clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

3 things to watch on the fourth day of Patriots training camp

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

NFL: JUL 29 New England Patriots Training Camp Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The New England Patriots’ first week of training camp will be coming to an end on Saturday. The team will again hit the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium for their fourth straight session — the final one before full pads are being put on next Monday.

Despite an absence of live tackling for the fourth day in a row, the session again projects to be an interesting one. Here is what we will be paying close attention to.

Kyle Dugger vs. tight ends

Kyle Dugger’s outlook for the 2022 season is a promising one, and he will play a starter-level role alongside fellow safeties Devin McCourty and Adrian Phillips yet again. That said, tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith did get the better of him on multiple occasions on Friday.

The matchup between Dugger and the talented tight end duo will likely continue on Saturday. It remains to be seen how the third-year defender will try to limit their impact this time around. Fact is, he will have an easier time once the Patriots put the pads on.

Defensive back usage

Three days into camp, Terrance Mitchell continues to look like the frontrunner to earn the starting cornerback job opposite Jalen Mills. The veteran, who was acquired in free agency earlier this year, again took top-level reps for most of the day ahead of the likes of Malcolm Butler and Joejuan Williams.

In the slot, meanwhile, rookie Marcus Jones and second-year man Shaun Wade saw the majority of reps with the starting defense. Wade registered a pass-breakup and, like Jones, was competitive throughout the day.

At safety, meanwhile, Joshuah Bledsoe saw prominent action again. With Devin McCourty getting a lighter workload, the former sixth-round pick continues to show that he is a realistic candidate to make the roster; Bledsoe lined up at free safety and even came down into the slot on occasion.

Will those four players — Mitchell, Jones, Wade and Bledsoe — again see most of the top-level reps? Or will others step up and challenge them?

Bailey Zappe’s consistency

The Patriots’ fourth-round rookie saw an increased workload on Friday thanks to Brian Hoyer’s absence. Serving as QB2 behind Mac Jones, he did have some positive moments — including a laser to tight end Hunter Henry and a beautiful connection with Ty Montgomery on a wheel route.

However, Zappe again had his fair share of downs to go along his ups. Like all first-year players, he needs to be able to find some consistency and string positive plays together. Thus far, the youngster has not been able to do just that. Should Hoyer miss any extended time, however, the Patriots will need him to.

As for yesterday’s things to watch, here are a few quick notes:

Offensive resilience: The Patriots offense struggled in a goal line sequence late on Day 2, but it did bounce back on Day 3. While both sides won their battles — the defense registered three interceptions, for example — the unit as a whole was more competitive than it was during its 1-for-11 output on Thursday.

Second-year linebackers: The linebackers will get to fully showcase their abilities once the pads come on on Monday, but at this point in time it appears that Cameron McGrone is behind the likes of Raekwon McMillan and Mack Wilson when it comes to playing the sub linebacker role. Friday’s session did not change this. Ronnie Perkins also had a relatively quiet day, but he was able to breach the backfield on a few occasions.

Quarterback rep distribution: As noted above, Brian Hoyer was absent on Friday for undisclosed reasons. Mac Jones was obviously the undisputed QB1 with Bailey Zappe leading the scout-team offense and having an up-and-down day.