The New England Patriots held their sixth training camp practice on Tuesday, and it was the second straight in full pads. Needless to say that a lot happened throughout the day, so without any further ado let’s dive in and clean out the notebook.
The Patriots’ safety group is ‘locked in.’ Few positions on the New England roster are as well-stocked as safety. Not only did the team retain its core of Devin McCourty, Adrian Phillips and Kyle Dugger, it also added free agent Jabrill Peppers and has seen some promising contributions from sophomore Joshuah Bledsoe.
It remains to be seen how big of a role all of them will be playing at the end of the day. However, the talent and potential of the group cannot be denied — a sentiment expressed by Phillips on Tuesday.
“I see a lot of good things,” he said about New England’s safety room. “The main thing is that everybody’s locked in and not worried about what we did last year or who we have that’s different from last year.
“Everybody’s just buying into the process, and when you have a guy like [Devin McCourty] that’s able to bring everybody together and talk about the camaraderie and show the places that he’s been and what we need to do to get there, it makes it super easy. None of us have a real big ego, we just want to see each other win and understand that there’s a lot on our plate for everybody here. Everybody can eat and we’re just having fun with it.”
Phillips is entering his third year in the system, as is Kyle Dugger. Devin McCourty, meanwhile, is the group’s elder statesman: he arrived in New England as a first-round draft pick back in 2010, and over the years became one of the best safeties in football as well as a foundational member of three Super Bowl-winning teams.
McCourty will again play a crucial role within the unit in his 13th year in the league, and as such serve as a leader by example. If the other safeties follow suit, the hype surrounding the group might just be justified.
“I look forward to the group that we have,” said head coach Bill Belichick. “It’s a good group and we have a lot of experience with Devin. Younger players, like Bledsoe or Jabrill, who hasn’t been here – not that he’s a young player, but he hasn’t been here – and [Adrian Phillips], and [Kyle Dugger], so pretty deep group, pretty strong group. Excited to work with those guys, see if we can get them all out there together and see what it looks like.”
Mac Jones hates losing, even in practice. The Patriots defense has gotten the better of New England’s offense the last few days, and quarterback Mac Jones does not appear to be too happy about it. While he saw a lighter workload on Tuesday and was therefore less involved in the unit’s success, he mentioned his disdain for disappointing practice days after the session.
“It’s very competitive and when we lose ‘the day,’ to me that’s like a shot in the heart. It’s like we lost the game,” the second-year quarterback said.
“There’s a lot more than that because it’s practice you want to learn. But, at the end of the day, we’re out here competing and the goal is to have more good plays than the other team and in that case, that’s the defense right now.”
The Patriots offense remains a work in progress early in camp after undergoing some schematic changes — a process Bill Belichick referred to as “streamlining” earlier this year — following the departure of long-time coordinator Josh McDaniels. Jones, however, appears to be confident in the unit’s ability to hit its stride after all.
“I feel like we can compete even more and even better but a lot of it is just execution and Xs and Os and figuring out how to communicate with each other,” the 23-year-old said. “Better days ahead but you know we’re in the start of this thing and we got to get it going but we just have to take it day-by-day.”
Henry Anderson is happy to be back on the field. Henry Anderson’s first season with the Patriots came to an end just four games in. Three snaps into an early-October loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the veteran defensive lineman tore his pectoral and was lost for the remainder of the year.
Now, Anderson is back on the field. And he couldn’t be more excited about it.
“Getting hurt always sucks, it makes you realize how much you love the game,” he said on Tuesday. “So, being out here and just being with all the guys again, it’s awesome.”
Anderson joined the Patriots on a two-year contract after starting his career in Indianapolis and New York. He restructured his contract earlier this offseason to give the team some cap flexibility, and now is competing for a job on a defensive line led by Christian Barmore, Lawrence Guy, Deatrich Wise Jr. and recently extended Davon Godchaux.
The 30-year-old himself, meanwhile, was not focused on his potential spot on the depth chart during his rehabilitation process. In fact, he was not really focused on anything else either.
“When I got hurt, I pretty much thought about rehab every day,” he said. “I didn’t want to look too deep or look too far into the future, I just went in every day and just make sure I was rehabbing and getting my pec back to 100 percent as fast as I could.”
Of course Bill Belichick is seeing the Gillette Stadium renovation from a football perspective. The Patriots are rebuilding the south end of their arena this year, with renovations scheduled to be complete by 2023. Once they are done, the entire “Lighthouse end” of Gillette Stadium will be looking a lot differently.
Those structural changes will also have an impact on the on-field product. The stadium, after all, created some unique wind conditions that will not be the same in the future.
Of course, Bill Belichick is already anticipating those.
“We’ve definitely talked about it,” he said on Tuesday. “When we’re able to get into the stadium — we’ve had a lot of concerts and activity here — but when we’re able to get into the stadium and start kicking ... and then we’ll practice in there on Friday, that’ll give us some opportunities to work it.
“Absolutely, I think that will definitely affect the game, certainly affect the kicking everywhere, but especially in the open — whatever end that is, the far end, the lighthouse end. Absolutely, for sure, that’ll be a factor.”
The Patriots will hold their annual in-stadium practice for season ticket holders on Friday night.
Nelson Agholor is putting in the work to improve his connection with Mac Jones. One of the more disappointing aspects of the Patriots’ 2021 season was the inconsistent ability of Mac Jones to connect with one of the team’s free agency additions, wide receiver Nelson Agholor. The pair connected just 36 times all season for 436 yards and two touchdowns.
Heading into his second year in the system, there is plenty of room for improvement. It sounds like Jones and Agholor are willing to put in the work.
“We’re just working every day,” he said after Tuesday’s practice — one that saw him make a spectacular catch while tightly covered by Joejuan Williams.
“We just have to be consistent about it. Work every day about it, be intentional about it, have communication about it and work hard. Running when I’m tired, running when I’m fresh, whatever it is. We just have to keep running them, and I think with those reps it’ll put us in a good place.”
Agholor projects to be prominent member of the New England offense again this year, despite the additions of DeVante Parker via trade or Tyquan Thornton in the draft.