The New England Patriots will return to the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium on Thursday to conduct their second session of this year’s training camp. Once again, it will have more of a teaching flair rather than the usual full-contact sessions set to start next week, but that does not mean there will not also be plenty of things to take a close look at.
With that said, here are three we will focus on during Thursday’s practice.
Day 1 standouts
While the nature of Wednesday’s session limited the opportunity for players to truly stand out among their peers — no pads or full contact makes for difficult evaluations — some were still able to do that. Heading into Day 2, we will keep a close eye on exactly those players.
Among them is wide receiver DeVante Parker, who impressed during red zone work and already appears to have a good connection with quarterback Mac Jones. Fellow wide receiver, albeit with a dash of running back mixed in, Ty Montgomery also had an active day while helping New England replace receiving back James White.
On defense, second-year defensive back Joshuah Bledsoe delivered a solid performance. The same was true for cornerback Joejuan Williams, who had the lone interception of the day.
Will all of them be able to string positive days together and look good on Thursday as well?
On Wednesday, the Patriots used the aforementioned Ty Montgomery to fill in for James White. They gave Raekwon McMillan and Terrance Mitchell starter-level reps at linebacker and cornerback, respectively. The question heading into Day 2 is whether it will be more of the same or maybe other players getting opportunities.
The defense in particular offers chances for others to rise to the top. Outside of Ja’Whaun Bentley, the Patriots have no clear starters at the off-the-ball linebacker spot; the same is true at outside cornerback where Jalen Mills continues to man one of the top spots but the other appears to be wide open.
Matt Patricia’s role
Coaching the Patriots offense in lieu of departed coordinator Josh McDaniels will be a team effort in 2022, with head coach Bill Belichick, quarterbacks coach Joe Judge, and offensive line coach Matt Patricia all involved. The latter took on a special role on Wednesday, holding a walkie-talkie to send in plays to quarterback Mac Jones.
Will this be a sign of things to come that Patricia will emerge as offensive play caller? It is entirely possible, but only time will tell. Thursday’s practice will give us the next opportunity to watch Patricia or somebody else lead the unit.
As for yesterday’s things to watch, here are a few quick notes:
Mac Jones’ momentum: Jones stole the show during the offseason and he had another good day on Wednesday. While not as spectacular as he was in mandatory minicamp — in part due to the red zone-based nature of the session — he did a good job and also showed some promising chemistry with offseason acquisition DeVante Parker.
Defensive starters: Without full contact it is hard to assess who will eventually emerge as the starting options on the defensive side of the ball. That said, some notable players who received starter-level reps were off-the-ball linebacker Raekwon McMillan and outside cornerback Terrance Mitchell.
Injury questions: New England missed a combined eight players on the physically unable to perform and non-football injury/illness lists. How were they replaced? David Andrews’ role as the starting center, for example, was filled by veteran backup James Ferentz. As noted above, receiving back James White was replaced by by wide receiver/running back hybrid Ty Montgomery; one candidate to fill that role — rookie Pierre Strong Jr. — departed early to do some conditioning work.