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Patriots training camp notebook: Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry have an impressive day

Pats Pulpit Training Camp Guide: Schedule, position battles, practical info, and more

NFL: New England Patriots Training Camp Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

Despite putting on shells for the first time this offseason, the New England Patriots held a low-key training camp practice in hot and humid Foxborough on Friday. With just one more session on Saturday until full pads officially come on, let’s hop into the Day 3 notebook.


Absentees: QB Brian Hoyer, DE Deatrich Wise Jr., RB James White (PUP), S Jabrill Peppers (PUP), DB Jonathan Jones (PUP), DB Myles Bryant (NFI), OL Chasen Hines (NFI), OL Andrew Stueber (NFI)

Returnees: C David Andrews (PUP), P Jake Bailey (NFI/Illness)

Limited: RB Pierre Strong Jr.

After not throwing in any competitive drills and wearing a sleeve on his throwing arm on Thursday, Brian Hoyer was absent from practice Friday. Deatrich Wise remained out with Pierre Strong Jr. is still limited.

Two players were back in action, meanwhile. Center David Andrews and Jake Bailey made their camp debuts and have been activated off the PUP and NFI lists, respectively.


QB report: A strong start ended not so great for Mac Jones and the offense on Friday. After lighting up the defense in 7-on-7s — which included extremely impressive touchdowns to Kendrick Bourne and Jonnu Smith (twice) — Jones and the offense were not as sharp in 11-on-11 work. The struggles were highlighted by a miscommunication between Jones and Jakobi Meyers resulting in an easy interception for Jalen Mills. It was Jones’ first of camp.

As for Bailey Zappe, he was again second man up with Brian Hoyer sidelined. It was an up-and-down day for the rookie, as he underthrew Smith on a wheel route in the end zone, resulting in an Adrian Phillips interception. Zappe did respond on the next play with a strike to Hunter Henry and redeemed himself in 11-on-11s with a pretty ball to Ty Montgomery, who ran a wheel route out of the backfield. Zappe did end practice with another interception, as Justin Bethel stepped in between a pass attempt of his.

Tight ends get to Kyle Dugger: Both Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith made Day 3 quite a struggle for Kyle Dugger. The two tight ends made a pair of acrobatic touchdown receptions for the second straight day, both times going vertical overall Dugger in tight coverage. It’s a strong sign as New England looks to get both tight ends more involved this season.

Health: The Patriots saw a pair of familiar faces suit up for the first time this summer on Friday. Starting center David Andrews (shoulder) was in uniform meaning he is off the PUP list. While he was dressed, Andrews watched from the sideline during competitive drills. Punter Jake Bailey was also activated off the NFI/Illness list and looked like his old self booting punts all over the field.

Running back committee: With James White remaining on PUP and Pierre Strong Jr. still limited, the Patriots’ entire backfield continues to get its fair share of work in both the running and the passing game. While Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson still lead the pack, Ty Montgomery has been heavily involved as a receiver from the backfield and as well. Rookie Kevin Harris also got some work through the air on Friday.

Offensive play calling: Yet again, duties were split for the Patriots’ coaches when it came to play calling on the offensive side of the ball. Early in 7-on-7s, it was Joe Judge radioing in plays with a walkie-talkie before handing the duties off to Matt Patricia.

In the last period of 11s, it was Bill Belichick with a play sheet checking in with the quarterback pre-snap. While Patricia still seems to be the favorite, all three are getting opportunities throughout the first three days of camp.

End of practice competition: To conclude today’s practice, Belichick opted for a little competition instead of running the hills. Marcus Jones and Tre Nixon, who both appeared to be wearing a pad on their chest, competed to see who could catch the most punts without letting go of their previous catches. After it appeared to end in a tie, rookies Cole Strange and DaMarcus Mitchell took over. Strange made quite the catch on the second punt to win and celebrated by jumping into a nearby Bill Belichick.

Other notes:

  • Tyquan Thornton has been working as a gunner throughout camp where his speed is extremely noticeable.
  • While the offensive and defensive linemen are usually quiet without pads, Davon Godchaux was active breaking up a Mac Jones pass in 11-on-11s.
  • Kristian Wilkerson and Hunter Henry collided in the middle of the field after Henry reeled in a touchdown from Zappe in the first 7-on-7 period. It seemed like perhaps Wilkerson ran the wrong route as both were in the same spot.
  • With Jonathan Jones on the PUP list, both Shaun Wade and rookie Marcus Jones are getting quality opportunities in the slot. As for the outside cornerback competition, Terrance Mitchell earned first crack for the third straight day.
  • Speaking of Marcus Jones, he returned punts along with Tre Nixon and Kyle Dugger. Jones did muff a wobbler from Jake Bailey resulting in a penalty lap.
  • It was a light day for safety Devin McCourty, which meant more reps with the starters for early camp standout Joshuah Bledsoe. Bledsoe rotated between cornerback and safety and held his ground. If he was not on your early 53-man roster projections, it may be time to redo them.
  • Rookie defensive back Brenden Schooler continues to be heavily involved in special teams drills spending most of practice with Matthew Slater. Mack Wilson was the team’s back-up long snapper for the second straight day, a role previously held by Deatrich Wise Jr. and Jonnu Smith.
  • Tre Nixon and Kendrick Bourne recorded drops Friday with both passes bouncing off their hands. Bourne’s drop came on a beautiful ball from Mac Jones in the end zone. Nixon did bounce back with his best play of camp, going up and over Shaun Wade to haul in a touchdown.
  • Another day another nice snag from DeVante Parker, who made a nice body catch in the end zone on Jalen Mills.

The Patriots will be back on the practice fields for their fourth training camp practice on Saturday at 9:30 a.m. ET.

That is all for today’s Training Camp Notebook. Make sure to follow @iambrianhines and @patspulpit on Twitter for all your training camp updates!