It was another beautiful day at Gillette Stadium for Day 3 of New England Patriots training camp. The defense dominated the first two days of the week, but on Friday afternoon it was clear that the offense won the day. Cam Newton and Mac Jones were both firing on all cylinders, with the two quarterback leveraging the team’s high-priced free agent signings Jonnu Smith, Hunter Henry and Nelson Agholor heavily.
The Patriots certainly ramped up the intensity on Friday afternoon. We had our first Foxboro scrap of the year as Dee Virgin got into it with someone during 11-on-11s. The two were in each other’s face before both sides broke it up. There was still no contact with the pads coming on Tuesday, but there was a lot of 11-on-11 work.
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), LB Cameron McGrone (NFI), S Joshuah Bledsoe (NFI), LB Anfernee Jennings (personal).
Returnees: RB Rhamondre Stevenson (NFI)
OL Ted Karras: Karras got rolled up on late in practice and did not return. He walked off on his own power with the trainers.
Quarterbacks: It was arguably the best day for both Cam Newton and Mac Jones, and it was clear that the offense won the day. Cam Newton started out 1-for-3 with an overthrow to Nelson Agholor on a deep crosser and then had a screen batted down to James White. From that point on he was laser sharp, though, finishing 12-for-17 by leaning heavily on both Jonnu Smith and Nelson Agholor.
Mac Jones’ deep ball and ball placement were on display Friday afternoon. He finished the day only 8-for-18 but was plagued by three drops, two from Jakobi Meyers and one from Agholor. On Agholor’s drop, Jones sat in the pocket and dropped it right into the bucket with the receiver having about 2-3 yards of separation on the play. His best throw of the day came to Kendrick Bourne on a corner route to the back of the end zone. Bourne was working out of the slot and Jones placed the pass perfectly for a touchdown.
Pats QB’s today:— Ryan Spagnoli (@Ryan_Spags) July 30, 2021
Overall,good days for both quarterbacks. Cam with noticeably more zip on the ball and Jones ball placement was on display despite three drops. Best 11’s for both of the week, imo. #Patriots
Following practice, both Newton and Jones spoke to the media and described their relationship together. The veteran had nothing but praise for the rookie, with Jones looking forward to “making each other better and helping each other win games.” There is a quarterback competition brewing in New England, but it’s clear that it’s a healthy one.
Nelson Agholor’s strong start: For the last three days, Nelson Agholor has been the best wide receiver on the field by a landslide. The Patriots’ big money investment has certainly caught the eyes of everyone down at Gillette Stadium due to his downfield speed and ability to separate.
I had Agholor for six catches on Friday and two of them were highlight-reel type plays. Both came on passes from Cam Newton; one was a deep out route where he went up and won a 50/50 ball, the other was a full extension that saw him pluck the ball out of mid-air while coming down smoothly with two feet for a touchdown. The Patriots haven’t had a playmaker or a consistent separator on the outside since Brandin Cooks was here in 2017. but Agholor is showing early that he's been worth the investment.
Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry: It is no secret that the Patriots have gotten virtually nothing from the tight end position the last few seasons. However, after the acquisitions of Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry, they will look to help transform their offense and dominate in the middle of the field.
Today was Jonnu Smith’s best day so far; he hauled in five catches and lined up all over the place making himself a real mismatch for the defense. Hunter Henry made his presence felt as well; the Patriots continued their red zone work, hauling in a pair of touchdowns with one of them being a 50/50 ball that saw Henry completely outmuscle the defender for a score. As Jonnu Smith said on Monday, it is indeed “a Boston TE party.”
Kyle Dugger’s and Josh Uche’s Year 2 leap on display: It’s been tough to pick out which guys on defense have really stood out with no contact. However, both Josh Uche and Kyle Dugger catch your eye when watching them on the field.
Uche is constantly flying around and causing havoc in the backfield while lining up all over the place. Kyle Dugger looks bigger, stronger and faster in Year 2 and has been a force in coverage. He made a nice play against Kendrick Bourne on Friday, diving and batting a crossing route out of mid-air. The Patriots’ two second-round picks of 2020 look like they will be a key pieces to their defense for quite some time.
Kendrick Bourne’s quickness: He hasn't had as many targets as Nelson Agholor so it’s been tough for him to stand out, but one thing stands out when watching Kendrick Bourne (even when he’s not open or going through drills): he has some quick feet.
Bourne has the quickness and foot speed to be a true difference maker for the Patriots’ offense in 2021. His ability to get in and out of his routes make him a tough cover for defensive backs. As New England looks for life after Julian Edelman, Bourne may be the guy to do it with his ability to line up all over the formation and consistently help move the chains.