After two straight days of fully-padded practices, the New England Patriots wore only shells and shorts today for what was a lighter session. That being said, the two-hour workout still produced some memorable moments — from the passing offense having a sloppy day to the return of six previously absent players.
Before getting ahead of ourselves, however, let’s recap what happened at today’s practice.
Absent: DT Beau Allen, WR Will Hastings, LB Brandon King (Reserve/PUP), S Devin McCourty, RB Lamar Miller (Active/PUP)
Present but limited: TE Devin Asiasi, OT Yodny Cajuste, S Kyle Dugger, WR Jakobi Meyers, WR Devin Ross, QB Jarrett Stidham
- New England saw a sizable group of players return to practice. Among the six men back on the field was running back Sony Michel, who was removed off New England’s physically unable to perform list (PUP).
- While the Patriots had a camp-low five players absent, a big name joined the group: safety Devin McCourty was not spotted for the session.
- Tight end Devin Asiasi went down with what appeared to be an ankle or foot injury on Tuesday, but he was back today albeit in limited fashion.
- N’Keal Harry pulled up after catching a pass and signaled to a trainer to get his upper right leg looked at. He was taped up, returned to the session, and immediately caught a pass from Cam Newton on an out-route. He did not have the same impact he had the previous two days, though.
Quarterback performance: Jarrett Stidham 6 of 6 (7-on-7s); Cam Newton 6 of 12 with 1 INT (11-on-11s), 4 of 6 (7-on-7s); Brian Hoyer 4 of 9 (11-on-11s)
- The quarterbacks did not have their best day, with the defense getting the better of them on numerous occasions. Cam Newton’s two-minute drill was a perfect illustration of the group’s ups and downs: he threw an interception during in 11-on-11s — more on the play in a second — but responded by delivering an impressive pass to running back Rex Burkhead in the corner of the end zone. Overall, however, neither he nor Brian Hoyer looked particularly encouraging and struggled at times with some off-target passes.
- Jarrett Stidham, meanwhile, only threw during 7-on-7s today before doing hand-offs early in 11-on-11 work. He did make some good throws along the way, though, and completed all six of his attempts. Coming in second in the rotation after presumptive starting quarterback Cam Newton, the second-year man fired a perfect pass down the seam to tight end Ryan Izzo and later connected with wide receiver N’Keal Harry on a back-shoulder throw-and-catch down the left sideline.
- The biggest personnel story of the day was the aforementioned return of running back Sony Michel. The former first-round draft pick did not participate in an early-practice walkthrough period, but he later was reinserted into the mix while splitting reps with second-year man Damien Harris. Michel looked good in his return. Camp standout Harris, meanwhile, will have to compete for the early-down role Michel held over the first two seasons of his career.
- During special teams work near the end of practice, Cam Newton was holding court with wide receivers Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, Mohamed Sanu and Damiere Byrd as well as running back James White. While the others were regularly participating in those side sessions, Byrd was a new addition to the group.
- After almost coming away with an interception on an earlier series, safety Terrence Brooks was eventually able to hold onto the ball for a pick against Cam Newton during 11-on-11 work. The play appeared to be the result of a miscommunication between Newton and rookie tight end Dalton Keene, resulting in the ball being thrown off-target behind the intended receiver on a seam route and into Brooks’ waiting arms.
- While Brooks did register his first interception of camp today, he also was juked badly during an open-field tackling drill not once but twice. Who did this to a defensive back who is otherwise having a good second training camp in New England? None other than reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore. What can’t Gilmore do?
- The Patriots are trying to give rookie Josh Uche numerous looks, and he saw some action dropping into coverage today. While he was beaten by running back Rex Burkhead on the touchdown play mentioned above, he also broke up a pass at one point intended for tight end Dalton Keene. The rookie attempted to make a back-shoulder catch, but Uche knocked the ball away for an incompletion.
- The Patriots’ punt return team caught Bill Belichick’s ire at one point about 90 minutes in. He first sent the entire unit — plus coaches — on a penalty lap for having the wrong personnel on the field before a kick, and after lining up wrong sent it on another round.