The New England Patriots’ 2019 training camp is underway: on Thursday, the team held its first practice of this summer. Conditions were perfect and thousands of spectators filled the stands. While the main storylines coming out of day one concerned the building connection between quarterback Tom Brady and first-round rookie wide receiver N’Keal Harry, as well as fourth-string QB Danny Etling’s move to wide receiver, there are other stories to take a closer look at as well.
Let’s therefore clean out the notebook heading into the second day of camp.
The physicality was what had to be expected
During his initial training camp press conference on Wednesday, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick pointed out that the first two days of camp are essentially a continuation of the team’s work in the spring. After all, the players are not yet in full pads which limits contact to the legal minimum allowed by the rules. As a result, the physicality was what had to be expected: the trenches saw little real action, while the pass catchers have yet to be challenged into their routes. This will all change on Saturday, though.
The young wide receivers are pushing the veterans…
With Julian Edelman and Demaryius Thomas absent due to injuries, and with Dontrelle Inman remaining virtually invisible in team drills, the Patriots’ young wide receivers were in the spotlight. They delivered. The aforementioned Harry looked very good in his first training camp practice, as did a trio of undrafted rookies: Jakobi Meyers, Ryan Davis and Gunner Olszewski all showed up, especially during 2-on-2 drills.
While Meyers spectacularly high-pointed a pass at one point, Davis made a very good back-shoulder catch from Tom Brady. Olszewski, meanwhile, scored touchdowns against three different defenders — all while also seeing action as a kickoff returner. If the youngsters can build on their performances on Thursday and also get more involved in team drills, the aforementioned Thomas and especially Dontrelle Inman should start worrying about their job security.
…and continue getting a push themselves from a Patriots Hall of Famer
Just like he was during mandatory minicamp in early June, former Patriots wide receiver Troy Brown was again present for practice in a coaching role. The three-time Super Bowl winner, who retired in 2008, did again assist first-year position coach Joe Judge — who is also coordinating special teams — with the wide receivers. While Brown is not listed on New England’s official coaching staff, his presence is noteworthy given his experience in combination with the team’s new-look wide receiver group.
Isaiah Wynn is the starter, Joe Thuney remains the number two left tackle
For the first time since he was drafted by the Patriots in round one last year, Isaiah Wynn took the top spot at left tackle during Thursday’s practice. While he only filled it during what was essentially the walkthrough portion of practice, it was a sign of things to come: Wynn, who missed virtually all of last year with a torn Achilles, will be the top option when the season starts. Until then, however, the team will continue to play it safe while trying to get him up to speed again.
With Wynn’s reps still limited, Joe Thuney again filled in as New England’s left tackle — just like he did in spring, when Wynn was still entirely kept on the sidelines. It sure looks like he will be the number two left tackle moving forward, which would have a trickle-down effect on the rest of the roster: Dan Skipper is now essentially the third option at the position, while Cedrick Lang was the number two behind Marcus Cannon at right tackle.
Meanwhile, Ted Karras entered the lineup when Thuney moved from his usual left guard spot to the end of the line. Karras, backup center James Ferentz, and fourth-round rookie Hjalte Froholdt appear to be the front-runners to earn the depth spots along the interior line. However, the outlook could change completely once third-round tackle Yodny Cajuste returns off the non-football injury list. Given that the rookie was a no-show on Thursday, however, it appears that this comeback is still some time away.
Jamie Collins Sr. continues to build on minicamp
When the Patriots re-signed Jamie Collins two months after his release from the Cleveland Browns, he came with more questions than expectations. However, a solid performance during mandatory minicamp put him back on the map as a player with tremendous potential in New England’s defensive system. Yesterday, he showed it again: Collins once more lined up with the starting defense and looked as if he had never left the team in the first place.
Stephon Gilmore is still good
Is there a greater compliment for a cornerback than not being targeted? If so, Tom Brady and the rest of New England’s quarterbacks sang Stephon Gilmore’s praises all practice on Thursday. The All-Pro cornerback was not targeted even once during 11-on-11 drills and showed once again why he is the team’s top option at the position: Gilmore’s movements are impressively fluid and he is capable of locking down whoever lines up across him.