The New England Patriots returned to the practice fields on Thursday to hold the third of their voluntary organized team activity practices. While the session likely followed the same pattern as the previous two, there was one difference: for the first time all offseason, select members of the media were allowed to watch the session.
Naturally, all eyes were on the quarterback position. New England, after all, brought back incumbent Cam Newton on a one-year contract in March and later selected Mac Jones in the first round of the draft.
According to Jeff Howe of The Athletic, the two were the first men up most of the time. While Newton led off every practice period, Jones was “second in line for the majority of practice.“
This is a noticeable change from last year. While the Patriots did not hold any offseason workouts due to Covid-19 restrictions, they opened training camp with quarterbacks going through drills based on seniority in the system. Brian Hoyer and Jarrett Stidham were up first, with Newton coming in third. Now, he and Jones are serving as the 1-2 tandem.
Speaking of quarterbacks, NBC Sports’ Phil Perry charted their passing performances during the 7-on-7 portions of the session:
7-on-7 work...— Phil Perry (@PhilAPerry) May 27, 2021
Newton: 4-for-4, nice diving grab by LaCosse on one
Jones: 2-for-3, Wilkerson dropped one when Jones pump faked and put it on his target over the middle
Stidham: 2-for-3, missed Jak Johnson wide
Hoyer: 2-for-2, completed an underthrown bomb to Agholor
Hoyer’s underthrown bomb was one of the best plays of the day, with Agholor being able to grab the football despite the imperfect placement.
Jones, meanwhile, did look as advertised by all accounts. His arm looked good, while he threw a catchable ball — something wide receiver Jakobi Meyers noted earlier this week during a conference call.
NBC Sports shared some video of the younger on social media:
Here's our first look at Mac Jones on the practice field at Patriots OTA's pic.twitter.com/xYIoZ2gKX8— NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSBoston) May 27, 2021
As for the rest of the roster, New England had roughly one fourth of the roster missing. A total of 25 players were not spotted, according to ESPN Boston’s Mike Reiss:
DT Christian Barmore, RB Brandon Bolden, OT Trent Brown, CB Myles Bryant, DT Byron Cowart, K Nick Folk, CB Stephon Gilmore, DT Lawrence Guy, LB Terez Hall, LB Dont’a Hightower, CB J.C. Jackson, LB Matthew Judon, LB Brandon King, LB Harvey Langi, S Devin McCourty, RB Sony Michel, WR Tre Nixon, S Adrian Phillips, LB LaRoy Reynolds, TE Jonnu Smith, RB Rhamondre Stevenson, LB Kyle Van Noy, RB James White, LB Chase Winovich, OT Isaiah Wynn
Of those 25, six were spotted on Monday when the Patriots shared some photos from their first OTA session of the offseason: Bryant, Cowart, Hall, Jackson, Nixon, Winovich.
Furthermore, five players were present but did not participate:
S Joshuah Bledsoe, RB Damien Harris,LB Anfernee Jennings, TE Dalton Keene, LB Cameron McGrone
Among those present, the aforementioned Nelson Agholor caught the eye due to his speed and sudden movements. CLNS Media’s Evan Lazar shared a video of one passing connection he had with Cam Newton:
Cam ➡️Nelson Agholor. Agholor looked good out there. Moves at a different speed compared to the other #Patriots WRs. Had the highlight of the day on a deep ball from Hoyer in 7s. pic.twitter.com/zaHv6eEQLJ— Evan Lazar (@ezlazar) May 27, 2021
From the off-the-field department, the session also had some noticeable spectators. According to Perry, recently retired Patriots research director Ernie Adams was present as were owner Robert Kraft, assistant director of player personnel Dave Ziegler, and coaching assistant Matt Patricia. The latter spent considerable time talking to head coach Bill Belichick.