After their first off-day on Sunday, the New England Patriots were back on the practice fields on Monday for their fifth session of this year’s training camp. It was a less intense affair than previous ones, with the team seemingly getting a lighter workload before full pads are being put on on Tuesday.
Nonetheless, there were still a few standout performers worth taking a closer look at.
Winner: QB Mac Jones
Mac Jones was impressive on Monday, completing 21 of 28 pass attempts in a competitive team setting and repeatedly showcasing the tools that made him a first-round draft pick earlier this offseason. He developed a good rhythm and also held his own versus the starting defense, especially early on: he went a combined 6-for-10 while going up against the top-level D.
He may not have been perfect — Jones’ second series versus the starting defense saw him complete just 1 of 4 throws — but the youngster still can feel good about his performance. He furthermore had the play of the day when he connected with Isaiah Zuber on a 45-yard touchdown pass with D’Angelo Ross and Dee Virgin in coverage.
Winners: WR Isaiah Zuber & WR Jakobi Meyers
As noted above, Isaiah Zuber and Mac Jones had the biggest play of the day — a 45-yard score in double coverage. While the throw was impressive, the connection also worked because the second-year wideout was able to successfully split the defenders on the deep post.
As for Jakobi Meyers, he had his best practice of the summer. Seeing targets from both Jones and Cam Newton, he caught 6 of 7 passes thrown his way during team drills.
Loser: RB J.J. Taylor
J.J. Taylor is competing for a roster spot as both a rotational running back and a return man, but he has had some issues so far in the latter role. After already muffing one punt last week, he again let a kick go through his fingers on Monday. Plays like these do not earn you the trust of the coaching staff; for a bubble player like Taylor they could also be the difference between making the team or getting cut.
Winner: LB Raekwon McMillan
Bill Belichick spoke highly of Raekwon McMillan on Monday morning, and the first-year Patriot lived up to the praise during practice just two hours later. McMillan, who was signed to a one-year contract in free agency, ended the session with a pair of pass breakups — no other defender was able to get his hands on the ball more often on Monday than that.
Losers: WR Nelson Agholor & WR Devin Ross
Nelson Agholor has been the Patriots’ best wide receiver through the first four practices of training camp, but he had a down day on Monday compared to the standards he set last week. Agholor did catch 3 of 5 targets during team drills, but he also bobbled one on-point throw from Mac Jones that was knocked incomplete and also lost a fumble during one ball-protection drill. He also had to run a penalty lap.
Furthermore, he and Cam Newton were unable to connect on the final play of the session. The play was not Agholor’s fault, though: Newton led the wideout too far on a slant. Instead of the offense converting the “must have it” play from the 4-yard line, it had to run a penalty lap — including coaches.
As far as Devin Ross is concerned, he also struggled during that protection drill. The wideout lost two fumbles during the drill that saw two players try to knock the ball loose. He was not the only player to do that but as opposed to fourth-round rookie running back Rhamondre Stevenson, who also put the ball on the ground twice, Ross is no lock to make the team. Fumbles can be the difference between him keeping a job or not.
Loser: OL Alex Redmond
Speaking of players having to go on penalty laps. Interior offensive lineman Alex Redmond had to take two of them for jumping offsides. Like other players on this list, Redmond is operating on a shorter leash. The former Cincinnati Bengals starter, who joined the Patriots on a one-year deal earlier this year, is competing for a backup role.
Penalty laps are not the way to earn it.
Winner: CB C.J. Jackson
J.C. Jackson had one of the best plays of the day on Monday. The fourth-year cornerback reacted quickly on one pass completion from Mac Jones to Jakobi Meyers, and was able to push the wideout out of bounds short of the goal line.
Jackson later also was responsible for the aforementioned incompletion from Jones intended for Nelson Agholor. With the wideout bobbling the well-placed pass, the defender was able to get his hand in place to knock the pass away for the incompletion. It was another very good play for the Patriots’ top cornerback with Stephon Gilmore out.