The New England Patriots held their second practice of this year’s training camp on Friday, and in some ways it was a continuation of Thursday’s opening session: conditions were perfect, thousands of spectators filled the stands, and the physicality was comparatively low with no full pads being worn just. That being said, there are plenty of stories to look at following what was at times a sloppy two-hour session.
Let’s therefore clean out the notebook heading into the third day of camp.
Jarrett Stidham’s potential shines through
With Tom Brady given a day off, backups Brian Hoyer and Jarrett Stidham split reps at quarterback. While Hoyer still has to be considered the number two at the moment, Stidham impressed on Friday by having some terrific stretches — when he’s in a rhythm like he was during the final 11-on-11 period, he can be really good. The defining trait that allows this is his accuracy, one that The Athletic’s Jeff Howe called “of any rookie quarterback [he] can recall at this stage of camp.”
Stidham knows how to place the ball well and has both the arm and the touch to hook up with targets in all areas of the field. He showed that on a touchdown pass to James White late during practice. With linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley blitzing, he moved to his right and hit the running back in stride on a wheel route over two defenders. The rookie passer put the football in the perfect spot for his target and only his target to catch it.
Not all was perfect, of course, as Stidham also continued to make the expected rookie mistakes. He held the football too long at times and also threw three interceptions on the day. All in all, however, his development at this stage in his career is an encouraging one — and Friday’s practice showed Stidham’s potential in New England’s system.
Bill Belichick stresses the value of preparation
On a play during the Patriots’ final 11-on-11 drill, rookie wide receiver N’Keal Harry lined up wrong — much to the chagrin of Bill Belichick. New England’s head coach sent the entire offense plus coaches and the resting Tom Brady on a penalty lap around the field before gathering the whole team in the middle of the field. According to quarterback Brian Hoyer, the message he told the 90+ men in the circle was a simple one: “If you’re out on the field on Sunday, you can’t have that stuff going on.”
The punter competition seems to be Jake Bailey’s to lose
Few position battles this summer are as intriguing as the one between Ryan Allen and Jake Bailey: two punters enter the ring, only one will emerge victoriously. After four open practices so far — three during mandatory minicamp, one in training camp (there were no punts on Thursday) — it seems as if the competition will be Bailey’s too lose. Too impressive is his leg, too high his upside to think otherwise as things currently stand.
On Friday, per our friend Alex Barth, there were eleven punts and the five best hang-times all belonged to the rookie challenger:
Jake Bailey: 4.44, 3.90, 5.45, 4.80, 4.84, 5.09, 5.24
Ryan Allen: 4.38, 4.27, 4.70, 4.60
Not only did Bailey have better hang-times than Allen, he also saw noticeably more action than the incumbent. Of course, that could mean nothing: Allen, after all, is a known commodity while Bailey is a rookie that still has room for improvement and has not yet been exposed to the pressure of kicking in a game. Preseason will therefore be big for him, and by extension for Allen as well.
There is one thing we do already know, however: Bailey is much farther along at this point than last year’s challenger at the punter position — undrafted rookie addition Corey Bojorquez — ever was. Why? Because Bailey saw extensive action as a holder on place kicks late during yesterday’s practice, something Bojorquez was never asked to do.
Jason McCourty is the number two cornerback at the moment
Without full pads being worn just yet, the Patriots’ cornerback composition looks as follows: Stephon Gilmore is the clear number one, something that will not change all year long. Alongside him in starting defense packages were Jonathan Jones as the slot corner and Jason McCourty as the second boundary option. The latter is especially noteworthy, given that the veteran has had some ups and downs while second-year man J.C. Jackson was impressive.
Of course, everything — from McCourty’s occasional inconsistency to Jackson’s role — could change once pads come on. McCourty and Jackson are both physical press-man defensive backs after all, and will be at their best when they can fully engage in their opposition. As things stand two days into camp, however, McCourty is still the number two cornerback alongside All-Pro Gilmore.
Patriots surprise with unusual behavior
Tom Brady getting a day off is nothing unusual, but the timing is curious on just the second day of camp. He was still very much involved, though, and a) essentially served as an assistant coach during the session, and b) saw some one-on-one action with first-year Patriots receiver Maurice Harris. Participate in competitive drills, however, Brady did not — a break from tradition compared to the second practices of the past few years.
Speaking of breaking tradition: Nick Caserio usually only speaks to the media around the draft. However, the team announced on Friday that he will hold a press conference the following day. It could be nothing, but anything seems possible given Caserio being in the news this offseason due to the Houston Texans’ pursuit of him and the subsequent tampering charge filed by the Patriots — a topic that was frequently brought up during Bill Belichick’s presser on Thursday.