The New England Patriots were back on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium on Monday, holding their 16th overall session of the summer. While starting quarterback Cam Newton being a no-show stole the headlines during and after practice, his absence was not the only big story to come out of Foxborough: the Patriots held a full-pads session, and there was a lot going on.
Based on reports from practice, here are the standouts from Monday — for better or worse.
Winner: LB Josh Uche
After exiting Thursday’s preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles after just six snaps due to an undisclosed injury, Josh Uche was among the full participants on Monday. His return was in itself a positive development, but not the only reason why the second-year linebacker can be considered a winner of the session.
Uche, after all, made his impact felt again right away. He was able to put pressure on quarterback Mac Jones during 11-on-11 work and forced an incompletion; the play likely would have been a sack in a full-contact setting. A healthy Uche is a disruptive player, and Monday’s practice was further proof of that.
Winner: K Nick Folk
Nick Folk was not perfect in his return after having missed ten straight practices as well as New England’s first two preseason contests, but he still showed why he should be considered the frontrunner to earn the place kicking job this year. Folk attempted all five of the Patriots’ live field goals on Monday.
The veteran may need some time to get back into a rhythm, going only 3-for-5 in the process, but him being back and taking reps away from Quinn Nordin is a positive development from his point of view.
Loser: K Quinn Nordin
Speaking of Quinn Nordin, the undrafted rookie kicker has had a rough few days. Not only did he miss a combined three kicks against the Eagles — he sent a field goal and two extra points wide to the right — he also did not see any action on Monday. As noted above, Nick Folk monopolized kicking attempts while Nordin was not used in live drills.
Losers: WR Devin Ross & WR Kristian Wilkerson
The Patriots losing N’Keal Harry for the next month or so due to a shoulder injury opens up the door for other wide receivers to earn additional practice reps and playing time. On Monday, nobody stepped up to the plate.
Among the players competing for more prominent action is Devin Ross, but the fourth-year man did not take advantage of the opportunity so far. Quite the opposite, actually: not only did Ross not see any targets from Mac Jones during competitive team drills, he also dropped two throws coming his way from second-string QB Brian Hoyer.
Kristian Wilkerson also had a quiet day. The second-year man, who saw some action with the first-team offense earlier in camp but has recently struggled with drops, was also not targeted by Jones. He appeared to compete with Harry for the last spot on the wide receiver depth chart at one point, but on Monday failed to step up.
Winner: OT Yodny Cajuste
The Patriots are well-set atop their offensive tackle depth chart, with Isaiah Wynn and Trent Brown locked into the starting positions on the left and right end of the line, respectively. The fourth spot behind them and third/swing option Justin Herron, however, is up for grabs.
Yodny Cajuste is making a late push to earn it if New England decides to go four-deep. The former third-round draft pick, who missed both his rookie and sophomore seasons due to injury, is quietly building a quality argument to be kept around. He already looked good during the game in Philadelphia and on Monday was the next man up at right tackle. Cajuste is a player to watch heading into the final week of preseason.