Eight days after their first organized team activity open to the media, the New England Patriots held their second such session. The team gathered on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium on Tuesday and despite attendance again being voluntary had a majority of its current 85-man roster present.
The session itself was a rather light one that already came to an end after an hour. Accordingly, this recap will be quite short as well. Nonetheless: enjoy!
Absent: OT Trent Brown, DT Byron Cowart, DT Davon Godchaux, WR N’Keal Harry, OL Chasen Hines, LB Anfernee Jennings, LB Matthew Judon, K Quinn Nordin, OL Andrew Stueber, RB James White, OT Isaiah Wynn
Limited: TE Dalton Keene, LB Raekwon McMillan, LB DaMarcus Mitchell, S Jabrill Peppers, DB Brenden Schooler
The list of absentees for the voluntary session saw some changes compared to last Monday’s open OTA. Brown, Godchaux, Jennings and White were new additions to the list, while several players were spotted for the first time: kicker Nick Folk, defensive tackle Lawrence Guy, linebackers Harvey Langi, Ronnie Perkins and Jahlani Tavai, and safety Adrian Phillips were all present for the session.
Meanwhile, the list of limited players was reduced as well. While Keene, McMillan and Mitchell joined it, tight end Hunter Henry, linebacker Cameron McGrone and four rookies —CB Marcus Jones, DT Sam Roberts, RB Pierre Strong, WR Tyquan Thornton — appeared to be full participants on Tuesday.
New England focuses on foundational work: The Patriots started practice with non-contact positional drills, followed by roughly 15 minutes worth of full-on sprinting. The team then transitioned into some light 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 work in a walkthrough setting. All in all, it was a rather uneventful day, except for an extended look at previously limited players such as second-round rookie wide receiver Tyquan Thornton:
Cole Strange continues to look like New England’s starting left guard: The Patriots’ first-round draft pick already spent considerable time with the starting offensive line last week, and Tuesday was more of the same. While we are a long way from any real competition, Strange appears to be the clear frontrunner to earn the job.
Yodny Cajuste, Justin Herron man the tackle spots: With both starting OTs — Isaiah Wynn and Trent Brown — absent on Tuesday, the Patriots turned to fourth-year man Yodny Cajuste and three-year veteran Justin Herron to fill the respective spots on the left and right end of the offensive line. Herron already was the top right tackle last week, when Brown moved to the left side in lieu of Wynn’s absence, but Cajuste is a new addition to the top-five.
Entering the final year of his rookie contract, Cajuste will fight for a backup spot at his position. Of course, Wynn’s status — he will be playing on his $10.4 million fifth-year contract option — will be worth watching: if a player like Cajuste emerges over the coming weeks and months, the team might be willing to put its former first-round draft pick on the trade block.
Mac Jones has a quiet day: The Patriots’ second-year quarterback did not do a lot on Tuesday. He threw some passes in group work with the receivers and participated in the sprinting portion as well as the walkthrough at the end.
Bill Belichick continues to spend plenty of time with the offense: The Patriots have not yet named any offensive coaching responsibilities, but it seems likely that head coach Bill Belichick will play an active part in getting the unit ready. He was heavily involved with the group and rookie quarterback Mac Jones on Tuesday again, with assistants Joe Judge and Matt Patricia also playing prominent roles.
At one point, the entire offense split into two groups based on positions. Whereas the quarterbacks, wide receivers and skill position players worked with Belichick, Judge and other assistants — Troy Brown, Ross Douglas, Nick Caley and Evan Rothstein — the offensive line and running backs were led by Patricia as well as Vinnie Sunseri and Billy Yates.
Ivan Fears makes another appearance: Even though it seems as if he has retired from coaching the running backs — that job will be Vinnie Sunseri’s in 2022 — long-time assistant coach Ivan Fears still is present for OTAs. Like he did last week, he sat on the bleachers throughout the session.