The New England Patriots’ fourth training camp practice is in the books, and the session was the second that saw the team wear full pads. As opposed to Saturday’s, however, the intensity was noticeably different with both the offense and the defense being quite invested. Along the way, there were some standout performances — for better or for worse. Let’s take a look at today’s winners or losers.
Winner: DE Michael Bennett
After being excused from the first three days of training camp due to personal reasons, Michael Bennett returned to the field today and immediately showed why the Patriots targeted him as a trade option this offseason: the 33-year-old was disruptive all day long, and at times looked like the best defensive lineman on the field. While he needs to prove that he can consistently string together performances like today’s, the first impression was a positive one.
Winner: DT Nick Thurman
While Nick Thurman still has to be considered a longshot to make New England’s 53-man roster, the second-year man showed up for the second straight day today. At one point during on-on-one work, he decisively overpowered new Patriot J.J. Dielman. While he needs to build on his success in individual drills and needs to show it in team sessions as well, the 24-year-old did display his talent as an interior penetrator today.
Winner: TE Benjamin Watson
Benjamin Watson continues to share the top tight end reps with fellow offseason acquisition Matt LaCosse and today he saw most of the action. No other player on the team caught more passes during 11-on-11s from Tom Brady than the 38-year-old, who came away with three receptions — including the best throw of the day when Brady hit him with a laser for a touchdown. While one pass intended for the veteran tight end was intercepted, he was not to blame for Brian Hoyer’s pick.
Losers: OT Dan Skipper & OT Cedrick Lang
The Patriots broke with this year’s training camp tradition a bit and did not use starting left guard Joe Thuney as the first-team left tackle. With the veteran lining up in his usual spot, third-year man Dan Skipper saw starter reps today. However, the role did look a bit too big for the 6-foot-9 behemoth: he struggled to generate a consistent push, especially in the ground game, and also was inconsistent in one-on-ones as a pass protector. The other depth offensive tackle on the roster, Cedrick Lang, did not fare much better — makes you wonder if Thuney will be back at left tackle soon, at least until Isaiah Wynn’s full return.
Winner: WR Braxton Berrios
For the first time all training camp, Braxton Berrios caught a pass from Tom Brady: he was on the receiving end of a touchdown during 11-on-11 drills. The scoring play was the high point of the day for the second-year man, but he looked generally solid in his route running and quickness. Furthermore, he also was with the first team defense during two-minute work in a group including James White, Maurice Harris, Phillip Dorsett, and Benjamin Watson.
Loser: WR Dontrelle Inman
After a quiet first few days of camp, free agency acquisition Dontrelle Inman was a no-show today. While there have been no reports yet about the reason for his absence, it generally does not bode well for a bubble player to miss time — especially one that has yet to catch a pass from Tom Brady during team drills. In theory, Inman still has time to turn things around but at this point nobody would be surprised if the veteran’s tenure in New England came to an end sooner rather than later.
Winner: WR Gunner Olszewski
Undrafted rookie addition Gunner Olszewski continues to develop well in his first year as a wide receiver (he played defensive back at Division-II’s Bemidji State). Today, he was the most reliable target during second-team hurry-up drills: Brian Hoyer targeted the 22-year-old on the last three passes of the session, including a touchdown. Olszewski also saw action as a punt and kickoff returner. He’s doing everything you could ask from a player at his stage.