The fifth day of training camp was a light one for the New England Patriots as they prepare to put on full pads for a first time on Tuesday morning. The team spent the first half of practice with an emphasis on its run game as well as walkthrough installations before wrapping up the back half of practice with five minutes of 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 work for the final 20 minutes.
Once the Patriots went to full-team work, the quarterbacks stepped into the spotlight again. Rookie Mac Jones in particular stood out, living up to his first-round status and delivering a strong overall performance.
Absentees: CB Stephon Gilmore (PUP), DT Bryon Cowart (PUP), QB Jarrett Stidham (PUP), LB Chase Winovich (PUP), TE Dalton Keene (PUP), TE Devin Asiasi (Covid-19), LB Cameron McGrone (NFI), S Joshuah Bledsoe (NFI), OL Ted Karras (injured)
DT Henry Anderson: The offseason acquisition had to leave the field late during the session after a hard collision. Anderson met with the Patriots’ medical staff on the sideline.
Quarterbacks: It was a heavy rep day for Mac Jones on Monday morning despite Cam Newton primarily running with the starters for the majority of practice. Although Newton had the lighter day in terms of throwing, it may have been Jones’ best day in camp so far. The Patriots got away from a lot of red zone work and started to expand the field a bit more. It was a lot of underneath work and check downs but Jones did throw a 45-yard dart in tight coverage to Isaiah Zuber for a touchdown.
Jones, at one point, got 16 straight reps and completed 12 of his 14 passes through that span. It was encouraging to see Jones finish practice strong as throughout the first few days, he would start out hot and sort of fizzle out towards the end. With the pads coming on tomorrow, the Patriots’ quarterback competition is just getting started.
Mac Jones’ pocket work: Despite no contact just yet, Jones has lived up to the hype in terms of his pocket awareness. Several times in camp we have seen the rookie get out of his three-step drop, and deliver the ball quickly and on time. He’s also made some nice plays on the run and stepped up in the pocket to elude pressure to make plays down the field — something we saw again on Monday.
It was one of the things that made Jones such a fit in Josh McDaniels scheme and Jones has certainly shown his pocket awareness is advanced despite being a rookie.
Raekwon McMillan’s hot start: Prior to practice, Bill Belichick praised newly acquired linebacker Raekwon McMillan for “his intelligence and work ethic.” McMillan has been one of the guys in the middle of the defense who's always communicating and making sure everyone is at their assignments.
He made a diving play over the middle in a 7-on-7 series on Monday, breaking up a pass from Cam Newton intended for Kendrick Bourne. With a crowded front seven, McMillan has certainly helped make a name for himself both in the middle of the defense and on special teams.
J.C. Jackson’s best day: Jackson is viewed as the Patriots No. 1 cornerback while Stephon Gilmore remains on the physically unable to perform list. With both Gilmore and Jackson set to be free agents following the season, the Patriots likely have a decision on their hands on who to pay CB1 money.
Jackson has had a solid camp throughout so far, but he had his best day on Monday. The former undrafted free agent stopped Jakobi Meyers on an out-route from the 5-yard line before Meyers could get into the end zone. A few plays later he made a great pass breakup on a fade to Nelson Agholor in the corner of the end zone on a pretty ball from Mac Jones. With Gilmore sidelined, Jackson continues to prove that he can be viewed as a legitimate number one corner.
Will Mac not get a normal number until the final roster is set?— Ⓙⓔⓕⓕ Ⓐⓑⓡⓐⓜⓞ (@JeffAbramo) August 2, 2021
Answer: Mac Jones is still dawning the # 50 in training camp - a rookie tradition in New England. However, the # 50 won’t be around too much longer as the rookie will have his number given to him prior to the Patriots first pre-season game on August 13th. All signs point to Jones wearing # 10 as he wore it in high school and college.
Who have u been most impressed with so far at camp?— NETS (@ReaperOfBKN) August 2, 2021
Answer: Nelson Agholor. The Patriots signing him to a two-year contract in free agency was met with some criticism, but so far in camp he has been their best wide receiver. While he had a bit of a down performance on Monday compared to the high standard he set last week, Agholor has built some good chemistry with Cam Newton and Mac Jones — all while looking like a true WR1 at time.