The New England Patriots were back on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium today for their third full-pads session in the last four days. The two-hour session was an eventful one, with the quarterback competition continuing to evolve and the Patriots’ young players making some impressive plays. With that said, let’s take a closer look at what happened and who stood out based on reports out of Foxborough.
As always, of course, the division into “winners” and “losers” should be taken with a grain of salt: practice is just that — a method to improve and get up to speed. Nevertheless, some players did stand out more than others according to reports by those in attendance for the session.
Winner: CB Myles Bryant
With Stephon Gilmore being one of 10 players missing today’s practice, fellow cornerback Myles Bryant stood out. The undrafted rookie registered two interceptions during team drills today: he picked off Brian Hoyer during 7-on-7s and later also got his hands on an underthrown pass from Jarrett Stidham during 11-on-11s. New England has the deepest cornerback group in all of football and it will therefore be tough for Bryant to make the team, but performances like today’s certainly illustrate his upside and potential value.
Loser: Wide receiver depth
The Patriots have 10 pure wide receivers on their current roster, but four of them were either not present at all for Thursday’s practice or participating on a limited workload. Second-year man N’Keal Harry missed his second straight session, while Jeff Thomas and Will Hastings participated in only a handful of drills. To make matters worse, Julian Edelman — after already missing Tuesday’s workout altogether — was a no-show during team drills after seemingly hurting his knee or leg earlier during the day.
Loser: QB Jarrett Stidham
Jarrett Stidham is still alive in the competition for the starting quarterback job, but he did not have hist best practice on Thursday. He threw a pair of interceptions during team work — one to Myles Bryant, the other to Justin Bethel — and also missed some easy passes along the way. With Cam Newton and Brian Hoyer seeing most of the action, the second-year passer was unable to take advantage of his limited opportunities. He did look good during 1-on-1s and 4-on-4s, but his turnovers seemed to hurt his confidence and led to some off-target throws.
Winner: LB Terez Hall & LB Cassh Maluia
New England’s linebacker group suffered some considerable personnel turnover this offseason, leaving the team thin at the off-the-ball position alongside Ja’Whaun Bentley. A handful of players are competing for practice reps and roster spots, with two standing out in particular: second-year man Terez Hall and sixth-round draft pick Cassh Maluia. While the former had two stuffed runs on a goal line sequence late during practice (both versus rookie running back J.J. Taylor), Maluia was able to take down fullback Jakob Johnson before he could cross the goal line during the same period. Stacking positive plays like those together should help both players in their quest to make the team.
Loser: WR Isaiah Zuber
The only undrafted rookie wide receiver able to practice fully today, Isaiah Zuber had a forgettable morning. Not only did he not stand a chance versus Justin Bethel during their 1-on-1 matchup, he also dropped two passes and later had to run a penalty lap. Players get only so many chances to impress the coaching staff and put good performances on film, and Zuber failed to do both on Thursday — something that is especially bad for a player trying to fight his way up the depth chart.
Winner: WR Jakobi Meyers
Even though Jakobi Meyers had a quiet camp so far compared to other young pass catchers such as Gunner Olszewski or Devin Ross, he did have a solid performance today. The second-year man, who was New England’s most productive offensive rookie in 2019, registered a pair of wins during 1-on-1 work and also was on the receiving end of what might have been Cam Newton’s best throw of the day. Meyers may not be as impressive as he was during last year’s camp, but he certainly had his moments on Thursday.
Winner: QB Cam Newton
The Patriots’ quarterbacks as a whole had a rough day, but Newton did show some positive strides. While obviously still adjusting to New England’s system, he appeared to be more decisive with his decisions and as opposed to Stidham and Hoyer did not turn the football over — all while leading the group with a combined 17 attempts in team drills. The former league MVP may not have had any outstanding plays, but he took a step in the right direction and is thus putting more pressure on his fellow competitors for the starting role.
Loser: G Joe Thuney
New England’s starting left guard is in no danger of losing his spot in the lineup, but he appeared to be a bit off today. Not only was he beat by both Adam Butler and Deatrich Wise Jr. during 1-on-1 pass rushing situations, he also looked limited at times. Thuney was the Patriots’ best offensive lineman last year and has a higher bar to clear than most players on the roster when it comes to what constitutes a successful practice or not. Still, he did not bring his A-game on Thursday.