The New England Patriots will be back on the practice fields for the second straight day this morning, continuing their preparation before the New York Giants will be in town on Wednesday and Thursday. Tuesday’s session, meanwhile, will feature only the Patriots themselves but there will still be plenty of storylines to follow.
The session will unfortunately not be open to fans, but Pats Pulpit will be there to keep an eye out for the following.
Mac Jones versus the starting defense
With Cam Newton out after a “misunderstanding” about Covid-19 protocols, the Patriots gave Mac Jones the majority of reps on Monday. One of only two quarterbacks present alongside veteran backup Brian Hoyer, the first-round rookie had some encouraging moment but also his fair share of miscues versus the starting defense.
In total, Jones went completed only 12 of 24 throws against New England’s starters during competitive 11-on-11s and 7-on-7s. While context matters — he had two throwaways while another incompletion might have been flagged as defensive pass interference — the youngster did little to seriously challenge Newton’s standing as the starting quarterback “for now.”
Obviously, though, he will get two more chances to prove himself with Newton not allowed to return to the team facility until Thursday. The first step will have to be taken on Tuesday.
The depth wide receivers
With N’Keal Harry sidelined because of a shoulder injury suffered against the Philadelphia Eagles last Thursday, the Patriots have an opening on their wide receiver depth chart. On Monday, however, no player could capitalize: the only wideouts to be targeted by Mac Jones in competitive drills were Nelson Agholor, Kendrick Bourne, Jakobi Meyers, and Gunner Olszewski — all of them locks or near-locks to make the team.
Will somebody else step up on Tuesday? There are plenty of candidates: Kristian Wilkerson, Tre Nixon, Isaiah Zuber and Devin Ross all have a golden opportunity to showcase their skills. They failed to so on Monday — Wilkerson, Zuber and Ross were quiet, Nixon was out for a fourth straight day — but will get another go on Tuesday.
Joejuan Williams’ performance
With Stephon Gilmore still on the physically unable to perform list, former second-round draft pick Joejuan Williams has seemingly established himself as the frontrunner to start opposite new CB1 J.C. Jackson. He had another good session on Monday, but what will be important for him is stringing days together.
If Williams can do that this week, he will have a realistic chance of making the roster regardless of Gilmore’s status. If not, other cornerbacks such as Myles Bryant, Michael Jackson or Dee Virgin might just have a chance to surpass him on the depth chart late in the process.
As for yesterday’s things to watch, here are a few quick notes:
Who will be out there? The Patriots had some solid attendance on Monday, with some key players returning after previously having missed time: tight end Jonnu Smith and defensive tackle Lawrence Guy were back in action, as were linebackers Josh Uche and Anfernee Jennings, cornerback Jonathan Jones as well as kicker Nick Folk and long snapper Joe Cardona. The absentees list, which did not give any indication about potential roster cuts, saw the aforementioned additions of quarterback Cam Newton and wide receiver N’Keal Harry.
Practice intensity: While the Patriots could have taken things slowly to kick off a five-day stretch worth of practices, they did not do so on Monday. The team was in full pads coming off its three-day break after the second preseason game, setting the tone for what will come later in the week. The practices against New York are expected to be held in full padding as well.
Quinn Nordin: With Nick Folk returning after missing 10 straight practices and both preseason games, Nordin was relegated to second fiddle. The undrafted rookie kicker did not attempt any live field goal attempts after exclusively handling the duties during Folk’s absence. While the veteran was far from perfect — he went 3-for-5 — the Patriots were confident giving him all the reps after Nordin’s disappointing performance against Philadelphia on Thursday.