The New England Patriots were back on the practice fields Thursday for their second and final joint practice with the New York Giants. Again, it was a scorcher on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium, as temperatures reached into the 90s. The intensity was slightly lower than Wednesday, as the team’s manufactured plenty of situations in both 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 work.
So, lets dive into today’s Training Camp Notebook:
Absent: WR N’Keal Harry, TE Matt LaCosse, DL Nick Thurman, CB Justin Bethel, TE Kahale Warring
PUP/NFI: QB Jarrett Stidham (PUP), CB Stephon Gilmore (PUP), S Joshuah Bledsoe (NFI), LB Cameron McGrone (NFI), LB Terez Hall (PUP), DT Byron Cowart (PUP)
Returnees: QB Cam Newton, WR Tre Nixon, LB Josh Uche
Notes: WR Nelson Agholor and OT Isaiah Wynn were both present after leaving Wednesday’s practice early.
CB Jonathan Jones: Jones visited the athletic training area near the end of practice. Despite suffering an apparent lower left leg injury and looking in pain, he walked over to the training area by himself.
C David Andrews: Andrews also took a trip over to the athletic training area. It appeared to be a right foot/ankle issue. Like Jones, he did not finish practice.
Mac Jones’ up-and-down day: After a dominant performance by Mac Jones on Wednesday, it was an up-and-down showing by the rookie Thursday. Despite playing second fiddle to Cam Newton, Jones did see work with the starting unit in 11-on-11s. Jones led the offense on a long, 20-play drive that was overall sloppy all-around.
The drive featured an interception that was wiped out by a penalty flag, one false start, two fourth-down conversions, and four drops by Patriots’ pass catchers — one coming on Jones’ best throw of the day on a go-route to Gunner Olszewski, who had a step on the defender. If Olszewski hauled in the pass, the storyline on Jones’ morning could have been much different.
On the wiped-out interception, Jones was looking for tight end Jonnu Smith up the seam, but did not see the backside safety Logan Ryan, who jumped in to make the play. Jones credited the Giants defense for playing better overall today and specifically mentioned their safeties mixing things up on the back end.
Jones’ main drive did result in a touchdown, but that too was not picture perfect. Jones’ touchdown pass was hauled in after an acrobatic adjustment by Kendrick Bourne in the back of the end zone on a throw that likely was headed out of bounds.
Cam Newton’s return: Cam Newton, who made his return to practice after his Covid-19 misunderstanding, was the first quarterback up for the Patriots in 11-on-11s. Newton was solid and more efficient then Jones, leading an eight-play touchdown drive. Newton completed two passes each to Kendrick Bourne and Jakobi Meyers before Damien Harris plunged in a touchdown to cap off the drive. Newton also had a pass almost intercepted by cornerback James Bradberry. The lone drive was Newton’s only one of practice.
While Bill Belichick noted in his morning press conference that he had “no timetable” to name a starting quarterback for Week 1, today indicated Cam Newton will be under center against Miami.
Josh Uche stars: The Patriots’ second-year linebacker was the star of the day on Thursday. In the Giants’ first stretch of 11-on-11s, Uche, who returned after missing yesterday’s practice, recorded a would-be sack on quarterback Daniel Jones and then drew a holding penalty in back-to-back plays. Later in practice, Uche notched another would-be sack and forced an incompletion in coverage of Giants running back Saquon Barkley. “Little Judon,” as Dont’a Hightower call him after practice, looks primed for a breakout season.
Patriots’ pass-catchers struggle: It was a tough overall day for the Patriots pass catchers. Throughout practice, there were a handful of drops by an assortment of skill position players. The aforementioned drop by Olszewski erased a would be touchdown, as Damien Harris and Jonnu Smith also had drops on the same drive. Nelson Agholor also could have came up with a pass on the sideline, which a New York defender appeared to get his hands on. The drops resulted in Jones’ extended drive. Once again, Jakobi Meyers was the best, most reliable pass catcher on the field for New England.
- The Patriots defense gave up their first explosive play of the joint practices on Thursday. Daniel Jones hit Dante Pettis for a long completion after a bust in coverage by J.C. Jackson and Adrian Phillips.
- New England’s offensive line will be a problem for the opposition this year — especially the right side. Damien Harris was able to walk into the end zone behind Shaq Mason and Trent Brown to cap off the Patriots’ first offensive drive. Defenders have almost zero chance with the combination of Mason and Brown coming after them.
- Mac Jones was glad to see quarterback Cam Newton back at practice today. He noted in his post-practice media availability that “everyone was happy to see [Newton]” this morning. Jones also recalled how helpful Newton is on the practice field, “Even today, there was something that popped up — he did something with the ‘Mike’ — and I can kind of learn from what he did. We talked through it.”
- After Matthew Slater praised Joe Judge before the Giants came to town, Judge had some high regards when talking about the long-time Patriot captain before practice. “He made me a better coach every day,” Judge said. “If Matt needed a kidney tomorrow, he’d have it today.”