The New England Patriots’ busy second week of training camp will be coming to an end on Friday night with the traditional practice inside Gillette Stadium open exclusively to season-ticket holders and Foxborough residents. The session will cap a five-day stretch of practice, including three sessions in full pads.
What will be in store on Friday remains to be seen. We will keep a close eye on the following three things, however.
The intensity. The annual in-stadium practice has usually been a relatively quiet affair in years past. Last season, for example, it had more of a walkthrough character than other practices. While that is still entirely possible this time around, there are some rumblings that the Patriots might actually be more active during the 90ish-minute scrimmage this year.
Time will tell whether that’s the case, and how the session will actually look like. One thing is clear, though: the team and its players need to make the most out of every opportunity, regardless of the level of intensity.
Attendance. Obviously, we keep a close eye on the attendance every day. However, there have been plenty of changes recently that need our special attention heading into the final practice of Week 2.
On Thursday, for example, linebacker Matthew Judon was added to the absentees list; third-year man Anfernee Jennings helped fill his role as an outside linebacker during practice. Furthermore, tight end Dalton Keene missed his third straight day.
Additionally, linebacker Jahlani Tavai went down near the end of 11-on-11s after suffering an apparent non-contact injury. Him being back on Friday, and if only in a limited capacity, would be an encouraging development.
In-stadium kicking. Earlier this week, head coach Bill Belichick spoke about the construction work at Gillette Stadium and the impact it might have on the kicking game. The team, after all, is fully renovating the north end of its arena which in turn might generate different air currents than were previously around.
“We’ve definitely talked about it,” Belichick told reporters 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.”
It sounds like the Patriots’ kicking personnel might be in for a busy day on Friday. Four players are currently under contract at those positions: place kickers Nick Folk and Tristan Vizcaino as well as punters Jake Bailey and Jake Julien.
Incumbents Folk and Bailey in particular might have to adapt their kicking compared to the past. Friday will be their first opportunity to do just that.
“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,” Belichick said. “Absolutely, for sure, that’ll be a factor.”
As for yesterday’s things to watch, here are a few quick notes:
The offensive line: New England’s new-look offensive line still has plenty of room for improvement. On Thursday, the unit struggled running the ball — three attempts during 11-on-11 work were stuffed — while quarterback Mac Jones continues to be under some heavy pressure from the pass rush. It was another disappointing outing for the unit as a whole, and the blockers up front in particular.
The heat impact: Temperatures did not cross the 100-degree mark on Thursday, but it was still “toasty,” as cornerback Jalen Mills said after the session. The heat itself did not appear to have any impact on the session and the players, even though Jahlani Tavai going down might have come as a result of it; it was hard to tell from afar what had happened.
Ty Montgomery’s usage: After starting training camp with the wide receivers, Montgomery continues to see extensive action with the running back corps. On Thursday, he shared second-string reps with J.J. Taylor — Damien Harris was RB1 and Rhamondre Stevenson limited — and also worked on the kickoff team.