The New England Patriots’ second training camp practice is in the books, and it was a somewhat sloppy affair at times. Nevertheless, it did give us another impression of the players on the current roster, and who is trending in the right direction this early in the process. With that in mind, let’s take a look at those men that stood out during the two-hour session — for better or for worse:
Winner: QB Jarrett Stidham
With starting quarterback Tom Brady effectively getting the day off, backups Brian Hoyer and Jarrett Stidham saw plenty of action (RIP Danny Etling’s quarterback career). Stidham in particular had some good stretches during the session, especially late when he looked very comfortable during an 11-on-11 drill and finished by going 5-for-5 in red zone work. While he was far from perfect — he also had three interceptions on the day — the rookie did take a step forward today.
Winners: WR Phillip Dorsett & WR Maurice Harris
With Julian Edelman still out, Phillip Dorsett is now the Patriots’ most experienced wide receiver. He looked the part on Friday, and had some of the biggest plays of the day when he caught a 40-yard touchdown on a throw by Brian Hoyer, and had a leaping grab in traffic during a red area session. Maurice Harris, meanwhile, continued to show why he is a realistic shot at making the team: he consistently caught the ball well and even got some one-on-one time with Brady.
Loser: DT Byron Cowart
Injuries are always bad, but even more so for a player on the roster bubble like defensive tackle Byron Cowart. The fifth-round rookie went down today with what looked like a knee injury, and was unable to finish the practice. If the injury leads to a longer absence — he did walk off the field under his own power, for what it’s worth — Cowart may significantly fall behind in the race for a backup spot along the defensive line.
Winner: P Jake Bailey
After no punts on Thursday, Ryan Allen and Jake Bailey went at it during today’s session. The rookie, who also worked on kickoffs during yesterday’s practice, looked better and appears to be on the inside track for a roster spot as of now: Bailey consistently posted better hang-times than Allen as his kicks averaged 4.74 seconds in the air compared to the incumbent’s 4.23 (via the Boston Sports Journal’s Greg Bedard). He needs to work on his consistency and his situational punting is still a question mark, but for now the first day goes to the youngster.
Winner: TE Matt LaCosse
On Thursday, Matt LaCosse and Benjamin Watson split reps as the top tight ends. On Friday, LaCosse stole the show. Not only did he see regular action as the man atop the depth chart, he also had arguably the best catch of the day: the free agency acquisition caught a touchdown in double coverage by plucking the ball off Elandon Roberts’ helmet in Rob Gronkowski-esque fashion.
Winner: SS Obi Melifonwu
The Patriots have one of the deepest secondaries in all of football, but it was one of the unit’s roster bubble players that registered the most interceptions today: Obi Melifonwu, a backup strong safety that is in his first training camp since joining New England. Melifonwu had a pick in a 3-on-3 drill, and later a second during 11-on-11 work after a tip by fellow safety Terrence Brooks. Making plays in practice will be imperative for a roster bubble player like the 25-year-old.
Loser: CB Joejuan Williams
First things first: two days into training camp, it is impossible to predict how a player’s career will develop — especially when said player is a rookie. That being said, second-round cornerback Joejuan Williams had a rough start to his first training camp and showed obvious issues today against both speed and size. He will improve, especially once players start wearing full pads beginning tomorrow, but today he was inconsistent at best.