Welcome to the fourth day of the New England Patriots’ 2021 training camp. The team will hold its fourth straight practice of the week on Saturday morning. Even though there will be no full contact yet again — the team will be in shells for the second straight day after starting practice with helmets only — 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.
Quarterbacks keeping up the pressure
From a quarterback perspective, Friday was the best day of camp so far. Both incumbent starter Cam Newton and first-round rookie Mac Jones looked good, spreading the ball around well while showing some good chemistry with their targets.
Heading into Day 4, the question is whether or not they can keep things ups. Both Newton and Jones were a bit inconsistent over the first two days of camp, after all, and being able to successfully and consistently string positive days together will be key to their respective outlook in the competition for the starting role.
A defensive bounce-back
The quarterbacks and their pass catchers having a productive day very much came at the expense of the defense. The unit did have some positive moments on Friday — the entire offense had to do some pushups following a 3-on-3 period at one point — but it remains to be seen how it bounces back after some ups and down during 11-on-11s.
One player to watch in particular will be cornerback Joejuan Williams. The former second-round draft pick is competing for a depth spot on the roster, and he needs to start standing out for positive reasons on a consistent basis in order not to get lost in the competition.
Obviously, we will always keep an eye out for any injuries even though there is a difference in physicality between players wearing shells versus them being in full gear. They will not put on the full protective outfit until next week, limiting the exposure when it comes to getting hurt.
That does not mean there is not risk involved in practicing. Offensive lineman Ted Karras figured this out on Friday, going down late during the session after being rolled up. Will any players join him on the sidelines during session number four? Hopefully not, but you can never know even with players in shells instead of full pads.
As for yesterday’s things to watch, here are a few quick notes:
Mac Jones’ resiliency: The 15th overall selection in this year’s draft had a disappointing end to his Thursday practice, but he bounced back in solid fashion on Friday. While he went only 8-for-18 during team drills, he fired some impressive passes and showed the short memory that is needed at the quarterback position in the NFL.
The Agholor-Newton connection: Cam Newton had targeted Nelson Agholor only once in team drills on the first two days of practice, but that changed on Friday. Newton looked the wide receiver’s way on five occasions, hitting him for three receptions. Agholor also caught two passes on four attempts from Mac Jones. Despite one drop, the wide receiver might have been the best player on the field — and one that showed some solid chemistry with his quarterbacks.
Team discipline: The Patriots saw several of their players embark on penalty laps during Thursday’s session. On Friday, however, the team discipline looked noticeably better. There was one prominent exception: J.J. Taylor had to run a lap after muffing a punt.