The second week of the New England Patriots’ training camp is slowly coming to an end, and with the preseason opener against the Washington Football Team on the horizon the team is more and more getting into “real football” territory. Thursday’s practice was pretty much just that: the weather was challenging and regular season-like, while the players were going through drills and team work in full pads.
With that being said, let’s clean out the notebook from the Patriots’ eighth practice of the summer.
Mac Jones is looking good in the rain
Spending his high school days in Jacksonville and his college career at Alabama, Mac Jones will have to get used to the New England fall weather. Thursday was a first taste for him, and the rookie quarterback handled the difficult conditions relatively well.
While he fumbled the ball in a ball-security drill and later had to run a penalty lap for a botched center-quarterback exchange with Marcus Martin, his passes looked crisp despite the downpour. The first-round pick being able to adapt to the weather he will face during his career with the Patriots will be important; it was something California kid Tom Brady always did on a high and consistent level.
Is the gap starting to close in the quarterback race?
For the second day in a row, Mac Jones looked better than Cam Newton and also saw a considerable number of reps compared to the incumbent starter. While the veteran went just 5-for-11 in competitive 11-on-11 drills, the rookie threw 16 passes of which he completed 11.
Over the last two sessions since a rough outing on Tuesday, Jones has gone 28-for-39 with five incompletions that could reasonably be charted as drops by the receivers. He certainly has looked good as of late, and the Patriots are giving him plenty of opportunities to learn and to prove himself. He also was given his fair share of reps alongside starters on both sides of the ball.
Does that mean he’s closing the gap to Newton in the race for the starting quarterback role? While those last two practices might suggest that is the case, head coach Bill Belichick pointed out on Saturday that a player’s entire body of work will be evaluated when it comes to roster decisions.
Jones is trending in the right direction, but two fully-padded practices are just the first small step. The rookie will need to continue to look good in different settings and preseason games in order to realistically have a shot at unseating the much more experienced Newton. Is it impossible he does that? No, but he has plenty of work still ahead of him before this can happen.
Davon Godchaux shows his raw strength
For years, the Patriots’ training camp 1-on-1s between guard Logan Mankins and defensive tackle Vince Wilfork were must-see battles. Two Hall of Fame-caliber talents going at each other; iron sharpening iron.
While David Andrews and Davon Godchaux have yet to reach those levels after just two days of full pads, the two squared off on Thursday. Along the way, Godchaux showcased his raw strength by driving the Patriots’ starting center back. It will be fun to watch how those battles evolve over the coming days and weeks.
Joejuan Williams just wants to be valuable
The Patriots’ second-round draft selection in 2019, Joejuan Williams has had a quiet NFL career so far. His training camp is more of the same, with the young cornerback unable to stand out among the competitors for a rotational role on the depth chart.
His position coach, Mike Pellegrino, recently mentioned that Williams needs to be able to reset after every play — something that has apparently not been the case so far.
“Joejuan needs to do what he’s been doing,” Pellegrino said. “Things get pretty hectic in the secondary, right? You can let a lot of things get to your head, right? But if you just reset after every snap, just like he does, focus on the next snap and keep getting better every day, we should see more improvement.”
As for the defender in question, he has had a few challenging moments in camp. His goals still remain unchanged, though, as he pointed out after Thursday’s practice.
“It’s really wherever they want me to be at, whether that’s corner, covering tight ends and being a safety. I’m just trying to learn,” he said. “At the end of the day, just trying to learn the position and be valuable to this defense.”
Myles Bryant’s has a simple mindset entering Year 2: ‘Keep on learning’
After entering the NFL as an undrafted rookie, Myles Bryant did not just find his way onto the Patriots’ active roster but he also delivered a solid first season as a pro. Now heading into his second season in the system, he is trying to get better through the power of knowledge.
“For me right now, it’s all about, ‘Keep on learning.’ That’s all I keep telling myself, ‘Keep on learning. Keep on learning,’” the 23-year-old said on Thursday.
Bryant appeared in nine games for New England last season, finishing with one interception. Along the way, he was moved all over the formation — aligning as a free safety, box safety, outside cornerback and slot corner.
“I’m willing to help wherever I can. That’s how I was last year,” he said. “They plugged me in at safety. They plugged me in at nickel, sometimes cornerback. Wherever they need me, I’ll play.”
Bill Belichick has some high praise for New England’s longest-tenured employee
During Thursday’s media conference call, Bill Belichick was asked three straight questions about the development of rookie quarterback Mac Jones. He spoke a combined 342 words about his team’s first-round draft choice.
Later, 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Bob Socci asked him about long-time Patriots director of scouting administration Nancy Meier. Belichick spent 473 words speaking about her and what she has meant to the organization entering her 47th season.
His full answer reads as follows:
“Nancy’s one of those unique individuals that kind of makes everything work. She interacts with virtually everybody — scouts, coaches, players and other support staff. She puts a lot of things together, and her job description of what she actually does is probably 50 pages long, and there are so many little things that wouldn’t even make that list, but they would come up from day to day, or maybe not even day to day, it might be once a year that she handles because of her experience and thoroughness and preparation.
“It really would be impossible for me to go through with her a whole list of things, and that changes from the regular season to the draft to the offseason program to if we’re on an extended away trip and things like that, so it’s a very lengthy and comprehensive set of things that she handles and that includes not only the players and staff and so forth, but also families and things that are related to those individuals as well, and that would also extend into some logistics and travel and so forth.
“She’s great to work with. She’s got a great attitude, a great temperament. She deals with all the people and all the personalities, thousands of them, coaches, players and other people through the course of her career. I think everyone probably has kind of the same feeling for her, which is pretty remarkable that she could have that type of positive relationship with so many people on so many different levels. I extend all that to multiple family members and so forth that are involved in game day things and travel and tickets and relocation and so forth and so on.
“She never forgets a name. Doesn’t forget a face. Knows how everybody’s connected to everybody else. It’s very remarkable. She’s very unique, and like I said, a very comprehensive group of things she does, but then on the real football side of it, a lot of transactions and things that go on with the league, which on the player personnel end can be complex, have to be timely, have to done at certain times or by certain times or all those kind of things.
“She doesn’t make the final decisions, obviously. She has to manage all the transactions, league communication, player communication, the medical, like all the things that have to happen in the acquisition or release of a player, especially at the nature of cut down dates and things like that, or post draft when free agent signing days and those type of things, the wheel can get spinning pretty fast, but amazingly she can stay on it or slow it down however you want to look at it, so yeah. Thanks for the question, that’s great. She’s a very important person to any organization.”