After one day in full pads, the New England Patriots returned to shells and helmets for their seventh practice of this year’s training camp. The outfit change also brought a change in intensity: whereas Tuesday’s session was a physical affair, Wednesday’s was a bit lighter in comparison.
What did not change was the fact that plenty of players stood out for better or worse. Let’s take a look at them.
Winner: WR N’Keal Harry
N’Keal Harry was the best player on the field on Wednesday. The former first-round draft pick looked the part during the session and finished with a team-high six receptions on six targets during team drills. Catching passes from both Cam Newton (1 of 1) and Mac Jones (5 of 5), Harry looks like a much more confident player who finally has figured out how to use his frame and catch radius to his advantage.
Not only did he lead the team in receptions, he also added one of the best plays of the day. Harry made a fully extended diving catch to reel in an off-target throw from Newton that otherwise had a high chance of getting intercepted. Plays like these and the consistency he has been showing will help Harry make the team — or boost his trade value.
Winner: CB J.C. Jackson
While Stephon Gilmore’s future remains in question as of this point in training camp, J.C. Jackson continues to show that he is a legitimate CB1.
Coming off his best practice of camp so far, Jackson had another strong outing. The former rookie free agent, who is playing for a new contract this year, finished with one interception and one pass breakup — impressive plays that happened back to back.
First, Jackson was able to stay in Jakobi Meyers’ pocket through his hitch route to make the pick off Cam Newton. On the very next play, he quickly reacted to a Meyers drag route to get his hands on another pass for the breakup.
Loser: CB Joejuan Williams
For the second day in a row, Joejuan Williams finds himself in the “loser” category. What happened this time? He was beaten twice by N’Keal Harry in team drills, both times failing to showcase the moving skills needed to stick with his assigned receiver.
Williams has the length to be a factor against taller receivers, but he has not made use of it at this point in training camp. The former second-round draft pick appears to be fighting for his roster life this summer, even with the Patriots being comparatively thin at the outside cornerback position.
Winners: CB Jonathan Jones & CB Myles Bryant
While the outside cornerback spot was a mixed bag on Wednesday — see the J.C. Jackson and Joejuan Williams entries — the slot guys looked good. Two players in particular stood out: Jonathan Jones and Myles Bryant. While Jones had an interception versus third-string passer Brian Hoyer and nearly added another one on the very next play, Bryant broke up a Mac Jones throw intended for Gunner Olszewski.
Loser: QB Cam Newton
On Tuesday, Cam Newton was clearly the Patriots’ best quarterback. On Wednesday, he showed some major inconsistencies again and was unable to build on the momentum he may have created during his last practice.
Newton still showed some signs of progress compared to his 2020 version and continues to lead off every drill, but the former league MVP also is still running both hot and cold. On Wednesday, he completed 7 of 13 passes during competitive team drills and also threw two interceptions — one by Adrian Colbert, the other by J.C. Jackson.
Winner: QB Mac Jones
All week long, Mac Jones was the polar opposite of Cam Newton. On Monday, he was good while Newton was bad. On Tuesday, he was very bad while Newton was very good. On Wednesday, he was good again while Newton was up-and-down again.
Along the way, the rookie showed his mental toughness: he had his worst practice of the summer on Tuesday, but bounced back in style during the Wednesday session. Was he perfect? Not at all — Jones had some errant passes during a one 16-play period — but he looked comfortable again and showcased the talents that made him a first-round draft pick earlier this year.
Jones finished the day going 17-for-23 in a competitive team setting with one interception that was the result of Jonnu Smith not being able to make a difficult catch.