The New England Patriots were back on the practice fields on Tuesday to hold their second practice of the week. As opposed to the first session, however, this one looked noticeably different: players were in full pads after wearing only shells on Monday — the first full-gear practice of the summer.
Needless to say that intensity reached a new level, and that there is plenty to discuss. With that said, let’s clean out the practice notebook from the sixth day of New England’s training camp.
Kristian Wilkerson is hitting his stride
One of the surprise standouts of this year’s training camp so far, second-year wide receiver Kristian Wilkerson has started to hit his stride and to develop into a player to watch. While the youngster did not register any catches in team work on Tuesday, his increased workload with the starting offense is worth pointing out.
Wilkerson still has plenty of work ahead in order to carve out a role on the roster. However, his focus on “gaining trust, gaining confidence” is starting to pay off as he acknowledged after Tuesday’s session.
“Just doing my job, doing the details that we go through in the class room. Just doing my job, and the ball will come if you do what you’re supposed to do,” he said.
Wilkerson joined the Patriots as a practice squad pickup last September. He spent his entire 2020 rookie season on the developmental team but was elevated to the game-day roster on one occasion. He played two snaps and did not register any statistics.
If his practice performance so far this summer is a sign of things to come, however, the 24-year-old should be able to add to those numbers this year.
New England’s injury list is starting to grow
After already seeing offensive lineman Ted Karras and defensive lineman Henry Anderson go down during practice on Friday and Monday, respectively, the Patriots added two more players to their injury list on the first day of full-pads work.
First, it was linebacker Raekwon McMillan, who was rolled up on a punt team. Later, defensive tackle Christian Barmore joined him on the sidelines following an apparent foot injury.
Both McMillan and Barmore looked good on Tuesday and appear to be on their way to carve out prominent roles on the New England defense this season. Their injury statuses — just like Karras’ and Anderson’s — will be worth keeping a close eye on. The belief, however, is that none of these players has suffered a major injury.
Deatrich Wise Jr. praises the Patriots’ offensive line
The Patriots take an iron-sharpens-iron approach along the line of scrimmage. Their offensive line projects as one of the best in the NFL, with the defensive front seven being vastly improved over last year’s unit.
The two groups going at each other should only help both get better, as Deatrich Wise Jr. pointed out on Tuesday.
“I believe we have one of the best offensive lines that I’ve seen so far,” he said. “These guys come to work every day; they’re big, they’re stronger, they’ve gotten better. I feel like this is pretty much our best look that we’re going to see, and I take much pride in going against these guys every day.”
Wise Jr. was re-signed by the Patriots earlier this offseason on a four-year, $22 million contract. The defensive end should therefore be expected to play a big role up front for the team this season.
Needless to say he is pretty happy about the pads being put on again.
“It’s great. As a defensive player, powerful player, I love to put on pads. I thought this is real football. It’s hard getting the timing and everything when we have shells on and just helmets. This is actually when you have to play. This is the best simulation to an actual game that you can get, so I love things like that.”
Devin McCourty likes New England’s leadership
Entering the second season after Tom Brady’s departure, the Patriots remain in a transitional period. However, veteran safety Devin McCourty is pleased with how the team’s leadership has handled the situation and is trying to actively help the youngsters on the roster to build a stable foundation for the future.
“That’s been really cool to see those guys doing whatever they can to make him better to help him along the way. That’s the greatest thing about this league. It really is a fraternity of players,” McCourty told reporters after Tuesday’s practice.
“Watching that group get each other better, compete at a high level against each other but also say, ‘Let me help you, I’ve been through that before’ — that’s what it’s about. That’s how you build as a team. That’s how you get better and the future of the Patriots organization ends up in good hands. I think guys who have been here a long time like myself, you care about that. You’re invested in this organization. That’s something we all try to do as older players.”
Ronnie Perkins is learning from Tedy Bruschi
Former Patriots linebacker and current Arizona assistant coach Tedy Bruschi made another appearance at practice on Tuesday, spending time with wide receivers/kick returners coach Troy Brown — one of Bruschi’s former teammates — and briefly chatting with quarterback Mac Jones. Later, the three-time Super Bowl winner also worked with Ronnie Perkins.
Perkins, a fourth-round draft pick out of Oklahoma this spring, is trying to make the end-linebacker transition that Bruschi successfully made upon his arrival in the NFL in 1996. Bruschi gave the rookie some tips during their 1-on-1, and he seems to have enjoyed meeting the franchise legend:
Standing on the shoulders of giants… blessed and honored to receive advice from one of the best to ever lace up the cleats. pic.twitter.com/0XIzIt259Y— Ronnie Perkins™ (@7avageszn) August 4, 2021
As for Perkins’ individual goals heading into his first year in the NFL, he kept them at a pretty basic level.
“Coming in every day, getting stronger, getting better,” he told reporters on Tuesday. “Expanding my game and doing whatever I can to just catch up to the vets, you know, be on their level.”