clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Patriots training camp notebook: Defense dominates Saturday’s practice

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

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

It was a low-key Saturday morning training camp practice for the New England Patriots on the back fields of Gillette Stadium. As the team prepares for the pads to come on Monday, let’s break down what happened on Day 4.


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)

Limited: RB Pierre Strong Jr.

Brian Hoyer and Deatrich Wise Jr. remained absent for undisclosed reasons, while rookie Pierre Strong Jr. is still limited.


Defense dominates: In a recurring theme so far, the defense won the day over a sloppy offensive unit Saturday. At one point, the starting offense went seven straight plays without one solid rep.

The Patriots secondary was sticky in coverage, often taking away Mac Jones’ first reads, while defenders were constantly and quickly in the backfield forcing Jones on the run. One of his lone completions was a screen to Damien Harris where Jahlani Tavai was already waiting for him in his grasp. The struggles were summarized on one of the unit’s last plays: Jones rolled out right, stopped, and threw back across the grain where Kyle Dugger stepped in for a would-be pick-six.

While it could be described as sloppy for New England’s offense, they have been restricted to red zone work with no threat of the run game throughout the first dour days of practice. It will be worthwhile to see if things change when the pads come on and the field opens up on Monday.

Anfernee Jennings emerges: Throughout the defense’s dominant stretch to end practice, third-year linebacker Anfernee Jennings was a player who stood out. The third-year man was lining up on the edge and inside, often blowing up plays and ending up in the backfield. After missing all of last season on the injured reserve, Jennings has a chance to make a name for himself in a remodeled Patriots linebacker core.

Jalen Mills and Terrance Mitchell continue to form a formidable duo: While it’s only been four practices without pads, Jalen Mills and Terrance Mitchell have been impressive manning the boundaries for the Patriots’ defense. Mitchell had another two pass breakups in coverage on Saturday, while Mills had one of his own while working against Jakobi Meyers. Again, it’s early, but the two have held up extremely well all week.

Henry bound for more red zone success: After leading the Patriots with nine receiving touchdowns last year, Hunter Henry looks ready for more red area success this season. The big-bodied tight end beat Kyle Dugger clean for a touchdown in the final 11-on-11 session on Saturday. With perhaps DeVante Parker taking attention away, Henry could find himself more open this season.

Play-calling: Throughout competitive drills, it was Matt Patricia and Bill Belichick working together to call plays. While it appeared scripted, it was Belichick reading off the play sheet and Patricia handling walkie-talkie duties.

Other notes:

  • Shaun Wade continues to be rolled out with the starting defense in the slot. Joshuah Bledsoe has also become a part of that unit.
  • Speaking of Joshuah Bledsoe, he noted in his post-practice media availability he prefers to go by Joshuah instead of Josh. He noted his mom added the “H” at the end of his name as several members of his family have seven letters in their names.
  • Second-year linebacker Cameron McGrone saw more work on Saturday. His speed was noticeable on a would-be sack where he came through the middle of the line unblocked.
  • Linebacker Raekwon McMillan continues to be first off-ball linebacker up next to Ja’Whaun Bentley.
  • Another tough day for Malcolm Butler who allowed three receptions, including one by newly signed receiver Josh Hammond.
  • Kristian Wilkerson recorded the catch of the day on a deep ball down the left sideline from Bailey Zappe. Wilkerson went up and over Jack Jones for the snag, perhaps committing offensive pass interference on his way up.
  • Left tackle Trent Brown was sent on a lap walk after committing a penalty, highlighting the offensive struggles. Yodney Cajuste was first man up in his place.
  • David Andrews remained out of competitive drills.
  • Tre Nixon was spotted getting his right ankle taped at one point but did not miss any time. He hauled in several receptions from both Mac Jones and Bailey Zappe throughout the day.

The Patriots will be back on Monday for their fifth practice of the summer and their first in full pads.

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