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3 things to watch on the eighth day of the Patriots’ 2021 training camp

Related: Cleaning out the notebook from Day 7 of Patriots training camp

NFL: New England Patriots Training Camp Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

After returning to shells for their seventh training camp practice on Wednesday, the New England Patriots will be back in full pads for session No. 8 on Thursday morning. The change in attire will certainly lead to a change in intensity again, with players allowed to initiate full contact for just the second time all summer.

Here are three things we will keep an eye on during the session.

Quarterback consistency

After one week worth of practices, the Patriots’ quarterback position has been a rollercoaster ride. While incumbent Cam Newton and first-round rookie Mac Jones have both had terrific moments, they also were unable to sustain them from one practice to the next or even from one series to another.

With the Patriots returning to full pads on Thursday, our eyes will naturally be on them. Will Newton rebound after a mediocre performance yesterday? Will Jones look better than he did during the first fully-padded session two days ago? The answers to those questions will tell us a lot about where New England’s quarterback position is at with only one week to go until the preseason opener against Washington.

Outside cornerback performance

With Stephon Gilmore still absent due to his quad injury, J.C. Jackson took over the number one role at the outside cornerback position. He has looked good, but there are questions about how New England might fill the spot opposite him if Gilmore remains absent for an extended period of time.

At this point in time, free agency addition Jalen Mills appears to be the frontrunner for the CB2 spot but he might be better suited to play inside. The same goes for Myles Bryant. Based on draft status, Joejuan Williams should also be in the running but he has struggled the last two days. Who else is competing? Michael Jackson and D’Angelo Ross have both had their moments, but they need to carve out consistent time with the starters.

Either way, with pads coming on again the competition will heat up.

Ball security

The weather was sunny during the Patriots’ first practice in full pads two days ago, but conditions will look a lot different on Thursday: it is pouring in Foxborough this morning. This in combination with the outfit will create a challenging environment for the team.

Ball security will be paramount, and you can be certain Bill Belichick and company will try to make life hard for their pass catchers and ball carriers throughout the day. The team hasn’t faced conditions like these in quite some time, making for a good learning opportunity as far as fundamentals are concerned.

Youngsters such as rookie running back Rhamondre Stevenson will especially be in the spotlight.

As for yesterday’s things to watch, here are a few quick notes:

Cam Newton’s momentum: Newton was the best quarterback on the field during the first fully-padded practice on Tuesday but he was unable to keep up his momentum into Wednesday’s session. The incumbent starter completed 7 of 13 passes during competitive team drills and also threw a pair of interceptions. Consistency was a major issue for Newton last year, and he also has had his ups and downs this summer so far.

Mac Jones’ resiliency: While Cam Newton looked terrific on Tuesday, Mac Jones struggled. However, the first-round rookie rebounded nicely with the team going back to shells on Wednesday. Whether or not he can build on this performance heading remains to be seen, but he certainly looked a lot more confident on the practice fields on Wednesday.

N’Keal Harry during full-team work: Through the first six practices, N’Keal Harry had only five team drill receptions on his training camp résumé despite looking good in 1-on-1 work. On Wednesday, however, he broke out. Having arguably his best practice since arriving in New England two years ago, the former first-rounder caught all six of his targets: catching one pass from Cam Newton and five from Mac Jones, Harry looked like a much more confident player.