The weather was much nicer for Day 2 of New England Patriots training camp, but the practice script still looked a lot like it did on Wednesday: the team continued to work in the low red zone with an emphasis on the run and screen game for most of the team drills.
However, head coach Bill Belichick told the media prior to Thursday’s practice that Tuesday might be the team’s first padded session. Expect an extension of spring practices to continue through the next few days, but the speed and intensity will surely increase after the weekend.
As far as the biggest competition on the roster is concerned, both Cam Newton and Mac Jones continued to split reps on Thursday. The two quarterbacks again had some up and down moments, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Absentees: CB Stephon Gilmore (PUP), DT Bryon Cowart (PUP), QB Jarrett Stidham (PUP), LB Chase Winovich (PUP), TE Dalton Keene (PUP), LB Brandon King (PUP), TE Devin Asiasi (Covid-19), RB Rhamondre Stevenson (NFI), LB Cameron McGrone (NFI), S Joshuah Bledsoe (NFI), LB Anfernee Jennings
Returnees: Jake Dolegala (signed yesterday)
There were no injuries during today’s practice.
Quarterbacks: Similar to yesterday, Cam Newton, Mac Jones and Brian Hoyer all participated in some 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 work from the low red zone with a rep or two thrown in from about the 25-yard line. Newton started out airmailing a few throws, going 0-for-3 in 11s but he wrapped up by completing 5 for his final 6 pass attempts.
Newton finished the day strong showing poise and anticipation with the ball as he completed two throws to Hunter Henry and capped the session off with a nice throw to Brandon Bolden that went for a score.
On the other hand, Jones’ day statistically did not necessarily jump off the page. However, you could tell the rookie is processing and picking things up. The ball has been coming out of his hands quickly and he continues to impress with his decision making and poise in the pocket.
I had the #Patriots QB’s today as followed:— Ryan Spagnoli (@Ryan_Spags) July 29, 2021
7 on 7’s
11 on 11’s:
Newton plagued by a TD drop from Meyers. Smith and Agholor dropped one each from Jones.
* = would be sacks
Mac Jones with the play of the day: It was a so-so day for Jones but he easily had the throw of the day. Towards the back half of practice in 7-on-7 work, the first-round rookie dropped a dime to Jakobi Meyers with Michael Jackson in coverage. The play came on a corner route in the back of the end zone; Jones came off his first read before dropping the ball right into Meyers’ hands for the score.
Even though the play “only” happened in a 7-on-7 setting, it was a glimpse of the accuracy and touch that Jones displays when delivering the ball.
Boomtower is back: Dont’a Hightower looks like he hasn't missed a beat after opting out of the 2020 season. He looks like he might be in the best playing shape he has had in the last few years and is moving around the field efficiently. Although there is no contact allowed yet with the team still practicing in shells, Hightower’s presence in the middle of the defense is certainly being felt.
The veteran linebacker jumped one of Hunter Henry’s routes today and was able to knock the ball out of his hands — making it back-to-back days now that he has made his presence felt in 11-on-11s.
Focus on the run game: It is no secret that when the Patriots had success offensively last year, it came from their ground game. For most of the practice, the team spent its time down inside the 15-yard line working on design runs and screen plays to the running backs. It is an area where the Patriots struggled to finish drives a season ago, and this has certainly been an emphasis early on in camp from both a run and passing game perspective.
Penalty laps: A few penalty laps were ran during the session. Deatrich Wise Jr. and Davon Godchaux jumped offsides, while Gunner Olszewski muffed punt. Michael Onwenu also had to take a lap.
Matthew Judon speaks: One of the Patriots’ biggest acquisitions met the media for the first time since March following Thursday’s practice. Judon stated that he was “no longer in enemy territory” and that he has enjoyed his time as a Patriot so far. One thing that stuck out was his excitement level to play with those around him.
Judon added that he used to watch film of longtime Patriot great Dont’a Hightower and after working beside him “sees why he makes plays.” Judon also spoke on one of the Patriots’ most versatile defenders in Josh Uche, stating that “he’s going to be great” and that he can “play anywhere in the front seven.” The Patriots hope that Judon, Hightower and Uche can make life difficult for opposing quarterbacks on a weekly basis.
do you think that jones and newton are competing for the job? Or newton is too ahead from jones at this moment?— Danilo Scalzo (@DaniloScalzo) July 29, 2021
Answer: It’s too early to tell in training camp without the pads on and things generally looking more like an up-tempo walkthrough. I do think that Jones is going to be able to push Newton for his job if Newton’s play were to start to drop off. However, through the first two practices, both quarterbacks have had their fair share of moments of good and bad. Things will certainly heat up as the pads come on, though, with Bill Belichick stating that it might happen as early as next Tuesday. The quarterback competition will ramp up quickly from that point on.
@Ryan_Spags— Qualitysmoke (@qualitysmoke) July 29, 2021
Loved the day 1 review:
question for your next piece
If Harry makes a belated leap and stays on the roster, is his body type and skill set suited to be one of the top two WRs in a 12 personnel package?
Answer: If N’Keal Harry makes the team — which he should if he's not dealt and continues to operate himself in camp — the Patriots could have a ton of fun with their personnel packages. We saw him dominate on Day 1 in the red area which is where he should make an impact due to his size. New England’s coaches will be able to beat teams on the outside and in the middle of the field when they want to go heavy with Harry, Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry all being tough matchups for opposing defenses.