After the New England Patriots’ first padded practice of the summer on Tuesday, the team retreated back to shells for a lighter Wednesday workload. The Patriots primarily focused on special teams play and walkthroughs of the run game before diving into some 7-on-7s and 11-on-11s.
While the defense made life difficult for the offense the majority of the day, wide receiver N’Keal Harry shined. The third-year pro was peppered with targets in competitive drills and made several impressive snags.
The pads are expected to be back on on Thursday, but first, here's today’s Patriots Training Camp Notebook.
Absentees: CB Stephon Gilmore (PUP), DT Bryon Cowart (PUP), QB Jarrett Stidham (PUP), LB Chase Winovich (PUP), TE Dalton Keene (PUP), TE Devin Asiasi (Covid-19), LB Cameron McGrone (NFI), S Joshuah Bledsoe (NFI), OL Ted Karras (injured), LB Raekwon McMillan (injured), DL Akeem Spence
Returnees: DL Henry Anderson
S Cody Davis: The veteran appeared to tweak his knee on a deep catch by Gunner Olszewski. The trainers took a look at him, but he finished the session.
Quarterbacks: After struggling when the pads came on on Tuesday, Mac Jones was much more impressive Wednesday morning. Jones saw a large stretch of 16 consecutive snaps in 11-on-11 work, half with players considered as starters. After starting 5-for-5, the rookie went through a rough patch, throwing back-to-back interceptions (a ball off Jonnu Smith’s hands and an overthrow to Tre Nixon) and having a pass broken up by Myles Bryant on a throw behind Gunner Olszewski.
Jones responded well however, as he fired the play of the day on the next pass — hitting Olszewski in stride on a deep corner route. On the play, Jones was able to move up in the pocket to avoid the rush before dropping the ball in the bucket. The rookie continues to showcase impressive movement inside the pocket, something to keep a look at as he starts to face live pass rushes. In total, Jones finished the day 13-of-18 in 11-on-11s and 4-of-5 in 7-on-7s — mostly working the underneath areas of the field.
As for Newton, it was a step back from his impressive showing Tuesday. The veteran went 5-for-7 with an interception in 11-on-11 work and just 2-for-6 in 7-on-7s with another interception. His decision making is improving — something offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels noted after practice — but his accuracy took a step back from Tuesday.
After Bill Belichick stated on Monday that he was looking for more consistency and production from the position, neither quarterback has consistently strung consecutive impressive days together. We’ll see if Newton can look sharper when he puts the pads back on.
N’Keal Harry earns player of the day: After Nelson Agholor was the best receiver on the field for the Patriots in the first week of practice, Week 2 has gone to N’Keal Harry. The third-year receiver had another impressive day on Wednesday, hauling in six catches on six targets in competitive teams drills. Harry had the catch of the day as well, making a full-extension, diving reception to snag a pass from J.C. Jackson.
While we will have to wait and see if Harry’s impressive start to camp will translate over to the field, it’s a promising start for the former first-round selection. He has noticeable more wiggle within his routes and is having the best training camp of his Patriots’ career. His future remains uncertain, but Harry’s skillset is certainly valuable and complimentary to the rest of the Patriots’ wide receiver room.
J.C. Jackson dominates: After having his best practice of the summer on Tuesday, Jackson was again lights-out on Wednesday. The 25-year-old had back-to-back plays in which he smothered Jakobi Meyers — jumping a hitch route and intercepting Newton and then breaking up an inside option route.
The only way the Patriots offense was able to beat Jackson on Wednesday was due to Harry’s diving catch, as well as a leaping grab by Nelson Agholor. If the Patriots are without Stephon Gilmore to start the season, J.C. Jackson looks ready to fill his shoes.
Joejuan Williams struggles: The 2019 second-round pick has firmly found himself on the roster bubble. Williams was beat twice on Wednesday by Harry during team drills, as he looks simply too slow at times in coverage. New England is thin at he outside cornerback position, which could result Williams in making the roster, but he certainly will have to earn it.
- There was a meeting of championship minds at practice today. Vanderbilt baseball head coach Tim Corbin was in attendance today and spent 20-plus minutes chatting it up with Bill Belichick. Corbin, who is a three-time National Coach of the Year, three-time SEC Coach of the Year, and two-time NCAA champion, is a native of New Hampshire.
- Rookie defensive lineman Christian Barmore was at practice Wednesday after he had his left leg checked out by trainers Tuesday. Barmore was walking with a noticeable limp after getting checked out Tuesday, but never departed from the practice fields. The rookie appeared to be a full participant Wednesday and had no noticeable limp.
- Kendrick Bourne earned some birthday love from the fans and fellow players today. Running back Brandon Bolden led a “Happy Birthday” song with fans in attendance. He earned no love from the coaches however, as he had several expletives thrown his way after not lining up on time for a kick drill.
- Rookie wide receiver Tre Nixon and Mac Jones continue to develop a strong connection here in camp. Nixon specialized as a vertical receiver at UCF, but has been making his presence felt in the slot in Foxboro. Nixon has feasted against scout team defenses in between the numbers, allowing Jones to get the ball out early. With a crowded wide receiver room, Nixon could be a strong candidate for the Foxboro Flu, and there chemistry is one to watch.