Patriots Camp

Bold predictions for Patriots' 2023 season as training camp approaches

It's bold predictions season with a few weeks to go before NFL training camps start.

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New England Patriots training camp begins July 26 at Gillette Stadium, where the team will begin its preparations for the 2023 NFL season.

Expectations for this Patriots team vary quite a bit. Some people think this group is poised for significant improvement, especially on offense, where new offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien is now in charge. If O'Brien can get starting quarterback Mac Jones' career back on track, that might be enough for New England to return to the AFC playoffs.

The defense was very good last season, and the unit could be even stronger in 2023 after the Patriots spent their first three draft picks in April -- including first-round cornerback Christian Gonzalez -- to beef up their talent level and depth on that side of the ball.

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With training camp about three weeks away, it's a perfect time to give out some bold predictions for the 2023 Patriots.

NBC Sports Boston Patriots Insiders Tom E. Curran and Phil Perry, as well as WEEI's Andy Hart, gave their picks earlier this week on "Arbella Early Edition."

"I think the star of this offense is Rhamondre Stevenson. I think he is the closest on the team to being the best at his position in the NFL," Hart said. "He is potentially a top-five running back depending on the year, so I think 2,000 yards from scrimmage (is my bold prediction). I think last season he had around 1,400 and caught 69 passes. I think if the offense is a little better and a little less predictable and more schematically organized, I think Stevenson could have a second breakout season in a row."

Stevenson set career highs in carries (210), rushing yards (1,040), receptions (69), receiving yards (421) and receiving touchdowns (one) last season. He was the offense's best player.

Perry's bold prediction involves one of the Patriots' notable offseason additions at a premium position.

"My bold prediction is also on the offensive side. It's going to skew a little more negative," Perry said. "I think there's going to be some JuJu Smith-Schuster related panic early in training camp. Because I'm not sure he's going to be on the field, and I think even when he gets on the field, it's going to take him some time. I'm just not sure that he's going to be healthy to start the summer. I think there's some uncertainty in the building as to whether or not he'll be healthy to start the summer workouts.

"And if he's not healthy, when does he pick up this offense, which is so vastly different from what he was running in Kansas City? He had a good year last year, but (the Chiefs' offense) is not exactly the timing and rhythm-based offense that we're expecting to see here in New England. It's going to be a real transition for him, and I'm not sure how it's going to go. So I think the panic is going to be fan-based, maybe media-based, because I'm not sure when we're going to see him out there, and when we do, I think it's going to take some time before we see some really good things."

Smith-Schuster signed a three-year, $33 million contract with the Patriots in March. He is supposed to be a replacement for Jakobi Meyers, but as Perry noted, we don't know when he'll be ready to practice, and that's not good for a player who not only needs to learn the offense but also develop on-field chemistry with Jones.

Curran's prediction is a little similar to Perry's, but it involves left tackle.

"I also have a guy who's going to be here at the start of camp but he's not going to be ready to go, and that's Trent Brown. I think panic will set in at left tackle early in camp," Curran said. "The condition that he arrived at when he arrived late to the mandatory minicamp, the fact that he couldn't make it through more than one simple drill, was jaw dropping. This is a player who is third on the team in cap space at $12.2 million. He's a veteran player. He knows how important he is to this team, and it's woeful, in my opinion, to show up in that kind of condition."

Brown didn't play well last season and struggled with penalties. The offensive line suffered as a result. There isn't a ton of great depth behind Brown, so the Patriots need him to not only perform better but also stay healthy for a full season.

Check out the full segment from "Arbella Early Edition" in the video below:

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