The New England Patriots’ practice on Wednesday may not have had the same intensity as the previous two days’ sessions, but the two-hour workout in shells was still eventful due to its focus on the passing game. With the recap and our winners and losers analysis already providing some information, let’s clean out the notebook before turning our attention to what lies ahead for the team.
New England’s passing offense has some ground to cover
Despite strong safety Patrick Chung’s opt-out, the Patriots’ secondary remains on its course to again be the best in football. Add the fact that the defense as a whole is generally further ahead early in training camp, and it should not be a surprise that New England’s passing offense had its ups and downs during Wednesday’s practice.
All three quarterbacks regardless of their experience within the system — Jarrett Stidham, Cam Newton, Brian Hoyer — struggled at times, either with interceptions (Newton had two, Stidham one) or simply not finding the open man on a consistent basis. While this is no cause for concern just yet considering the circumstances, it is clear that the Patriots’ aerial attack has some ground to cover at this point in the process.
Designed quarterback runs add a new element
Cam Newton is one of the most successful dual-threat quarterbacks in NFL history, and despite his recent injury history still an elite athlete at the position. The Patriots’ offensive coaching staff taking advantage of this is therefore expected, and Wednesday was a teaser of sorts: a few designed quarterback runs were mixed in, even though the set-up did not allow for Newton to break off any long runs. Still, the new element the plays add cannot be denied.
Lawrence Guy gets a well-deserved shout-out
While his name may not come up often, Lawrence Guy is as steady a player as any on the Patriots’ current roster. Entering his fourth season with the team, the 30-year-old is the elder statesman in the new-look defensive front-seven and stands out due to his marvelous technique and abilities to control the line of scrimmage both in the running and the passing game.
Him getting a shout-out by fellow lineman Deatrich Wise Jr. during the media portion after practice was therefore well-deserved.
“Lawrence Guy has been in the league for several years and knows how to play every position on the D-line,” said Wise Jr, who arrived in New England the same year as Guy. “A guy like that can teach pretty much anybody — any newcomer, anybody new to a position playing D-tackle, playing nose — with his expert knowledge and immaculate skill.”
Gunner Olszewski embraces increased offensive role
One of the Patriots’ training camp standouts so far is second-year wide receiver Gunner Olszewski. The former undrafted free agent is not just the frontrunner to serve as the team’s number one punt returner again this year, but also a candidate to carve out a bigger role on offense: after seeing only limited action with the unit as a rookie, he saw an increased workload this week and very much factors into the mix as a rotational wideout.
Olszewski himself, meanwhile, embraces his increased workload.
“I’m just excited every time I get in that huddle, whether it be at slot receiver or outside receiver,” the versatile pass catcher said after Wednesday’s practice. “I’ll just do whatever the team needs me to do. If a guy needs a breath at outside receiver I’ll go in there. If a guy needs a breath at inside receiver, I’ll go over there.”
The Patriots’ interior line depth comes into focus
At one point during Wednesday’s practice, starting center David Andrews had to leave a drill and remained on the sidelines for the remainder of the session. This, in turn, put the Patriots’ interior line depth into focus: second-year man Hjalte Froholdt saw increased action at center with Andrews out. The team also has veteran Joe Thuney as a potential option, with rookie Michael Onwenu and recent free agency pickups Tyler Gauthier and Ben Braden also serving as additional depth.
New England’s interior O-line, of course, has seen some turnover this offseason: long-time backup Ted Karras, who filled in for Andrews in 2019, left to join the Miami Dolphins in free agency; former practice squad lineman Najee Toran opted out of the 2020 season; seventh-round rookie Dustin Woodard announced his retirement earlier this month.