Previewing New England Patriots mandatory minicamp: New look at QB spot

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Two days after a rousing private event at owner Robert Kraft's home in which players and coaches received their Super Bowl rings, the New England Patriots are scheduled to return to work Tuesday as they kick off their three-day mandatory minicamp at Gillette Stadium.

The team will practice from 11:10 a.m.-1:15 p.m. ET, and it should look similar to what we've seen the last three weeks in organized team activities. Coach Bill Belichick annually refers to mandatory minicamp as an extension of what the team did in its prior 10 OTAs, which means players should still be without jersey numbers (Belichick's way of forcing them to communicate and get to know each other better), they won't be in full pads (not allowed), and the focus will be more on learning than evaluation (getting players ready for the more competitive training camp setting).

The primary difference from OTAs to mandatory minicamp is that players can be at the facility longer in minicamp, per the rules of the collective bargaining agreement.

With this as a springboard, here are a few things of note:

New look at quarterback. It will be the first practice for veteran quarterback Matt Flynn, who was signed to a one-year deal on Friday to work as the No. 3 option behind Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo. Flynn, who turns 30 on June 20, is a more game-ready option than the team's prior No. 3 quarterback, first-year man Garrett Gilbert, who was waived. The No. 3 quarterback, of course, takes on added importance for the Patriots in 2015 given Brady's four-game suspension to open the season. Flynn has been assigned jersey No. 8 and Belichick, in his post-practice news conference, figures to field questions on his addition.

Keeping tabs on Brady and QB reps. In the 10 OTA practices (three of which were open to reporters), Brady was always the first quarterback to lead drills, followed by Garoppolo. Their overall repetitions were essentially 50-50, so we'll see how much the addition of Flynn might alter that mix in mandatory minicamp. As for Brady, he hasn't answered questions from reporters this spring and while that seems unlikely to change Tuesday, we'll be in position in the event it does happen.

Butler's fluid movement skills at cornerback. After being held out of the first six on-field OTA sessions, cornerback/Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler returned for the final four and it was hard to miss him because his movement skills are a cut above (he's a fluid athlete who closes space quickly). Butler said he felt like he didn't miss a beat and in last Thursday's practice he worked quite a bit with third-year man Logan Ryan. Could that be the Patriots' top cornerback pairing when all is said and done?

Gronkowski and Chandler the twin towers at tight end. If there has been one thing that has stood out above everything in OTAs, it's how Brady and tight ends Rob Gronkowski (6-6, 265) and Scott Chandler (6-7, 260) have regularly split off from the rest of the team during special teams drills and worked together in a three-man setting, mostly in the red zone. Chandler's length makes Gronkowski, who usually towers over his peers, look like just one of the guys. It's been a sneak preview of a potential "twin towers" combination that could be especially effective when space gets tight on the field.