The weather did not eclipse the expected high temperatures Thursday, but it was still a toasty morning on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium. With temperatures that could potentially mirror Miami, who the New England Patriots face in Week 1, the team strapped the pads back on and raised the intensity.
Before that however, the team gathered on the back hills before practice for the annual rookie slip-n-slide. As Matthew Slater manned the hose, rookies would do their best to dive on the ground and try to recover a “fumble.” Car Wash by Rose Royce was the music of choice during the event.
As for what transpired afterwards, let’s break it down.
Absentees: LB Matthew Judon, TE Dalton Keene, RB James White (PUP), OL Chasen Hines (NFI), OL Andrew Stueber (NFI)
Returnees: QB Brian Hoyer
Limited: DE Deatrich Wise Jr., RB Rhamondre Stevenson
Injured: LB Jahlani Tavai
A busy day for the attendance report. Quarterback Brian Hoyer returned as a full participant while rookie running back Pierre Strong Jr. also participated in competitive team drills. Matthew Judon was a new absence while Dalton Keene missed his third straight day.
During practice, Jahlani Tavai went down near the end of 11-on-11s. The linebacker was down for awhile before needing help from the trainers off the field. He appeared to put almost no pressure on his right leg. Several coaches including Bill Belichick went to check on him in the blue medical tent before he was carted to the locker room.
Offense slow again: The offense wasn't as bad as it was in the first two padded practices, but it was far from firing on all cylinders on Thursday. The struggles were highlighted during the first 11-on-11 session.
There was a three-play stretch that included a coverage sack, run stuff by Davon Godchaux, and throwaway from Mac Jones. They ended that period with an incompletion to Jonnu Smith in which he seemed to take credit for running the wrong route. The offense continues to be a work in progress.
Godchaux delivers: Speaking of Godchaux, it was a strong practice for the defensive lineman. Godchaux again found himself in the backfield numerous times recording several tackles for loss. The defensive line continues to control the offensive line and allow next to nothing in the run game, largely because of Godchaux’s play.
Jennings first up: With Matthew Judon missing from practice Thursday, it was Anfernee Jennings manning his usual spot along the edge when team drills began. Jennings has impressed throughout a week-plus of practices winning both in 1-on-1s and in competitive team drills.
Tre Nixon active: It was a busy day for the second-year receiver hauling in a handful of passes from both Mac Jones and Bailey Zappe. Nixon beat Malcolm Butler in 11s on a deep out snagging a touchdown from Jones. It wasn't all positive as a pass slightly behind him from Zappe clanked off his hands. Nixon also continues to be an active part of the kicking game as he does his best to earn a roster spot.
1-on-1 action: Cole Strange lost a close rep against Lawrence Guy which appeared to be a result from poor right hand positioning. LaBryan Ray caught the eye again, beating Trent Brown. Josh Uche’s speed continues to stand out in 1-on-1s recording three wins — two over Yodney Cajuste. Michael Onwenu and Christian Barmore split their pair of battles. Justin Herron and David Andrews also impressed.
- There appeared to be an early miscommunication with safety Brad Hawkins on a substitution. It resulted in a quick completion for the offense.
- Arlington Hambright continues to be mixed in next to Isaiah Wynn in place of Michael Onwenu. Wynn also saw some more time at left tackle with the second unit.
- Tight end Jonnu Smith was active in team drills hauling in six receptions.
- The media tent called James Ferentz for a hold in 1-on-1s.
- DeMarcus Mitchell was sent on a penalty lap for a false start. He rebounded his next play with a would-be sack.
- Shaun Wade had an impress pass breakup in coverage on Tre Nixon, fully extending to knock the ball away.
- Despite Brian Hoyer returning, Bailey Zappe took second-team reps.
The Patriots will be back inside Gillette Stadium Friday night before having the weekend off. As Bill Belichick alluded to Thursday, the in-stadium practice is usually used to simulate a game, likely leading to a lower pace.