The New England Patriots will return to the fields behind Gillette Stadium on Tuesday to hold their final open practice before the start of preseason. While it remains to be seen how intense the session will be with the game against the New York Giants just over 48 hours away, there are quite a few stories worth keeping a close eye on.
Here are three that stand out among them.
Mac Jones’ demeanor. It has been a tough couple of practices for Mac Jones recently, not necessarily because of his performance but rather the entire offense looking off. Monday was more of the same, with the unit struggling to generate a lot of positive plays.
Along the way, Jones looked flustered and uncomfortable on several occasions. For example, most of his completions in team drills against the starting offense were in the short parts of the field and appeared rushed. With the offensive line struggling to keep protection alive, only one of his throws in 11-on-11s was charted to have traveled more than 10 yards through the air.
Will Tuesday bring any changes for Jones, or only more frustration? Time will tell.
The use of spread concepts. The Patriots have had a hard time running zone and play-action concepts earlier in camp, but on Monday showed some changes. Spreading the field a bit more and introducing tempo during 7-on-7s allowed the offense to operate at arguably its highest level to date.
The operation broke down as soon as the offensive and defensive lines were added to the mix, but those were a few encouraging moments. Maybe that was a sign of things to come, with Tuesday’s practice the next opportunity to see potential changes.
The top three cornerbacks. The Patriots have mixed and matched their cornerback personnel regularly during the first 10 practices of the summer, but on Monday used a new combination: Jalen Mills and Jonathan Jones as the outside cornerbacks with Marcus Jones in the slot.
On paper, the group is a pretty fast one — possibly one New England might use against speedy opponents such as the Miami Dolphins in Week 1. Then again, maybe that group will establish itself as the top trio after all even with Terrance Mitchell having filled the starting spot opposite Mills for most of camp so far.
Tuesday will not give us a definitive answer, but it might give us a clue in which direction the group is trending.
As for yesterday’s things to watch, here are a few quick notes:
Offensive consistency: Yeah, that was not what anybody was looking for. The Patriots offense had arguably its worst practice of the summer on Monday; Mac Jones and the passing offense had a hard time stringing plays together in 11-on-11s, while the running game went nowhere. It was a bad day.
Bailey Zappe’s workload: In terms of reps, Zappe and veteran backup quarterback Brian Hoyer operated basically on the same workload. The rookie, however, did look better and successfully went downfield more often than his more experienced teammates. Of course, most of his work came against the third-string defense.
The early-camp standouts: We mentioned four players as early-camp standouts on Monday: running back Ty Montgomery, defensive lineman LaBryan Ray, cornerback Terrance Mitchell and safety Joshuah Bledsoe. Of those four, Mitchell and Bledsoe were the most actively involved. Mitchell again saw prominent action on the perimeter, even with Jonathan Jones seeing starter-level reps, while Bledsoe caught an interception against Brian Hoyer.