There’s little doubt: Cole Strange will be a Day 1 starter for the Patriots

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The New England Patriots don’t typically expect their rookies to step immediately into a starting role. They don’t typically give rookies snaps on the first team, even when they are the first-round pick. When the Patriots drafted Cole Strange at 29th overall in the 2022 NFL draft, Bill Belichick said what he always says about rookies.

“He’s got a long way to go like every player does when he comes into the NFL, but look forward to working with him,” the Patriots coach said of Strange on April 29.

Every rookie has “a long way to go,” according to Belichick. But it seems Strange is not like every other rookie. During the offseason program, he had been practicing with the first-team offense. He has barely missed a snap while quarterback Mac Jones has been under center during organized team activities and minicamp.

The message is clear: Strange will be the starting left guard.

It’s worth acknowledging that the rookie has an unimpeded path to a starting role — in part because it hasn’t been well-discussed. The Patriots made news by flipping Trent Brown to left tackle and Isaiah Wynn to right. That was the biggest news item this offseason on the offensive line, which — more or less — will feature four new starters (when you consider Brown and Wynn are flipping positions). It will be Brown (LT), Strange (LG), David Andrews (C), Michael Owenu (RG) and Wynn (RT). The Patriots traded away Shaq Mason and watched Ted Karras walk in free agency. They were the team’s starters at guard for the majority of the 2021 season.

When the Patriots drafted a position of need in the first round — especially going after a player many perceived to be a reach — they tipped their hand to the fact that Strange would be their Day 1 starter. And from every indication on the football field, the Patriots have confirmed as much. They expect Strange to start and barring unforeseen circumstances, that’s just what he’ll do.

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