For the fourth day in a row, the New England Patriots hit the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium on Thursday morning. With temperatures reaching the 90s the session was the hottest to date and therefore a pretty intense affair.
Let’s clean out the notebook from it before turning the page to Friday’s in-stadium practice.
DeVante Parker stresses the importance of timing. The Patriots offense has had its issues early on in camp, with the running game and passing offense not yet being in sync. There is still time to work things out, though.
One of the problems that needs to be resolved is timing, at least according to wide receiver DeVante Parker.
“Mac [Jones] puts the ball where it needs to be. It’s all about timing. We just need to be in the right spot to get the ball,” he said after Thursday’s practice. “That’s what we’ve been doing.”
Offseason trade acquisition Parker and his quarterback have had a promising connection thus far in camp, but also a miscommunication that led to an interception during Wednesday’s session. Nonetheless, the duo is moving in a positive direction — with the rest of the unit hopefully following suit soon.
Bill Belichick explains moving Bill Murray to offense. Before the start of training camp, the Patriots decided to move third-year man Bill Murray from the defensive to the offensive line. On Thursday, head coach Bill Belichick gave some insight into Murray’s transition.
“Thought he’d be a good fit over there,” Belichick said. “He has a lot of good traits we look for in an offensive lineman. We’ve talked about it before at other points in time during his career, and just felt like this is a good opportunity for him. We’d be able to give him reps, we felt like we’d given him enough of a look on defense to know where he is, but also to know if we had to move him back, that he would be able to do that. We’d have enough time to do it.
“If that’s in a couple weeks, I think we could get him ready to play on defense. He’s smart, he knows what we’re doing. He’d have to sharpen up his skills and so forth, but I think we could get to that point if we had to. And maybe somewhere along the line there’s some type of combination, but right now he’s an offensive lineman and we’ve worked him there exclusively. Those are the plans going forward. Could they change? Possibly, but right now that’s what it is.”
Murray joined the Patriots as an undrafted free agent out of William & Mary in 2020. He spent his first two seasons with the club on its practice squad as an emergency D-lineman, appearing in zero games outside preseason.
A long-shot to make the roster either way, if Murray can show some developmental upside at guard he might just make the developmental squad again this year. Thus far, he has had his issues on offense while being used as a backup right guard.
The coaching depth chart gets tested. The Patriots’ coaching staff is down one man, with tight ends coach Nick Caley out for undisclosed reasons. The assumption is that he is dealing with an illness, but no official word has come out.
Belichick, unsurprisingly, was not in a mood to discuss Caley’s status on Thursday.
“When he’s ready, he’ll come back. I can’t control that,” he said.
With the 39-year-old out, the Patriots turned to offensive assistant Tyler Hughes to work with the tight ends. A former high school and low-level college coach, Hughes enters his third season with the Patriots. He has worked as an offensive assistant ever since his arrival.
Bailey Zappe is headed ‘in the right direction.’ With veteran backup quarterback Brian Hoyer out, Patriots fourth-round draft pick Bailey Zappe has seen an increased workload recently. Hoyer did return on Thursday, but Zappe was still QB2 behind Mac Jones.
While that is not necessarily to be seen as a sign of things to come, the opportunities were plenty for the rookie. According to his head coach, he has made the most out of them.
“He’s making progress every day,” Belichick said. “Every day is a learning day for him. Every day’s a good day, does some things better, we put some new things in. Sometimes that’s the process, depending on what it is, and how familiar he is with it or how comfortable he is with it. He’s gotten better every day. Hopefully that will continue.
“Sometimes it levels off, sometimes it drops off, sometimes it climbs higher. So, we’ll just have to see. But he’s been good to work with, and he works hard, and he’s smart and has a good skillset, and I would say good anticipation in the passing game. We’ll see what happens when we start playing, and he gets hit a couple times, and all of that. There are things we just can’t see out here that will be a factor. But, he’s going in the right direction.”
Zappe joined the Patriots as the 137th overall selection in this year’s draft after a record-breaking season at Western Kentucky. He projects as QB3 behind Jones and Hoyer this season, but has actually been the busiest of the three men as of late.
The Patriots’ rookies liked the slip ‘n’ slide. Thursday’s hot conditions were the perfect setting for an annual tradition to take place on the Foxborough practice fields: the annual rookie slip ‘n’ slide.
The idea behind it is simple. Water a patch of grass for 10ish minutes and let the rookie players try to recover a fumble all while getting sprayed with a hose by Matthew Slater.
“The slip-n-slide? Pretty good,” said first-round draft pick Cole Strange. “I don’t know, I feel like I practiced better today. So maybe we should do it more often? I don’t know if anybody else would be a fan of that, though.”
Second-round receiver Tyquan Thornton also was a fan of the event.
“It was fun. It took me back to my younger days, playing back in Miami when it was raining and all that. It was fun,” he said. “It felt good because it’s hot out here right now. So getting a little bit wet, that felt good.”
The rookie hazing ritual also brought back other players’ memories. Cornerback Jalen Mills in particular shared a story from his days with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2016.
“I got taped to the goal post,” he said. “Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod, they got like the automatic water squirt and they put it in my jersey and they just left it on. I was stuck out there for like 30 minutes, soaking wet.”
Bill Belichick, not a fantasy football fan. One of the light-hearted moments of Thursday came when Bill Belichick answered questions from 14-year-old Isaac Lebowitz, a reporter for NBC Nightly News: Kids Edition. New England’s head coach was asked about team-bonding activities, Kendrick Bourne’s birthday, and, eventually, fantasy football.
Needless to say that he is not a fan of the latter.
“Honestly, I don’t really have any opinion on that, because fantasy football doesn’t mean anything to me,” Belichick said. “We’re just trying to win games out here, so I don’t know who’s hot, who’s not, who wins, who doesn’t. I don’t really care about that. I just care about whether we win.”