he New England Patriots were back on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium on Monday, the first time since their preseason opener last week. The session itself was a relatively slow affair with a pair of joint practices with the Carolina Panthers coming up, but there was still a lot to digest.
With that said, here are the players that caught our eye during the session — for better or worse.
Winner: WR Nelson Agholor. The Patriots may have run plays at three-fourths speed, but Nelson Agholor still found a way to stand out. The veteran wide receiver had a pair of one-handed touchdown receptions: the first saw him beat Jonathan Jones in the corner of the end zone, the second best Jalen Mills despite the cornerback playing some tight coverage.
Winner: TE Jonnu Smith. Monday possibly gave us a clue how the Patriots are planning to use Smith in his second year in the system. He was part of the pre-snap motion packages that were introduced, after all, and as a result ended up with several receptions in the short and intermediate parts of the field. Additionally, he and fellow tight end Hunter Henry teamed up with position coach Nick Caley and quarterback Mac Jones at one point for a little side-session.
Winner: CB Marcus Jones. Third-round rookie cornerback Marcus Jones, who did not play in the preseason opener, had another active day. With Jonathan Jones again on the outside, he rotated with Myles Bryant as the top slot cornerback early on; at the moment Jones, Jones and Jalen Mills appear to be the top-three at the position. The third-round pick also served as a kickoff returner.
Winner: CB Jack Jones. The Patriots’ second rookie cornerback, meanwhile, registered a pair of pass-breakups as he continued the aggressive yet successful play style he showcased versus the New York Giants in the preseason opener. While he did give up a touchdown catch to Tyquan Thornton, he continues to be prominently featured as a boundary cornerback.
Loser: The chain gang. New England kept things relatively light on Monday, with no players really standing out for negative reasons. However, head coach Bill Belichick was still quite animated on multiple occasions. Why? The chain gang was not up to his preferred speed, and he let his frustrations be known.
Other players deserving of a mention include Yodny Cajuste, who resumed the starting right tackle role with Isaiah Wynn still out. Safety Jabrill Peppers, meanwhile, appeared to get increased opportunities. Meanwhile, wide receiver Kendrick Bourne saw only one pass headed his way during semi-competitive team drills — a pass that fell incomplete.
The Patriots will return to the fields behind Gillette Stadium on Tuesday morning, welcoming the Panthers for joint practice No. 1.