The first week of New England Patriots training camp is in the books, with the team holding its fourth straight practice on Saturday morning. The two-hour session was dominated by a defensive unit that made life hard for quarterback Mac Jones and the offense throughout the day.
With that being said, let’s take a look at who stood out — for better or worse.
Winner: LB Anfernee Jennings. The Patriots’ linebacker group saw some solid contributions from third-year man Anfernee Jennings on Saturday. Jennings, who missed all of last year due to injury, was used off the ball and on the edge and at one point had three straight impact plays in team drills. He registered back-to-back quarterback pressures versus Bailey Zappe, and after he was subbed off found his way into the backfield versus Mac Jones one rep later.
Winner: LB Cameron McGrone. Sophomore linebacker Cameron McGrone saw some scout team action again early before getting an extended look with the starters in an off the ball role. Taking the field primarily in passing situations he would have had a sack on a blitz call on one rep. All in all, it was a step in the right direction for both him and Jennings.
Winner: CB Terrance Mitchell. Four practices into camp Terrance Mitchell looks like a starting outside cornerback alongside Jalen Mills. Both of them looked good again on Saturday with Mitchell holding his own no matter who he went up against. The first-year Patriot registered a pass breakup versus Kendrick Bourne and another on a fade versus Jonnu Smith; he looks better than his comparatively cheap contract would suggest.
Winner: CB Jalen Mills. Mills continued to do what he has all week, namely provide solid play no matter where he was lining up. While primarily used on the outside again to form a solid tandem with Terrance Mitchell, he was moved into the slot for a handful of reps as well. Like Mitchell he too had a pass breakup, his coming against Jakobi Meyers.
Loser: CB Malcolm Butler. Malcolm Butler has found himself on the other end of the cornerback spectrum four days into camp. Despite the defense’s overall dominance and him registering one broken-up pass against DeVante Parker, Saturday was a tough outing for the 32-year-old. He gave up three receptions and appears to be behind Mitchell on the depth chart right now.
Loser: QB Bailey Zappe. With Brian Hoyer out again, Bailey Zappe saw extended action as the second-string quarterback behind Mac Jones for a second straight day. He also was inconsistent again for the second straight day: Zappe went 5-for-9 during 7-on-7s before a 3-for-8 performance in full-team drills. Not all was bad for the rookie, though, as he also connected with Kristian Wilkerson for a deep touchdown.
Beyond those six players there were others who deserve a mention. The aforementioned Wilkerson had arguably the best catch of the day, while Hunter Henry again was able to beat Kyle Dugger for a touchdown. Dugger later redeemed himself by catching an interception off of Mac Jones and running it back for a touchdown.
The Patriots will not take the practice fields on Sunday and instead enjoy their first rest day of camp. They will reconvene on Monday morning for the first session in full pads.