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Here are five Patriots position battles we’ll be watching this summer

If Mac Jones struggles this season, don't be surprised if the Patriots turn to Bailey Zappe at quarterback.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

The Patriots will have multiple starting jobs up for grabs when training camp opens later this month, and while there will be healthy competition across the board, here are five positional battles we’re going to be paying the closest attention to this summer.

Mac Jones vs. Bailey Zappe: After a 2022 season in which the job went back and forth, Jones asserted himself as the starting quarterback in spring workouts, and appears to be heading into camp as the No. 1 signal-caller. Jones, who offered a mea culpa of sorts this spring when it came to his performance last season, heralded the arrival of offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien as he looked to return to his 2021 form.

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That being said, if Jones struggles, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Patriots turn things over to Zappe. The youngster provided an occasional spark in 2022, playing well in his first two starts and winning over a sizable portion of the fan base.

Expect a summer where every move is overanalyzed, every snap count and passing performance is dissected, and every move in and out of the lineup serves as a referendum on who might have the edge when it comes to winning the starting job. How this plays out could not only define the 2023 season, but shape Jones’s legacy in New England.

Calvin Anderson vs. Riley Reiff vs. Conor McDermott: If veteran Trent Brown shows enough positives on the left side, he should lock down that tackle spot again this season. (Although given his inconsistency over last year-plus, that’s hardly a sure thing.) However, following the offseason departure of Isaiah Wynn, the right tackle position is wide open.

The 34-year-old Reiff figures to be the early favorite, having made 134 career starts at left and right tackle. He signed a one-year, $5 million deal this offseason, and comes to New England after stints with the Lions, Vikings, Bengals, and Bears.

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The 27-year-old Anderson, who had 12 starts over the last three seasons for the Broncos, also has experience at both tackle spots. Meanwhile, the 30-year-old McDermott enters the fray with experience on his side. The former New England draft pick returned to Foxborough last season after time with the Bills and Jets, and started six games down the stretch.

Nick Folk vs. Chad Ryland: Folk is the 38-year-old veteran who has been one of the best kickers in the league the last few seasons. Ryland is the 23-year-old rookie with the impressive résumé who will challenge for the job.

Bill Belichick isn’t above keeping two kickers, and if Ryland is shaky in the early going, he could use Folk on extra points and field goals, and Ryland on kickoffs. But the fact the Patriots traded up to draft Ryland should give you a sense of the expectations they have for the rookie.

Ty Montgomery vs. Pierre Strong: When it comes to the role of third-down back, will the Patriots finally find a worthy successor to James White? At this point, they appear to have two options.

Montgomery, a wide receiver/running back hybrid in the mold of Cordarrelle Patterson, started with the job last season and had three catches on four targets for 15 yards and a touchdown before a season-ending injury in the opener. The 30-year-old Montgomery was impressive as a pass-catcher out of the backfield early in his career, finishing his first three years with the Packers with 82 receptions.

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Meanwhile, the 24-year-old Strong played in 15 games last season, and while his time was limited, showed enough in the passing game (seven catches on seven targets for 42 yards) to warrant consideration for the job in 2023.

Kendrick Bourne vs. Tyquan Thornton: How things play out here could be determined by whether the Patriots end up signing DeAndre Hopkins, but regardless, the battle for targets as the No. 3 receiver could be one of the most compelling of the summer.

Thornton started more games (9) than the 27-year-old Bourne (2) in 2022 but finished with less production (22 receptions and 247 yards vs. 35 catches for 434 yards for Bourne). Bourne’s failure to click with last year’s scheme was palpable, but like Jones, he should get a boost with the return of O’Brien.

Meanwhile, Thornton, who turns 23 next month, had a positive spring, looking at times like the sort of deep threat the Patriots hoped he could become when they drafted him in the second round out of Baylor in 2022.


Christopher Price can be reached at christopher.price@globe.com. Follow him @cpriceglobe.