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New England Patriots WR DeVante Parker solidifying role with big performs, contested grabs – NFL Nation

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Quick-hit ideas and notes across the New England Patriots and NFL:

1. Parker’s place: The pink zone was a main emphasis via the primary 4 days of coaching camp, and it rapidly turned clear that veteran receiver DeVante Parker is a big a part of the Patriots’ plans.

When the house will get tight on the sector, the catch radius of a 6-foot-3, 219-pound goal like Parker stands out when quarterback Mac Jones is assessing his choices.

“Big body, can make a lot of plays, contested catches,” tight finish Hunter Henry mentioned. “It’s always nice to add a guy like that and take a little pressure off everybody else.”

One of the signature performs from the early stretch of camp got here in a 7-on-7 drill with the ball noticed on the ten-yard line — Jones within the shotgun, Parker break up large to his left.

When Jones launched the ball as Parker crossed the aim line, the eight-12 months veteran was not open. Starting cornerback Jalen Mills, sporting mitts as a part of a way to keep away from grabbing, had him locked up.

But Jones delivered an ideal again-shoulder throw and Parker adjusted to it, toe-tapping his toes alongside the left boundary.

“Mac sees where the defender is. He puts it in a great spot and I’m able to come down to it,” mentioned Parker, who has led the NFL in tight-window catches over the previous 5 seasons (outlined as lower than 1 yard of separation because the cross arrives), in keeping with NFL Next Gen Stats.

This is probably going what Bill Belichick envisioned when the Patriots acquired Parker and a fifth-spherical decide from the Miami Dolphins in March in change for a 2023 third-spherical decide.

The Patriots won’t have a transparent-reduce No. 1 receiver, however pairing Parker with returning prime targets Nelson Agholor, Jakobi Meyers and Kendrick Bourne — and drafting speedster Tyquan Thornton (Baylor) within the second spherical — doubtlessly offers them a deep, various group.

Parker, in essence, tasks to fill the role of what the Patriots thought they have been getting once they drafted N’Keal Harry on the finish of the primary spherical in 2019. Harry was traded to the Chicago Bears on July 12 for a 2023 seventh-spherical decide (and Parker is now sporting his No. 1 jersey).

Parker, 29, has been feeding off the power of the vigorous scene at coaching camp, the place hundreds have packed the bleachers and hillside every day. After a distinct tight-window catch within the pink zone, he gestured to the gang and raised his arms within the air, which sparked a roar from these in attendance.

“Big energy,” mentioned Mills, the veteran cornerback who has usually been assigned to cowl him. “You like to see that.”

2. Real soccer: Monday marks an necessary day for the Patriots — the primary follow in full pads. That’s the date Belichick has referenced as primarily the true begin of coaching camp. Defensive deal with Davon Godchaux mentioned gamers at his place “can’t do much” earlier than that time and he expects some jitters. Added Mills: “That’s when we’re playing real football, seeing big guys in the trenches, hearing those pads clapping, and us on the back end, getting to compete with the receivers, jamming them up a little.”

3. Taking cost: Teammates are noticing a distinction in Jones in his second season, and longtime workforce leaders reminiscent of Matthew Slater mentioned it is solely a matter of time earlier than the workforce really turns into his. “He’s definitely more commanding than he was last year,” added offensive deal with Trent Brown. Jones is normally one of many first gamers to reach for follow every day, giving himself 15-20 minutes to loosen up and work on fundamentals.

4. OT change: Belichick downplayed the workforce’s offensive deal with flip within the spring — Brown on the left, Isaiah Wynn on the correct — as nothing greater than the norm of constructing versatility alongside the road. But that is additionally the best way it has been early in coaching camp and it appears to have extra of a everlasting feeling, particularly when Brown mentioned of being at left deal with: “It’s feeling like home.”

5. Corner considerations? A major query looms at cornerback reverse Mills, the place veteran Terrance Mitchell obtained the preliminary alternative of camp, and Belichick praised his instincts. The Patriots are the sixth workforce Mitchell, 30, has been with in his 9-12 months profession. Then there’s 32-12 months-previous Malcolm Butler, who acknowledged he is “getting in shape” whereas feeling he is already knocked off the rust after not enjoying in 2021. They’ve been the highest two choices in entrance of rookie Jack Jones (fourth spherical, Arizona State).

6. Stevenson’s change: Running again Rhamondre Stevenson reported to coaching camp at 225 kilos, which he mentioned was seven kilos lighter than final 12 months. But it is not simply the quantity as a lot as the kind of weight he is carrying. “I think I got a lot more lean and I feel better overall,” he mentioned. It reveals, as Stevenson has regarded fluid as a cross-catcher in house, which was certainly one of his offseason objectives. The result’s that Stevenson is giving himself an opportunity to remain on the sector within the “passing back” role.

7. Simple = success? If there was one widespread thread listening to Patriots offensive gamers after the primary stretch of practices, it was their optimism about modifications to streamline the assault. Stevenson, for one, mentioned it is “simpler, easier to learn, and you can play faster.” Brown and Bourne have been amongst these echoing these ideas, with Mac Jones saying: “We are doing a lot of good things schematically to get up there and snap the ball a lot quicker.”

8. Uche’s ‘breakout’: Brown predicts a “breakout year” for linebacker Josh Uche, the 2020 second-spherical decide who performed simply three snaps (not together with kneel-downs) in final season’s playoff loss to the Buffalo Bills however has proven indicators of being a disruptive cross-rusher when wholesome. Uche was at his greatest at Michigan when his weight was within the 230s, and it appears to be like like he is again in that vary now regardless of being listed on the roster at 245. Uche is transferring nicely within the early days of camp when requested to cowl working backs within the flat.

9. Tight protection: The Patriots’ protection is not the one group offering tight protection; about 200 media credentials have been issued by the workforce for coaching camp over the primary 4 days, a mirrored image of what number of reporters, digicam operators and so on., have been in attendance every day.

10. Did you recognize? The Patriots ranked eleventh final season in pink zone offense, with a 61.9 landing share (63 journeys, 39 TDs). The AFC East champion Bills ranked eighth, with a league-excessive 77 journeys, and 48 touchdowns (62.3%).

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