The New England Patriots returned to the practice fields yesterday for their second practice of this year’s training camp. Conditions were a bit more challenging when compared to Thursday, as the heat made life harder for the players. Nevertheless, it was another high-energy session that saw taught as more about the state of the 2018 Patriots.
With that in mind, let’s quickly dive into the notebook:
The Tom Brady-Dwayne Allen connection is evolving
After an up-and-down first year in New England, Dwayne Allen – playing on a $5.0 million salary cap hit – might be battling for his roster life already. One thing is certain, though: the veteran is not going down without a fight. In fact, he was the second best tight end on the field the last two days (behind, of course, Rob Gronkowski) and especially on Friday displayed noticeable and encouraging strides when it comes to his chemistry with quarterback Tom Brady.
Cordarrelle Patterson is an intriguing wide receiver option
While the Patriots’ wide receiver position is in flux, one wideout that should make the team is Cordarrelle Patterson – after all, he is one of the NFL’s premier kickoff returners and was just traded for by the team this offseason. But while his special teams contributions are well known, he remains more of a wildcard on offense. Yesterday, Patterson gave a first glimpse of what he could bring to the unit by making a spectacular touchdown catch over Stephon Gilmore. It was the high-point of an overall solid session by the former first-round draft pick.
Stephon Gilmore continues his spectacular offseason...
While Gilmore gave up the aforementioned touchdown to Patterson, he has usually been lights-out over the last two days. Displaying plenty of confidence and a natural feel for one-on-one coverage, the second-year Patriot continues a progression that is on display since last year: following some very good last few games in 2017, Gilmore had an equally impressive offseason so far. He is clearly the team’s number one cornerback and a player that is projected to take a noticeable step forward this season.
...while the battle behind him continues to be a fun one to watch
Gilmore and second-round rookie Duke Dawson are the only surefire locks at the cornerback position, which makes for an interesting competition. While Eric Rowe had a very good Thursday, Jason McCourty answered with a solid Friday session. Their roles are not yet set in stone, but both are ultimately expected to join Gilmore and Dawson on the 53-man squad this fall. The same could also be said about J.C. Jackson: the undrafted rookie had an interception yesterday and appears to be able to build on a surprisingly solid spring.
Kyle Van Noy might be the coverage linebacker the Patriots need
New England’s linebackers had a disappointing 2017 season, especially after Dont’a Hightower was lost to season-ending injured reserve. One particular weakness for the group was defending the pass, with Marquis Flowers as the most promising coverage linebacker – but still nobody to consistently shut down opposing tight ends or running backs. There might be a new option establishing himself this training camp, though: Kyle Van Noy, who had two very active days on Thursday and Friday. No matter if working in zone or man-coverage drills, last year’s primary Hightower-replacement was typically able to successfully carry out his assignments.