The New England Patriots had their second off-day of this year’s training camp on Saturday, and will return to the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium later today. The Patriots’ tenth session of camp is guaranteed to look different than the ninth one on Friday. Not only will the team practice outside of its stadium again, it also will likely go back to focusing on competition rather than in-game procedures.
Accordingly, our three things to watch will read a lot like they did on Friday. After all, with the team not holding a traditional practice — traditional in the sense of full-speed work in various settings — we did not get a real feel for those the last time New England stepped onto the field. So, with that out of the way, let’s take a look at what we will take a look at.
Cam Newton’s accuracy
Before Friday’s session brought a light workload for both him and fellow QB Mac Jones, Cam Newton had displayed some accuracy issues. After his best outing of camp on Tuesday, he went just 7-for-13 with two interceptions in competitive team drills the following day before a 5-for-11 performance on Thursday.
Those numbers obviously have to be taken with a grain of salt — we’re talking about practice still — but Newton did not look as efficient as a passer as he had on previous occasions. His accuracy in particular is an area to watch, given that he had some off-the-mark throws each of those two days and did not display the same rhythm and chemistry he had on Tuesday. Will this change today? We will have to wait and see.
Nelson Agholor was the Patriots’ best wide receiver during the first week of training camp, but he has been comparatively quiet over the last few sessions: Agholor did not catch a pass in team drills on both Wednesday and Thursday, and he also had only one reception — albeit a 50-yard touchdown — on Tuesday.
There is no reason to ring the alarm bells, but it will be interesting to watch how the Patriots will try to incorporate Agholor again moving forward. After playing a smaller role for most of this week, maybe Sunday’s session will see him more active again in terms of targets during 7-on-7 or 11-on-11 team drills.
Quinn Nordin’s momentum
With Nick Folk sidelined for a second straight day, fellow place kicker Quinn Nordin had an impressive outing on Friday night. The undrafted rookie made all eight of his kicks — including two de facto game winners from beyond 50 yards.
Nordin carrying his momentum into the first week of preseason will be big if he wants to seriously challenge Folk’s standing on the roster. The odds are still against him, but more performances like Friday’s could force a tough decision onto the coaching staff.
As for Friday’s things to watch, here are a few quick notes:
Cam Newton’s accuracy: As noted above, Friday’s practice was not one to properly gauge players on offense and defense. Newton did throw a few passes in the walkthrough setting, but the next practice on Sunday will likely be better suited to take a closer look at his accuracy again.
Nelson Agholor: Nelson Agholor is in the same boat as Cam Newton when it comes to Friday’s practice. The first-year Patriot also played a limited role given the session’s walkthrough character.
The absentee list: While safety Cody Davis returned after missing Thursday’s practice, the Patriots’ absentee list remained a long one on Friday: 16 players did not participate, including linebacker Raekwon McMillan and tight end Dalton Keene — two players who were sent to season-ending injured reserve on Saturday. With one day off now, the list could see additional changes on Sunday.