Welcome to the third day of the New England Patriots’ 2021 training camp. The team will hold its third straight practice on Friday morning, but it will wear only shells instead of a full-pad outfit. Even though there will be no full contact yet again, there will be plenty to analyze and to take a close look at.
With that said, here are three things we will keep an eye on on Friday.
Mac Jones’ resiliency
The 15th overall selection of this year’s draft started his second ever training camp practice well, and appeared to be on a good way compared to veteran quarterback Cam Newton (who was a bit more up and down early on Thursday). Late during the session, however, Newton stepped up while Mac Jones tailed off a bit.
Jones went just 4-for-11 during the final 11-on-11 stretch and was visibly frustrated. Heading into Friday’s practice, we will therefore keep a close eye on how he bounces back and whether or not he will be able to stay consistent throughout the session.
The Agholor-Newton connection
The Patriots invested $16 million in guarantees to bring Nelson Agholor on board in free agency, but through two training camp practices he was targeted only once by incumbent starting QB Cam Newton. That pass fell incomplete, by the way, with Newton airmailing it over the wide receiver’s head down the sideline.
Agholor also only caught one of four targets from Newton during mandatory minicamp, so his developing chemistry with the veteran passer will remain something to watch.
The first-year Patriot did have some more success with rookie Mac Jones, though. So far in training camp, the two have connected twice on four targets. Both of those catches came on Wednesday, with Jones’ lone pass coming Agholor’s way on Thursday hitting the turf as well.
As ESPN’s Mike Reiss noted after practice, the Patriots “looked like a track team at times” during Thursday’s practice. Defensive linemen Deatrich Wise Jr. and Davon Godchaux, cornerback J.C. Jackson, offensive lineman Michael Onwenu, running back Tyler Gaffney, and punt returner Gunner Olszewski all had to take a trip around the field on a penalty lap at one point.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is setting a high standard for his players, but it is obvious that some work still needs to be done. It will be interesting to see how the team performs in the infraction area on Friday.
As for yesterday’s things to watch, here are a few quick notes:
Mac Jones’ day-to-day consistency: Jones had an encouraging start to his first ever training camp, but we wanted to see him carry over any possible momentum on a day-to-day basis. Thursday began well for the rookie in that regard, but, as noted above, he faded late and had some issues during 11-on-11 work.
The Day 1 standouts: N’Keal Harry had a strong day on Wednesday but was unable to catch any of his two targets during team work on Thursday. Fellow wide receiver Nelson Agholor, as mentioned above, was targeted only once on an incompletion. Safety Adrian Phillips saw prominent action on Day 2 as well, but he did not make the big plays he had one day earlier.
The kickoff returner competition: After focusing on kickoff returns on Wednesday, the Patriots looked at punts on Thursday. All-Pro Gunner Olszewski was part of the return group, as were wide receivers Jakobi Meyers, Marvin Hall and Tre Nixon, as well as running back J.J. Taylor. Meyers can be seen as a surprising addition; he has not returned any kicks so far in his professional career and also has a mere two special teams snaps on his two-year NFL résumé.