The New England Patriots took a couple of days off following their in-stadium practice on Friday night, but they will return on Monday for training camp session No. 10. As usual, we will keep a close eye on all that is going on.
The following three things in particular, however, will have our attention throughout practice:
Offensive consistency: The Patriots offense struggled to consistently create positive plays during the first two weeks of camp, with blown assignments a regular occurrence. Will the third week be kicked off in a more positive way? That remains to be seen, but the unit is in need of some momentum with the preseason opener only a few days away.
The biggest problem for the Patriots thus far appears to be the blocking up front. The run game has yet to consistently gain positive yards, while defensive linemen and linebackers have also regularly found their way into the backfield on pass plays. The hope is that if the blocking improves, so will the unit as a whole and quarterback Mac Jones’ comfort level within it.
Bailey Zappe’s workload: While Mac Jones is undisputed as New England’s QB1, the backup spot behind him appears to be up for grabs. On paper, Brian Hoyer is the favorite but he missed some time earlier in camp leading to increased opportunities for fourth-round rookie Bailey Zappe.
Zappe showed some steady growth as Jones’ primary backup during Hoyer’s absence, but the question is how much his workload will change with the veteran now back in the mix.
The early-camp standouts: The first two weeks of #patscamp saw some impressive performances by players such as running back Ty Montgomery, defensive lineman LaBryan Ray, cornerback Terrance Mitchell or safety Joshuah Bledsoe. All of them are fighting for roster spots and prominent roles in the rotation.
Heading into the first game week of the year, the question is whether or not they will continue to build on their positive habits to solidify their respective standings on the team.
As for Friday’s things to watch, here are a few quick notes:
Intensity: The Patriots were wearing full pads during Friday’s stadium inside Gillette Stadium, but they did not go all-out during practice. The session itself was a rather low-level affair focused on simulating a game-day setting for players and coaches alike.
Attendance: Matthew Judon missed his second straight practice, while four players were present but did not participate: Rhamondre Stevenson, Jabrill Peppers, Jahlani Tavai, Dalton Keene. Tavai’s presence in particular was noteworthy after he went down with a serious-looking no-contact injury the previous day.
In-stadium kicking: Earlier during the week, head coach Bill Belichick spoke about the construction work at Gillette Stadium and the impact it might have on the kicking game. Friday’s stat-line did not reflect any of this: place kickers Nick Folk and Tristan Vizcaino went a combined 6-for-6.