Earlier today, the New England Patriots returned to practice fields for the opening session of their 2017 training camp. Overall, the looked as was expected: deep across the board and with a ton of potential both offensively and defensively. That being said, some players stood out during today's practice - for better or for worse.
Let's take a look at them.
Winner: CB Kenny Moore
The undrafted rookie was spectacular in his first training camp practice with the Patriots. Displaying good awareness and instincts, the versatile defensive back finished with a team-high four pass breakups. He also registered an interception off Jacoby Brissett during four-on-fours. If he can build upon today's session, it would not be a surprise to see him at least earn a special teams spot.
Winner: QB Jacoby Brissett
Despite the above-mentioned interception, second-year quarterback Jacoby Brissett has had a very good practice. Brissett looked sharp not only when it came to throwing the ball but also when it came to making decisions – two aspects of his game that did not look as good last year. Him making the second-year jump would add yet another layer to New England's already very deep quarterback corps.
Winner: WR Brandin Cooks
Not even five months ago, Cooks joined the Patriots via trade. Since then, he has taken part in multiple spring workouts and apparently developed a solid rapport with quarterback Tom Brady: Brady and his newest toy – which cost New England a first round draft pick – connected multiple times during today's session; one of which a 30-yard touchdown pass into double coverage. In short: Cooks, at least today, looked like the real deal.
Loser: DE Rob Ninkovich
Ninkovich being listed in this category may be harsh but such is the nature on a team as deep as the Patriots. The veteran was out today due to undisclosed personal reasons and while his spot on the team appears to be safe as of right now, he is still both the team's highest paid defensive edge and the team's oldest – a potentially dangerous combination. That being said, it would be a huge surprise if Ninkovich ultimately does not make the team.
Winner: WR Austin Carr
Seeing plenty of time with the Patriots' second string offense, Carr had a productive first training camp practice with the team. He was competitive in one-on-one battles, displayed quick feet and good hands – and had what was arguably the catch of the day. While Carr still faces an uphill battle to make the 53-man roster, he appears to be well on his way to a practice squad spot.
Loser: CB Cyrus Jones
The Patriots gave him plenty of chances during his 2016 rookie season but Jones was unable to take advantage, basically fumbling away his first year in the NFL. After being more or less shut down late in the season, Jones was up for a new start. However, at least in regards to training camp, this start did not look new – quite the opposite: Jones muffed one of the first kickoffs he received. That and getting burned on the above-mentioned touchdown by Brandin Cooks is enough to qualify him as one of today's losers.
Winner: TE Rob Gronkowksi
After ending the 2016 season on injured reserve, Gronkowski looked like his old self during today's session. He was dominant as a pass catcher and celebrated multiple of his touchdowns, visibly enjoying his time on the field. A healthy Gronkowski – together with the rest of New England's offensive skill position players – is bad news for an NFL that might have its hands full trying to stop the Patriots offense.