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    3 Studs, 3 Duds From Patriots Spring Practices: Ja’Lynn Polk, Christian Gonzalez, and More

    With OTAs and mandatory minicamp now in the books, let's look at three studs and three duds from New England Patriots spring practices.

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    FOXBORO, Mass. — For better or worse, we now have a stronger feel for the 2024 New England Patriots.

    With first-year head coach Jerod Mayo leading the way, the Patriots over the last few weeks conducted a series of voluntary OTA and mandatory minicamp practices, a handful of which were open to reporters. We got our first looks at the rookie class, including quarterback Drake Maye, and a roster facing low expectations.

    With the Patriots’ spring practices now in the books, let’s look at the best and worst performers.

    3 Studs From the New England Patriots’ Spring Practices

    WR Ja’Lynn Polk

    The rookie receiver looks better every time you see him.

    Ja’Lynn Polk, a second-round pick, is bigger in person than he looks on film. He’s smooth and sure-handed, playing like a more athletic, higher-upside version of Jakobi Meyers.

    Polk finished minicamp with a bang, catching a 10-yard touchdown from Maye on the final play of Wednesday’s practice.

    Is Polk a No. 1 receiver? Probably not. However, he’s already an upgrade over most of the receivers who’ve played for the Patriots over the last two seasons.

    CB Christian Gonzalez

    Christian Gonzalez, who tore his labrum last October, was limited during OTAs, but he was a full participant during minicamp, slotting back into his No. 1 corner spot.

    And the 2023 first-round pick looked like his old self. Gonzalez rarely was tested, but that’s because he didn’t allow any receiver to separate. His reps against Polk during goal-line 11-on-11s were particularly impressive.

    We’ll let cornerback Jonathan Jones have the final word:

    “He’s going to be one of the best players in the game,” Jones said of Gonzalez after Wednesday’s practice.

    DL Christian Bamore

    Fresh off signing a new contract, Barmore was excellent throughout spring practices. Pads and contact weren’t permitted, so it was hard for any linemen to stand out, but Barmore nevertheless looked like the best player on the Patriots’ roster. He was in great shape and playing with a ton of energy.

    The Patriots offense was at its best this spring during 7-on-7 drills, but it was a different story when the lines got involved for 11-on-11s, with Barmore’s pressure making life difficult for Maye and Jacoby Brissett.

    Honorable mentions: WR DeMario Douglas, QB Jacoby Brissett, QB Drake Maye, CB Alex Austin, RB Rhamondre Stevenson, WR Jalen Reagor, DL Keion White

    3 Duds From Patriots Spring Practices

    WR Tyquan Thornton

    Thornton needed a good spring, but he didn’t deliver.

    The third-year receiver was impressive early in OTAs but faded late and was a non-factor during minicamp. Thornton dropped the first pass of team drills on Monday and didn’t participate Wednesday, potentially due to an injury. For all his incredible speed, Thornton someone manages to be invisible when he’s on the field.

    A second-round pick in 2022, Thornton faces a make-or-break training camp. He has the talent to be an impactful player, but he’s too inconsistent and can’t stay on the field.

    Offensive line

    Minicamp wasn’t too bad, but OTAs were a disaster.

    Part of it was the lack of bodies. Mike Onwenu, Cole Strange, Jake Andrews, and Chuks Okorafor all missed portions of OTAs, with Strange and Andrews missing both minicamp practices. So, the Patriots had to field a patchwork line, and it showed.

    MORE: Ex-Patriots RB Damien Harris Rips Bill Belichick for Mac Jones’ Downfall

    Pressure was a major issue throughout the spring, especially on the right side of the line. We also still don’t know what the Patriots have planned for Onwenu, who played both guard and tackle, and rookie Caedan Wallace, who played both tackle spots.

    Mayo said the Patriots will field the five best linemen, whomever they might be. Right now, it’s hard to feel good about anyone other than Onwenu, Sidy Sow, and David Andrews.

    Tight ends

    Hunter Henry was just OK, and newcomer Austin Hooper made almost no impact. Rookie seventh-rounder Jaheim Bell also didn’t show much.

    Henry is a rock-solid starter, and Hooper should be a decent No. 2 tight end, but neither are true difference-makers, and the depth behind them is questionable.

    Honorable mentions: WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, QB Bailey Zappe, QB Joe Milton III, RB Kevin Harris, WR K.J. Osborn

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