Another day, another New England Patriots training camp practice. For the fourth day in a row, the team will hit the fields behind Gillette Stadium.
After Wednesday’s session was a comparatively uneventful affair with a focus on correcting mistakes, Thursday’s projects as an intense one due to heat and a projected return to full pads.
Here is what we will be looking for.
The offensive line: The Patriots used Wednesday’s practice as a corrective measure, and ditched full pads for shells and helmets. Accordingly, there was little to take away from the offensive line’s performance (other than Arlington Hambright taking some starter-level reps at right guard over Michael Onwenu).
Accordingly, we are punting this item from yesterday’s list to today’s. Here is what we had to say on Wednesday:
Two full-pad practices in, the Patriots’ offensive line looks like a major liability. The unit had a rough time in pass protection during team drills, with Mac Jones taking a pair of would-be sacks and getting flushed out the pocked multiple times and looking visibly uncomfortable.
The group also struggled generating a consistent upfield push in the running game, especially versus the starting defense: New England’s backs failed to gain positive yards on three of five handoffs in an 11-on-11 setting.
Will the group show some development to the better on Thursday? The hope is that it does.
The heat impact: Thursday’s practice will be the hottest of the summer so far, with temperatures approaching 100 degrees. Naturally, the heat will take a toll on the players and we will keep a close eye out for any “casualties” — i.e. players that need to get some extra rest or hydration — and whether or not New England will make any changes to the practice itinerary.
Ty Montgomery’s usage: No player on the Patriots’ roster was busier on Wednesday than offseason acquisition Ty Montgomery. The 29-year-old was used as both a running back and a wide receiver, and along the way registered a team-high seven touches — including five receptions in team drills.
With Rhamondre Stevenson limited, Montgomery also served as RB2 behind Damien Harris. It seems apparent the Patriots want to give him as many looks as possible as a potential replacement for James White (PUP) and Brandon Bolden (free agency departure).
As for yesterday’s things to watch, here are a few quick notes:
The offensive line: As noted above, the O-line had a quiet day on Wednesday. Of course, that does not mean it saw no action; the Patriots may have run plays at reduced speed but they still worked out a few wrinkles — especially as their zone-based running schemes are concerned.
The cornerback rotation. The Patriots made no substantial changes to their cornerback group on Wednesday. At the moment, Jalen Mills, Terrance Mitchell (who had the lone interception of the day), and Jonathan Jones appear to be the top three.
Mac Jones’ workload. For the second day in a row, backup quarterback Bailey Zappe out-repped starter Mac Jones. Quarterback competition incoming? No. Jones still looked good during his time on the field, going 15-for-17 with an interception on an apparent miscommunication with DeVante Parker. Despite that pick, QB1 looked good.