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Without minicamp, Patriots will once again count on coaching

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With no in-person minicamp, Bill Belichick and the New England coaching staff will once again make the most of what’s available until players and coaches can get on the field.
The NFL’s on-field window is closing fast.
Mandatory minicamps are the last vestiges of an offseason that’s gone entirely virtual. Barring a miracle, these critical periods will soon be shifted online, too.
For the Patriots, minicamp offered a three-day peek into the franchise’s private, protected world. Every year at the start of June, the team would practice outside Gillette Stadium before a throng of media. Notes were scribbled, stories were written and predictions, backed by real football observations, were born.
Minicamps are not necessarily predictive. The sample size of on-field product, diluted by the absence of pads and emphasis on instruction over competition, is often too small to be meaningful.
For example, wide receivers Maurice Harris and Braxton Berrios snatched everything in sight last year from Tom Brady. Their performances sparked speculation they would provide legitimate and vital depth for the 2019 team. Barely two months later, Harris was gone, and Berrios was en route to becoming one of the team’s first calls on cutdown day.
Then again, during the same minicamp and within the same position group, N’Keal Harry struggled to separate from man coverage – a theme of his disappointing rookie campaign – while undrafted teammates, Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski, showcased natural ball skills that made them sleeper picks to make the final 53-man roster. Elsewhere, the Pats secondary dominated team periods, and Jamie Collins was a pleasant surprise, balling out in the middle of Bill Belichick’s defense. While Collins’ stellar play only lasted half a season, Stephon Gilmore and the defensive backs later locked up everyone in sight from Week 1 through 17.
Veteran players often remark how they can tell within minutes whether an incoming rookie can hang in the NFL. While not all rookies develop at the same rate or react to their first pro snaps identically, if their practice sample is strong enough, its size doesn’t matter.

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