FOXBORO, Mass. — In their first three open training camp practices, the New England Patriots split reps almost equally between their three starting quarterback hopefuls.
That was not the case on Day 4.
Here’s everything we saw at Thursday’s Patriots practice, including some interesting developments behind center:
Attire: Full pads
Absent: WR N’Keal Harry, S Adrian Phillips, CB Stephon Gilmore, RB Sony Michel, RB Lamar Miller, OT Yodny Cajuste, DT Beau Allen, DE Derek Rivers, DE Tashawn Bower
Phillips, Gilmore and Cajuste were new absences. Harry missed his second straight practice. That’s a concerning trend for a player who dealt with multiple preseason injuries last summer.
Physically unable to perform list: Michel, Miller
Limited: WR Julian Edelman, WR Will Hastings, WR Jeff Thomas, LB Anfernee Jennings
This was the first time the Patriots had all three of their undrafted receivers (Hastings, Thomas and Isaiah Zuber) on the field together in camp, with Thomas making his practice debut. Hastings and Thomas were limited but did take a few reps in team drills.
Jennings, a 2020 third-round draft pick, practiced in front of reporters for the first time. He was limited.
Edelman, who also was limited in Tuesday’s practice, did not take part in team drills.
Cam Newton: 7 of 13
Brian Hoyer: 6 of 11
Jarrett Stidham: 2 of 6, two INTs
Newton: 3 of 4
Hoyer: 0 of 4, one INT
Stidham: 0 of 0
QB winner: Newton, but almost by default.
The 2015 NFL MVP didn’t have any standout moments and clearly is still adjusting to the Patriots’ offense, but he fewer mistakes and was more accurate than Stidham or Hoyer and also got to show off his mobility a bit. Newton had a chance for a big gain to Jakobi Meyers but overthrew the second-year wideout.
As for the others, this was a rough day for both Hoyer and Stidham.
Hoyer was erratic in 7-on-7s — his first three throws went underthrow, overthrow, underthrow — and 11s before settling down and completing four of his final five passes. In the first 11-on-11 period, he and fourth-string rookie Brian Lewerke worked with a group of offensive players on one field while Newton and Stidham switched off on the other.
For the first time in camp, Stidham received significantly fewer reps than his QB counterparts. He didn’t take a snap in 7-on-7s, and his third pass attempt of 11s (after completions to J.J. Taylor and Devin Ross) was picked off by undrafted rookie cornerback Myles Bryant. On his next rep, Stidham threw off-target to Damiere Byrd on a comeback route, resulting in an interception for Justin Bethel.
His next time out, after a handoff to Damien Harris, he threw wide of a crossing Devin Asiasi, missing the open tight end. He attempted just one pass for the remainder of practice, a toss to Olszewski in the end zone that was broken up by Bryant.
Stidham has thrown six interceptions over the final three practices (and nearly threw another on Wednesday), compared to one for Hoyer and two for Newton.
After the split period, the QB order in team drills went:
(change field location)
At this point, no clear favorite has emerged in this high-profile roster battle, but Stidham will need to take better care of the ball moving forward if he wants to beat out the more accomplished Newton.
Drops: Isaiah Zuber (two), Julian Edelman, Devin Ross, J.J. Taylor, Dalton Keene, James White, Damiere Byrd
Ross also lost the ball in the sun on one rep in individual drills. Newton pulled him aside for some instruction after that one.
Interceptions: Myles Bryant (two), Justin Bethel
Pass breakups: Myles Bryant (two), J.C. Jackson (two), Jonathan Jones
This was the strongest showing yet for Bryant, the Patriots? undrafted rookie cornerback. He had some issues covering Gunner Olszewski and other wideouts earlier in the week.
New England has been a factory for UDFA corners in recent years. We’ll have our eye on Bryant moving forward.
— Gunner Olszewski had another strong day in what’s been an impressive camp for the second-year wideout/return man. Olszewski appears to have a clear edge in the punt return competition and has stood out positively on offense, too. His routes look sharp, and it looks like he’s packed on some muscle since landing on injured reserve last November.
Olszewski did have a bobble during a 4-on-4 drill that nearly resulted in a Jones interception, but he recovered and was able to strip the ball out of the cornerback’s hands, limiting the damage to a pass breakup.
— Ross, an unexpected camp standout thus far, drew cheers from teammates and coaches for a route he ran in 1-on-1s and an open-field block he threw in full-team drills. His four receptions in 11s led all Patriots pass-catchers.
— Harry absent and Edelman limited, Ross was the only Patriots wideout to catch more than one pass in 11-on-11s. Olszewski, Byrd, Zuber and Mohamed Sanu each caught one.
Most of the other completions went to running backs/fullbacks. Alex Ellis was the only tight end with a catch in 11-on-11s, though Ryan Izzo did make a few noteworthy grabs in earlier drills.
— Asiasi, Sanu and running back James White worked on a separate field with Patriots QBs during a special teams period. Asiasi appears to have an edge over players like Izzo and fellow rookie Dalton Keene in the tight end competition.
— Linebacker Terez Hall was in on back-to-back goal-line stops to end practice. He walloped J.J. Taylor in the hole on one of them. Hall has been with the Patriots since May 2019, spending all of last season on the practice squad.
Sixth-round draft pick Cassh Maluia also made a nice tackle on fullback Jakob Johnson in that same period to prevent a touchdown. Maluia intercepted a Newton pass on Wednesday. Solid start for the Wyoming product.
— Chase Winovich sniffed out a play-action rollout, forcing a throwaway.
— Defensive tackle Adam Butler had his hand/wrist checked out by the training staff but later returned to the field.
— Rookie guard Mike Onwenu moves well for a man his size (6-foot-3, 350 pounds).
— Tackle Korey Cunningham had the loudest block of the day, burying safety Terrence Brooks to clear a lane for Rex Burkhead.
— Tough day for Zuber, who dropped two passes and had to run a lap after muffing a kick. Linebacker Brandon Copeland also ran a lap.
— Top draft pick Kyle Dugger and Brooks both got a lot of work at the safety position with Phillips absent. All three players bring versatility to New England’s defensive backfield.
— Rookie Justin Rohrwasser did not attempt any field goals. He hasn’t done so since going 3-for-5 Monday in the team’s first padded practice.
— The Patriots will practice again Friday before an off-day Saturday.
Thumbnail photo via New England Patriots