The New England Patriots will be back on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium on Thursday for their second training camp practice of the week. It will once again have more of a teaching flair than your usual full-contact sessions, but that does not mean there will not also be plenty of things to take a close look at.
With that said, here are three we will focus on during the second day of action.
Mac Jones’ day-to-day consistency
Mac Jones was not perfect on the first day of his first ever training camp — no quarterback on the team was — but he did have some good throws while his decision making and accuracy were on full display. The question is this, though: Can he build on those positive moments and become a more consistent player in the process?
As mandatory minicamp and Wednesday’s practice showed, the first-round draft pick will have his fair share of setbacks and natural rookie growing pains. However, he needs to take advantage of those as learning opportunities to become a better and more consistent player. If he can do that, he might indeed have a chance to challenge Cam Newton for the starting role when all is said and done.
As far as Thursday’s practice is concerned, it will be interesting to see his performance compared to Wednesday’s — and whether or not there are some small signs of him continuing to head into the right direction.
The Day 1 standouts
While dissecting performance and competition without pads and full contact can be a challenge, there were a few players that stood out on Wednesday nonetheless. Among them was wide receiver N’Keal Harry, who had some encouraging moments during the session.
When it comes to Day 2 he appears to be in a similar boat as the aforementioned Mac Jones. Can he make a positive impact on back-to-back days to build some level of consistency along the way? And, can other standouts such as fellow wideout Nelson Agholor or safety Adrian Phillips do the same?
The kickoff returner competition
Brandon Bolden opted out of the 2020 season and will not be guaranteed a spot on New England’s roster this year. However, the veteran special teamer certainly raised some eyebrows on Wednesday when he was the first man up during kickoff return drills. One would believe that him carving out a role as a return man would increase his chances of making the team.
While those few drills may not be an indication of how the Patriots plan to use their return personnel, Bolden and others participating in those drills at this point in time could be a sign of things to come once the competition starts to heat up. Safety Kyle Dugger and wide receiver Marvin Hall also saw action, so it will be fun to watch how the team opts to employ its return personnel again on Thursday.
As for yesterday’s things to watch, here are a few quick notes:
Quarterback performance: Neither Cam Newton nor Mac Jones stood out on Wednesday, but they had a few good throws between them. As noted above, though, consistency is still an area of concerns — not just for the rookie but for the veteran as well. Making consistent plays was an issue for Newton last year, and he had his ups and downs as well on Day 1 of camp.
Linebacker usage: The Patriots opted to move Kyle Van Noy, fresh off the physically unable to perform list, around the formation quite a bit. Both he and Matthew Judon were quite active. Josh Uche, meanwhile, should factor into the edge rotation as well — all while looking noticeably bigger compared to last year.
Injury replacements: With both Trent Brown and Kyle Van Noy returning to action just one day after being sent to PUP, the Patriots did not have to replace their contributions (even though Van Noy wore a red non-contact jersey). Brown moved in and out of the lineup for some of the drills but participated in most of the action.