For the third day in a row, the New England Patriots were back on the practice fields on Wednesday. While the session itself lacked the physicality of Monday’s and Tuesday’s — primarily because the team wore only shells as opposed to full padding — there were still some noteworthy moment as well as some winners and losers. With that being said, let’s take a closer look at them.
Winner: S Kyle Dugger
The Patriots defense as a whole had a good day on Wednesday, but its highest drafted rookie stole the show. Kyle Dugger, who was selected 37th overall in late April, registered an interception for the second day in a row when he picked off a Cam Newton pass intended for tight end Ryan Izzo. He nearly had a second pick against Jarrett Stidham on the very next play, but judged by his reaction was unable to complete the catch. He did, however, also break up a pass against another quarterback, Brian Hoyer. Dugger has regularly been involved in the defense early in training camp, and appears to be progressing well as a versatile and uber-athletic defensive back.
Winner: WR Damiere Byrd
With N’Keal Harry absent for undisclosed reasons, Damiere Byrd saw an increased workload as the Patriots’ primary outside receiver. He fared well and continues to be an active part of the passing game at this point in camp, also coming away with the biggest offensive play of the day: Byrd streaked down the left sideline matched up against cornerback Jason McCourty and was able to grab the high-arching pass for a 30-plus-yard touchdown. He later also had an impressive catch from Cam Newton against J.C. Jackson. Given his offensive contributions and upside as a potential kick return option, Byrd appears to be on a good way when it comes to making the roster.
Loser: LB Derek Rivers
Entering the fourth year of his career, former third-round draft pick Derek Rivers has yet to prove himself at the pro level. This is mainly due to the fact that he ended two seasons on injured reserve (2017, 2019) and was severely limited during another campaign (2018). 2020 will therefore be a make-or-break season for the Youngstown State product, which means that Wednesday’s absence is anything but ideal. As opposed to fellow no-show N’Keal Harry, after all, Rivers is not guaranteed a spot on the team. Unless he can return to the lineup quickly, the former third-round draft pick might find himself in a difficult position when it comes to making the roster again.
Winner: TE Jake Burt
While the Patriots have two tight ends as locks to make the 53-man roster this year — third-round draft picks Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene — the third spot on the depth chart is up for grabs. Ryan Izzo seems to be the frontrunner based on his experience in New England’s system, but undrafted rookie Jake Burt had a solid performance on Wednesday to challenge the veteran: Burt caught two passes during 4-on-4 work while matched up against training camp standout Kyle Dugger.
Winner: LB Cassh Maluia
Kyle Dugger may have stolen the show, but Cassh Maluia also had another good day at practice especially when it came to defending the pass. The rookie linebacker, who was originally projected to play more of a Elandon Roberts-type role as an early down run defender, got his hands on another football while dropping into coverage: he sat down in his zone and made a leaping grab to pick off a Cam Newton pass attempt intended for Isaiah Zuber. Given the Patriots’ personnel turnover at linebacker, Maluia’s solid performance versus the pass could help him carve out a depth role on the roster.
Winner: G Hjalte Froholdt
Starting center David Andrews was limited during Wednesday’s practice, which allowed second-year man Hjalte Froholdt to see some additional practice reps. The Arkansas product did not stand out one way or the other, but him being the next man up speaks for his standing on the roster and how the Patriots’ coaching staff views him: Froholdt is currently the top option as the top interior backup — a role that previously belonged to free agency departee Ted Karras.
Loser: QB Cam Newton
Much like Jarrett Stidham on Tuesday, Cam Newton did have some positive moments during practice today. He had an impressive connection with former teammate Damiere Byrd, for example. However, the former league MVP also had his fair share of errant passes: Newton threw a pair of interceptions during 7-on-7 work — Kyle Dugger caught one, Cassh Maluia the other. So far in camp, Newton has not established himself as New England’s QB1, and Wednesday’s session was further confirmation that he will not be handed the starting spot simply based on his impressive résumé.