The New England Patriots returned to the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium on Thursday for their second training camp session of the year. The event was once again held without full pads and thus more of a continuation of spring workouts than a regular full-speed competition — that will come once pads are put on next week.
Nonetheless, there was still plenty to talk about. You can read Ryan Spagnoli’s recap from Foxborough here, while we are cleaning out the notebook before turning our attention to the third practice later on Friday.
The Newton-Jones dynamic is on full display
Even though we are two days into training camp, the quarterback competition has not yet started to heat up. Cam Newton had his ups and downs early during Thursday’s session before coming on strong late, while Mac Jones had some encouraging moments throughout the day before a disappointing 11-on-11 stretch late.
The first-round rookie was visibly frustrated with how he performed during that period of the session, going just 4-for-11 on pass attempts. Afterwards, however, Newton came over to spend some time alone with his young teammate. The two chatted while work continued elsewhere on the practice fields.
The Newton-Jones dynamic was therefore on full display on Thursday. Newton is the leader in the quarterback room after having served as the Patriots’ starter in 2020, with Jones the young gun trying to learn the system and get up to speed. Both are competing for the starting position, but before all else they also are teammates trying to help each other out. On Thursday, it was Newton seemingly encouraging Jones after a rough patch.
Nelson Agholor shares his thoughts on the quarterback competition
Nelson Agholor was signed to a two-year contract in free agency, and he projects to play a starter-level role in New England’s rebuilt passing offense this year. At this early stage in training camp, however, his focus is on building chemistry with his teammates, most importantly the quarterbacks.
Agholor feels good about where the process currently stands.
“It’s been going well,” he said about his work with multiple QBs. “They do a great job of communicating. We work hard, and we try to get our timing down.”
While it remains to be seen who will eventually end up as the starting quarterback, Agholor pointed out that he does not concern himself with things not in his control. Instead, his focus lies on himself.
“It’s not my job to worry about that. It’s my job to learn, get open, and make the plays that come my way.”
Damien Harris loves to play smash mouth football
Last season, the Patriots struggled to challenges defenses through the air which in turn prompted them to get aggressive in free agency and later select Mac Jones in the draft. As far as the ground game is concerned, however, New England was able to establish a smash mouth attack and put pressure on the opposition.
Damien Harris played a big role in this, and heading into his third season in the system is looking forward to more of the same.
“I love it. Guys come out here to be physical, like I said, just setting a tone, setting an identity,” he told reporters after Thursday’s practice.
“When we step on the field, we just want to come out and dominate the guys across from us. It doesn’t matter who it is, who we play, that’s our mentality. We don’t want to be the guys who get pushed around. We want to be the guys that come out, play hard, play fast, start fast, create a strong identity as an offense each and every time we step on the field.”
Don’t sleep on the depth tight ends
While free agency acquisitions Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry stand out, the rest of the tight end group cannot be disregarded either. With second-year men Devin Asiasi (Covid-19) and Dalton Keene (PUP) out for the time being, Matt LaCosse and Troy Fumagalli took on a more active role.
With the battle for the third and possibly fourth position on the depth chart open, the two veterans have had some positive moments. While LaCosse caught a tight-window throw from Mac Jones at one point, Fumagalli connected with third-string quarterback Brian Hoyer for a pair of touchdowns early; he later also caught a TD from Cam Newton.
A lot can and will happen over the coming days and weeks, but so far in the process LaCosse and Fumagalli have looked serviceable.
Davon Godchaux explains the similarities and differences between New England and Miami
One of the biggest free agency additions both in terms of cost and actual size, Davon Godchaux projects to play a major role along New England’s defensive line this year. What should help him do just that is his experience in a similar system: Godchaux started his career with the Miami Dolphins, including the last two seasons under former Patriots defensive play caller Brian Flores.
He spoke about the similarities between the two defenses on Thursday, noting that the terminology would be different but the basics are essentially the same.
“Same defense as down south, I played there in Miami,” Godchaux said.
“B-Flo came from here and he took some things from here down south, so it’s kind of similar. But I’m just kind of focusing on new things they’re throwing at us. Coach Belichick does a great job of getting his guys prepared pretty well. Coming in here in OTAs, getting acclimated and coming here back at training camp, I’m ready to go. I’m trying to just getting used to it and getting my feet wet day by day.”
Godchaux also was asked to speak about the differences between Miami and New England based on his first two training camp practices so far. He did not hesitate to answer.
“Just the weather’s different. That’s about it. Just the weather being different,” he said. “It’s still kind of hot out here, but it’s not really as hot as down south. But you know, I love it. I love the breeze. I had guys telling me when we get to late November, December it’s going to get cold, so you just get used to that. But other than that, the NFL’s the NFL. It’s kind of the same for defensive linemen, just have to keep up with the pace.”