The New England Patriots were back on the practices fields behind Gillette Stadium on Tuesday for their second straight day of full-pads practices. The session was a lively one and saw increased action in the passing game after Monday’s focused primarily on running the football and defending the run. With that in mind, let’s take a quick look at those that reportedly stood out during the session — for better or for worse.
Winner: S Kyle Dugger
While fellow second-round pick Josh Uche is the most active of the Patriots’ defensive rookies so far, Kyle Dugger had a strong session on Tuesday. The 37th overall selection in this year’s draft displayed his intriguing athleticism throughout the day — and his versatility: he was used both as a deep centerfielder and closer to the line of scrimmage. Furthermore, Dugger registered an interception during 7-on-7 work and also served as the first man up on kickoff returns. T’was good day for him.
Loser: QB Jarrett Stidham
First things first: not all was bad. Stidham seemed to process information quickly, made decisive decisions and generally appeared to be in control when under center. However, he also threw three interceptions during team work after throwing just four in total during last year’s training camp. Two of the picks were undercut by defenders — one by Michael Jackson, the other by Stephon Gilmore — while the third was a deep attempt that came up short. Stidham certainly had his moments as well and might still be QB1 if the season started today, but he needs to show that he can have a short memory when it comes to turnovers.
Winner: LB De’Jon Harris
The Patriots have a proud tradition of undrafted rookies making the team, and De’Jon Harris seems to be the frontrunner in this category in 2020. Not only is New England comparatively light at the off-the-ball linebacker position after an offseason marked by personnel turnover, the 22-year-old also had two strong days of practice to open the full-contact period of camp. On Tuesday, he looked solid as a pass rusher, broke up a pass from Cam Newton, and stopped a run near the goal line.
Winner: WR Gunner Olszewski
Olszewski generally had a good day. The second-year man did not only make an impressive one-handed catch during positional work early during the session, he also connected with Brian Hoyer on a 40-plus-yard touchdown reception that was one of the biggest offensive plays of the day. Add the fact that he still appears to be the frontrunner for the punt return job, and the second-year man is off to a solid start in his second training camp. He needs to work on his hands after dropping a pair of balls on Tuesday, but his increased offensive action is speaking for itself.
Winner: P Jake Bailey
Coming off a strong rookie season, Bailey seems to be a prime candidate for the famous second-year jump. On Tuesday, it looked like he was very much in the process of making it: he looked comfortable performing kickoffs and also showed some outstanding ball placement skills and hang time while working as a punter. Pair his development with arguably the best one-two punch at gunner in the league — Matthew Slater and Justin Bethel — and New England’s field position game could become a major weapon this year.
Loser: OT Yodny Cajuste
The Patriots invested a third-round draft pick in Yodny Cajuste last spring, but the West Virginia product lost his entire rookie season while recovering from offseason quad surgery. Now in his first real year in the system, Cajuste appears to clearly be behind Jermaine Eluemunor in the competition for Marcus Cannon’s old job at right tackle. The 24-year-old has all the physical tools to succeed, but needs to get more polished to realistically take on a starting role.
Winner: RB Damien Harris
Another day, another impressive outing by Damien Harris. With fellow early-down running backs Sony Michel and Lamar Miller still on the physically unable to perform list, the second-year man is making the most out of his opportunities. Harris was active as a pass catcher on Tuesday — at one point making a one-handed grab — and looked dynamic whenever he was handed off the football. It is still early in the process, but he appears to be establishing himself as a serious candidate for prominent snaps this year.