Saturday’s practice was the first of the New England Patriots’ 2019 training camp that saw the team wear full pads. The session was shorter than usual as it seems like the players will get eased back into full contact, but it still gave us another look at where the team stands 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: RB Sony Michel
After missing parts of New England’s spring workouts and starting training camp on the physically unable to perform list, Sony Michel returned to the practice fields today. Judging by his limited work — he sat out 11-on-11 drills — it appears as if he did not skip a beat: the second-year running back moved well and did not show any signs of rust. If he can build on today’s performance, he should manifest himself as the Patriots’ number one back.
Loser: QB Tom Brady
Granted, the passing game took a backseat to the running game on Saturday. That being said, Tom Brady and the starting offense were out of sync during his first practice back after a day off on Friday: he hooked up with his receivers on just two of eight attempts during team sessions, and did not complete even one of his four passes thrown during 11-on-11 work. Brady and the unit will improve, but today was clearly not his best.
Winner: DE Derek Rivers
Derek Rivers is in a make-or-break season and at least today he stated his case to end up in the first of the two categories this summer. The third-year man looked strong in one-on-ones and came away victoriously on both of his reps: he beat starting right tackle Marcus Cannon and undrafted rookie Tyler Gauthier. The sample size and quality of competition may be somewhat limited, but the session was still a step in the right direction for Rivers.
Winners: The starting guards (Joe Thuney & Shaq Mason)
Earlier this offseason, advanced analytics website Pro Football Focus crowned Joe Thuney and Shaq Mason as the best guard duo in the NFL. On Saturday, they showed why: both were terrific in one-on-one matchups. Thuney, who again saw extensive action as the Patriots’ left tackle with Isaiah Wynn still limited, displayed some solid quickness and footwork while Mason stonewalled whoever tried to attack him. Neither of the two lost a rep today.
Loser: WR Phillip Dorsett
While Phillip Dorsett was one of the standouts on Friday, his Saturday session was more up and down. Brady targeted him twice during team drills and both passes fell incomplete: the first saw cornerback J.C. Jackson come in and just knock away the ball before the wide receiver could make the catch, the second saw the veteran receiver erased from the play by All-Pro cornerback Stephon Gilmore. The Brady-Dorsett connection was off to a slow start today. To be fair, though, so was the entire passing offense.