The New England Patriots were back on the practice fields after taking a few days off following their 22-13 win over the Washington Football Team in the preseason opener. It was a light day, though, as the team prepared to take off for Philadelphia later on Sunday afternoon for two joint practices with the Eagles before preseason game number two on Thursday night.
While the team didn’t partake in much high-intensity team drills, the Patriots got plenty of good and a some bad news during Sunday’s session.
Absentees: CB Stephon Gilmore (PUP), DT Bryon Cowart (PUP), QB Jarrett Stidham (PUP), TE Dalton Keene (PUP), LB Cameron McGrone (NFI), S Joshuah Bledsoe (NFI), LB Raekwon McMillan (IR), K Nick Folk, DL Lawrence Guy, LB Anfernee Jennings, CB Myles Bryant, K Nick Folk, WR Tre Nixon
Returnees: LB Chase Winovich, TE Hunter Henry, C David Andrews, WR Nelson Agholor
Also not present for the session were LB Rashod Berry, TE David Wells and WR Marvin Hall. The three have been released by the Patriots today with the roster cutdown deadline from 90 to 85 players coming up on Tuesday.
TE Jonnu Smith: As the Patriots got one tight end back on Sunday, they lost another in the process. Smith apparently rolled his ankle during a drill and walked off the field barefoot with the trainers. It is believed not to be serious but it is likely that Smith will miss the rest of this week as the team prepares to have a healthy roster heading into the regular season.
They’re baaaaack! Last Sunday’s practice, the Patriots lost a number of important players with Hunter Henry (shoulder), David Andrews (hand) and Joe Cardona (hand) all leaving practice and missing this past week of work. However, the Patriots got Henry and Andrews as well as wide receiver Nelson Agholor back for this morning’s practice.
Henry is still nursing his shoulder injury as he partook in the walkthrough but no drills after that, and Andrews was a full-go after taking paternity leave and resting his injured snapping hand. Agholor returned from his unknown injury after being absent since last Saturday’s practice. The Patriots also got edge linebacker and core special teamer Chase Winovich back off the PUP list this morning. It was unknown what Winovich was dealing with, but it was the first time we have seen him since OTAs in the spring.
Next men up at tight end: With Hunter Henry limited, Jonnu Smith injured, and David Wells released, the Patriots had only three tight ends standing at the end of the session. Devin Asiasi and Matt LaCosse were the first men up, with Troy Fumagalli as a third option behind them.
Quarterbacks: It was a light throwing day for all the quarterbacks with some 11-on-11 work that saw Cam Newton, Mac Jones and Brian Hoyer all get reps. Newton worked primarily with the ones and led off every drill while Jones worked primarily with the twos. With a big week coming up in Philadelphia including two joint practices and a game on Thursday night, this is where the battle for the starting position will begin to heat up for both Newton and Jones.
What to look for in Philadelphia: Bill Belichick is on the record saying that joint practices typically mean more to him than preseason games when evaluating. It’s a chance to get everybody reps in practice when the intensity and physicality replicate the regular season.
As for Newton and Jones, this week’s session will be an opportunity for them to get extended looks versus an opposing defense as they both continue to make their case for the starting job. As for N’Keal Harry, he’s had a strong start to camp this year but has struggled to put it together on game day. With Kristian Wilkerson continuing to make a name for himself both on special teams and as a depth receiver, both he and Harry will need a big week to prove to the staff why they deserve what is likely the last spot on the roster at that position.