FOXBORO, Mass. — After emphasizing the run game in their first padded training camp practice, the New England Patriots let their three quarterback hopefuls air it out Tuesday.
Cam Newton, Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer all saw ample passing opportunities in the Patriots? latest camp session, with each receiving a nearly equal split of the QB reps.
Here?s what stood out to us Tuesday about that highly anticipated quarterback competition and the rest of the Patriots? roster battles:
— Running backs Sony Michel and Lamar Miller, linebacker Anfernee Jennings, wide receiver Jeff Thomas, defensive tackle Beau Allen and defensive end Tashawn Bower all were absent from practice.
Bower was the only player on that list who was present Monday.
Michel and Miller remain on the active/physically unable to perform list as they work their way back from foot and ACL surgery, respectively.
— Receivers Julian Edelman and Will Hastings were limited in practice and did not participate in drills.
— Still doubting the legitimacy of New England?s quarterback competition? Here was the order of QB reps Tuesday:
First period (11-on-11s): Stidham, Hoyer, Newton
Second (11s): Newton, Hoyer, Stidham
Third (11s): Hoyer, Stidham, Newton
Fourth (7s): Stidham, Newton, Hoyer
Fifth (11s): Newton, Hoyer, Stidham
Sixth (11s): Stidham, Hoyer, Newton, Hoyer, Newton
Stidham went 8-for-11 in 11-on-11s. All three of his incompletions were interceptions — one to cornerback Michael Jackson (on a pass to Damiere Byrd), one to corner Stephon Gilmore (on a pass to Devin Ross) and one to rookie safety Kyle Dugger (on a deep ball to Byrd).
Hoyer went 9-for-11 and connected on a couple of impressive deep passes. Gunner Olszewski caught one for a touchdown against rookie corner Myles Bryant early in practice, and Ross caught one late, beating veteran Jason McCourty.
Newton went 9-for-12 and was victimized by some receiver errors, as Olszewski and Mohamed Sanu both dropped passes from the former Carolina Panthers star during 11-on-11s. He overthrew a streaking Byrd — another ex-Panther — on his other incompletion. Newton’s renowned energy again was evident, with enthusiastic exclamations that could be heard over the din of practice.
It?s clear Newton still is learning the intricacies of the Patriots? system. He appeared to have an issue on a handoff with running back Damien Harris during one 11-on-11 period. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels pulled him aside for some coaching points after that.
Through two padded practices, it?s difficult to draw any meaningful conclusions about the Patriots? most important roster battle. To use a McDaniels term, this competition has yet to “declare itself.”
— Ross, a member of the Patriots’ practice squad last season, has been an unexpected standout thus far in camp, hauling in eye-popping long completions in each of the team’s first two padded practices.
The 25-year-old Colorado product may have a stronger shot of contending for a roster spot than we initially anticipated.
— Draft picks Dugger, Josh Uche and Devin Asiasi all were heavily involved for the second consecutive day.
Dugger, who showed impressive range on his interception, brings intriguing versatility to New England?s defensive backfield and seems to be adjusting quickly in his transition from Division II Lenoir-Rhyne to the NFL.
Uche, a do-everything linebacker at Michigan last year, should have a significant role in New England?s front seven following Dont?a Hightower?s opt-out.
Asiasi, the first of two tight ends New England drafted in the third round (along with Dalton Keene) this past April, joined receivers Sanu and N?Keal Harry for a side session with Patriots quarterbacks during a special teams period. McDaniels, quarterbacks coach Jedd Fisch and receivers coach Mick Lombardi directed the session.
Asiasi also caught passes from Newton, Stidham and Hoyer in team drills and later received an atta-boy from an assistant coach after delivering a powerful block. At 6-foot-3, 257 pounds, the UCLA product is a physically imposing dude.
— Dugger, Byrd and undrafted rookie running back J.J. Taylor practiced kick returns. Olszewski, Taylor and UDFA wideout Isaiah Zuber returned punts.
Olszewski, who won the punt return job in camp last summer, appears to have the inside track there.
— Despite his drop, Olszewski had a solid day overall.
He caught the long touchdown from Hoyer, saw a lot of opportunities throughout practice and stood out positively in a new drill that called for offensive players to pick up the ball and attempt to run through an individual defender positioned a few feet away. Two of his reps in that drill drew whoops and cheers from his fellow offensive players.
Keene, Uche and fullback Jakob Johnson also had notable reps in the power-focused drill.
— Jermaine Eluemunor appears to have a leg up in competition to replace Marcus Cannon at right tackle. Eluemunor played sparingly as a reserve guard last season but was a right tackle at Texas A&M. He has the size to play that spot, checking in at 6-foot-4, 335 pounds.
— With little proven depth behind starting center David Andrews, the Patriots are tapping into Hjalte Froholdt?s versatility. Froholdt?s primary position is guard, but he did start three games at center during his final season at Arkansas.
Froholdt missed his entire rookie season with an injury suffered in New England?s preseason finale.
— Taylor nearly “buttfumbled” himself when he ran directly into tackle Yodny Cajuste?s backside during 11-on-11s. The diminutive back was able to hold onto the ball and bounce back to his feet.
— After a shaky performance Monday, rookie kicker Justin Rohrwasser did not attempt any field goals during Tuesday?s practice.
— Practice ended with some goal-line work. The offense won the day in this period, scoring touchdowns on four consecutive plays.
Harris beat Uche for a juggling one-handed touchdown catch, Rex Burkhead plunged in for two 1-yard touchdown runs and Newton found a wide-open Asiasi in the end zone for another score.
The defense finished strong, though, stuffing Harris on the final rep of the day.