Now that the Patriots' wrapped up the first week of OTAs, we can start to properly assess some of the players. Of course, it is too early in the process to get a firm idea of where this team is headed, but some of the team leaders that addressed the media this week have certainly provided some insight.
What is one common theme that seems to be a focal point among the players and coaches?
As Bill Belichick has been telling the New England region for years, nothing matters other than the current opponent, current practice, or current day. In fact, he has preached this philosophy since he took the head coaching job, and it has helped the Patriots win six Super Bowls since his arrival.
Are there players on the roster from last year's playoff team? Of course, there is, however, there are also new players and new coaches.
Patriots quarterback, Mac Jones, now entering his second season, met with reporters earlier this week and was asked about the difference between the end of last year and at this point in the offseason.
"Yeah, in terms of team chemistry, I think we've made leaps and bounds there. As a rookie you come in, you're kind of thrown in and everything —all the plates are hot, you know? So you kind of just try and find your feet,” Jones said. "But now this past offseason and right now we've just built a great relationship with the offensive line, the receivers, hanging out together, just doing things together off the field because at the end of the day, we're all friends, we work together, we want to play for one another, and that's important to me. That's why football is the best team sport, you can take a guy like Kendrick who brings energy every day, and then we have him over for a Hibachi party or something, so it's just fun. Like, we always hang out and have fun and talk the talk and all that and it just builds for Sundays."
While friendships and trust can’t be forced, they can flow naturally from the presence of the right players on the team. Belichick has a rich history of looking at a player’s potential locker-room presence when evaluating whether or not he is a team fit.
Whether they’re rookies, free agents, or trades, Belichick likes to see what kind of person the player is on and off the field, how committed they are to football, what kind of worker they are, what kind of practice player they are, and of course, what they bring to the team.
Jonnu Smith is one of the players New England did their homework on last offseason and they ultimately signed him to a four-year, $50 million contract. After a somewhat disappointing first season in New England, he also talked about the benefit of taking part in the full offseason program, something he didn't do last year.
“For me, I think it’s such a great team bonding element to it. Just being here and being around the guys and building that chemistry. To me, that’s what it’s about. And to me, I think if we can improve that, I think everything else on the field will take care of itself. For me, I’m just a big believer. I’m seeing it come to fruition. So, it’s good.”
As Jones revealed, Smith also emphasized the importance of building bonds with his teammates.
"Just being part of that element, man. Seeing guys, just laughing with the guys, being in the locker room with the guys. Even outside of here. A lot of guys in Boston, we see each other at the games – at the Celtics games, at the Red Sox games, just that team bonding atmosphere.”
Time will tell how the 2022 Patriots team will ultimately perform, but the team seemingly has an early focus on building team chemistry.