Football is finally back, at least sort of. On Wednesday, the New England Patriots held their first full-team practice of the offseason as the team moved to Phase Two of its training camp ramp-up period. Over the next few days, the club will gradually increase its workload before the first contact drills will follow next week. While the return to the field was the biggest story of the day, it was far from the only one worth taking a closer look at.
Let’s therefore clean out the notebook to see what also was noteworthy about the 90-minute session that was partially live-streamed by the team with neither fans nor reporters allowed to attend.
New England’s quarterbacks are working on mobility drills
Tom Brady led the Patriots’ offense for the last two decades, but for all his greatness and success had some obvious limitations from an athletic perspective. The team’s new-look quarterback room led by Cam Newton and Jarrett Stidham, meanwhile, is possibly the most athletic the organization has ever had. The first small glimpse at it during Wednesday’s practice certainly confirms this view and that New England’s coaching staff is willing to use it accordingly.
The quarterbacks — Brian Hoyer, Stidham, Newton, Brian Lewerke, in that order — were working on mobility drills on Wednesday: rollouts were on the menu for a group that offers more upside outside the pocket, especially atop the depth chart, than Brady ever did. Wednesday’s session is not an indication about the team’s offensive plans, but it was still noteworthy seeing the quickness of Newton and Stidham on such plays after years of Brady’s subtle movements.
Yodny Cajuste is making his first on-field appearance as a Patriot
A total of nine players who ended the 2019 season on an injury-related reserve list made their comeback on Wednesday — among them such big names as starting center David Andrews and the aforementioned Cam Newton. While Yodny Cajuste does not have the same pedigree as some of his teammates, seeing the second-year man on the practice field was still noteworthy.
Not only did the former third-round draft pick miss all of his rookie year after offseason quad injury, he also appears to be the frontrunner to take over the right tackle spot that has been vacated by Marcus Cannon’s opt-out in late July. Availability is the first step for Cajuste to possibly fill that starting spot, and he took it on Wednesday. This is a positive sign, if nothing else.
Pass catchers are catching passes... and the eye
One of the most prominent portions of the 30 minutes that were live-streamed by the team was a wide receiver drill on the western practice field. A group of six players worked together — running back James White as well as wideouts Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, Mohamed Sanu, Jakobi Meyers and Devin Ross — and four of them caught the eye: White for his inclusion in the drill; Edelman for his usual high-level energy; Harry for his leaner-looking physique; and Sanu for his impressive technique in a release-and-stack drill.
Chase Winovich is looking good coming off offseason surgery
Outside linebacker Chase Winovich was arguably the Patriots’ best rookie in 2019, but his first full offseason in the NFL was off to a bad start: the Michigan product, who was drafted in Round Three last year, had to undergo surgery to repair a hernia in February. Despite the setback, however, Winovich looked good during his first full practice back. He moved without any visible limitation and appeared to use both his lower body and his hands well during pass-rushing drills.
Winovich ended his first season in the NFL with 24.5 quarterback disruptions — fourth most on the team — including 5.5 sacks. The team will certainly hope for a second-year jump in order to replace the production that was lost when Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins left in free agency and Dont’a Hightower decided to opt out of the 2020 season.
Rookie jersey numbers are back...
Most NFL teams are rather quick when it comes to handing out jersey numbers for their rookies. The Patriots, of course, are not like most NFL teams — and this is further proof of that. Instead of giving their first-year players regular numbers, they went with a method that was established a couple of years back: the highest draft pick, in this case safety Kyle Dugger, is given number 50, with the second highest wearing 51, and so on. Undrafted rookies are following in alphabetical order.
Based on this system and yesterday’s practice, New England’s jersey numbers are projected to look as follows:
- Drafted rookies: 50 S Kyle Dugger, 51 LB Josh Uche, 52 LB Anfernee Jennings, 53 TE Devin Asiasi, 54 TE Dalton Keene, 55 K Justin Rohrwasser, 58 G Michael Onwenu, 59 OT Justin Herron, 60 LB Cassh Maluia, 61 C Dustin Woodard
- Undrafted rookies: 62 TE/DE Rashod Berry, 63 CB/S Myles Bryant , 64 TE Jake Burt, 65 LB Nick Coe, 66 LB De’Jon Harris, 67 WR Will Hastings, 68 QB Brian Lewerke, 69 DT Bill Murray, 72 RB J.J. Taylor, 75 WR Jeff Thomas, 77 WR Isaiah Zuber
The numbers are not yet official, because the team has yet to release a training camp roster with jersey numbers on it. Furthermore, as can be seen, there are some irregularities when it comes to the undrafted rookie class.
...and so are the popular hill sprints
The Patriots’ live stream ended after 30 minutes, which means that the rest of the workout was seen only by the select few present at Gillette Stadium on Wednesday. That group included the team’s in-house reporters such as Paul Perillo, who pointed out in his Blogservations that the players were back on the artificial hill next to the practice fields after the session doing conditioning work. Some things do not change even in 2020.