plays (6.04 to 0.16). While Bourne had two drops (Thornton had none), and while he admitted this spring that he was not pleased…


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