The New England Patriots will get a closer look at rookie quarterback Jarrett Stidham, drafted in the fourth round this spring, as a possible successor to Tom Brady. Steven Senne/Associated Press

Summer vacation is done for the New England Patriots, who reconvene at Gillette Stadium this week for the beginning of training camp.

Per usual, the Patriots enter August as the favorites in the AFC. They’re loaded on defense. They’re poised to have a dominant rushing attack, like we saw in last season’s playoffs. They’re easily the best-coached team in the league.

But there is some uncertainty in Foxborough.

Here are the five most important questions as the Patriots enter Year 20 of the Bill Belichick/Tom Brady dynasty:

1. Is any receiver ready to step up?

The Patriots know what they have in Julian Edelman, who is expected to miss time in camp because of a thumb injury.

They don’t know much else about this year’s collection of pass catchers.

The Patriots liked N’Keal Harry enough to take him in the first round of the draft. Harry possesses ideal size and physicality as a boundary receiver. He might struggle to create separation against NFL corners, though.

Josh Gordon was terrific last season, averaging 18 yards per reception (and cruising past secondaries after the catch), but his status with the league is unresolved. He remains indefinitely suspended.

Then there’s Phillip Dorsett, who has flashed at times but not consistently; Demaryius Thomas, who begins camp on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list as he rehabs from an Achilles year; Maurice Harris, an unexpected star of spring practices; Dontrelle Inman, a proven secondary receiver; and youngsters such as Braxton Berrios, Ryan Davis and Jakobi Meyers.

Not all these players are going to pan out. But the Patriots desperately need at least two of them to emerge.

2. What’s happening at left tackle?

Last season’s stop-gap solution worked out as well as anyone could have imagined.

Seeking to replace Nate Solder, the Patriots traded a third-round pick for Trent Brown and a fifth-round pick (which the team used to select promising linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley). Brown established himself as a high-level starter and played a crucial role for an offensive line that developed into one of the league’s premier units – but he left the team in the offseason to sign with the Oakland Raiders.

Now the Pats must do it again, and there’s no one quite like Brown on the roster this time.

Second-year pro Isaiah Wynn, recovering from an Achilles tear that ended his rookie season before it started, is assumed to be the left tackle if healthy. He’s not on PUP, so that’s a promising sign, but there’s a difference between avoiding the PUP list and being ready to start as Brady’s blind-side protector. We’ll see what Wynn shows in the early stages of camp.

If he’s not ready to go, the Patriots seem to be preparing left guard Joe Thuney for the role. Thuney received the left tackle reps throughout the spring.

3. Will the defense come out strong?

By now, you must be familiar with the pattern.

September: Patriots defense gets worked by subpar quarterback, gets shredded in print and on sports radio.

October: OK, it’s looking a little better.

November: The signature wins are piling up.

December: The Pats beat the Jets and Bills by a combined 102-6 and clinch a first-round bye.

The defense generally improves during the season, but this year it should be in position to avoid the slow start. From a personnel standpoint, this is as strong a unit as the Patriots have had in years. They’re loaded in the secondary and well-stocked at linebacker. Losing Trey Flowers up front hurts, but Michael Bennett is an adequate short-term replacement.

There’s no reason why the defense can’t begin the season as one of the league’s most menacing. Early games against the Dolphins, Jets, and Bills (Weeks 2-4) should give the Pats the chance to establish a nice baseline.

4. Will coaching turnover have any effect?

Somewhat incredibly, the Patriots rarely have dealt with major coaching turnover while cranking out 14-win seasons.

That trend came to an end this offseason when defensive play-caller Brian Flores left for the head job in Miami and took three others with him (assistants Chad O’Shea, Jerry Schuplinkski and Josh Boyer). Former defensive line coach Brendan Daly left for a similar position in Kansas City, and character coach/team chaplain Jack Easterby took his talents to Houston. Then there was the bizarre Greg Schiano situation. And then the Nick Caserio saga.

Suffice to say, there was a lot going on in Foxborough.

It’s always assumed continuity on the staff has played an integral role in the Patriots’ sustained success. So will the on-field product suffer at all as coaches – particularly on the defensive side of the ball – are learning their new roles?

Or is Bill Belichick so good that the Pats machine will just keep humming?

5. Will the Patriots find key pieces for the future?

Perpetually looking to win now while maintaining flexibility for the future, the Patriots are at an interesting point in their dynasty. They have the pieces in place to contend for a seventh Super Bowl, but what happens beyond this year?

Belichick certainly doesn’t want the franchise to go into the tank whenever Brady retires, so finding the next quarterback remains an extremely high priority.

The timeline didn’t work out with Jimmy Garoppolo. The Pats punted early on Jacoby Brissett. Now, they’ll get a long look at rookie Jarrett Stidham, whom they drafted in the fourth round. Stidham looked raw in minicamp, and that’s to be expected. He possesses a strong arm, he moves well for his size, and he’s played in high-pressure situations.

Stidham won’t see many regular-season snaps as a rookie (at least the Patriots hope he won’t), but he’ll be closely monitored throughout the season.

Belichick also is looking for successors to Edelman (33 years old), Patrick Chung (31), and Dont’a Hightower (29). All three are cornerstones of the Patriots dynasty. The Pats need young players behind them to eventually emerge. This summer would be a fine time for that to happen.

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