Patriots Training Camp Notes: N’Keal Harry Stands Out Again On Day 8

Plus: The latest on New England QB competition, which appears all but settled

by Zack Cox

Aug 25, 2020

FOXBORO, Mass. — The New England Patriots took the field in front of reporters for the eighth time Tuesday morning. Here’s everything we saw at their latest training camp practice:

Attire: Full pads

Absent: WR Julian Edelman, WR Devin Ross, S Adrian Phillips, RB Sony Michel, RB Lamar Miller, OT Yodny Cajuste, WR Will Hastings, WR Jeff Thomas, DT Beau Allen

The Patriots have managed Edelman’s workload throughout camp, but this was his first absence from practice. Ross also missed his first practice.

Physically unable to perform list: Michel, Miller

Limited: S Kyle Dugger, WR Jakobi Meyers, LB Terez Hall, TE Devin Asiasi

Dugger’s and Phillips’ injuries have taxed the Patriots’ safety depth. Of the three primary candidates for Patrick Chung’s starting strong safety spot, only veteran Terrence Brooks has been able to stay on the field consistently in camp.

Cornerbacks like Jonathan Jones and Joejuan Williams have the versatility to play safety, as well.

With Meyers, who’s battled an undisclosed injury since last week, not taking part in team or positional drills, the Patriots had just five active receivers Tuesday: N’Keal Harry, Mohamed Sanu, Gunner Olszewski, Damiere Byrd and Isaiah Zuber.

Asiasi, who’s impressed thus far in camp, received medical attention on his foot/ankle and watched the final portion of team drills from the sideline. That’s a situation to monitor moving forward, as the third-round draft pick should be in the mix for the starting tight end spot.

Returned: CB Stephon Gilmore, TE Jake Burt

The reigning Defensive Player of the Year was back after being excused from the previous four practices to attend to a personal matter.

Linebacker Cassh Maluia also was a full participant after suffering an apparent shoulder injury in Monday’s practice.

QB stats:
Cam Newton: 14 of 19
Brian Hoyer: 7 of 13
Jarrett Stidham: 6 of 6

Newton: 3 of 4
Hoyer: 2 of 2
Stidham: 1 of 2

QB winner: It’s probably time to retire this category, as Newton appears to have a commanding lead in this quarterback competition. He had another strong day, connecting on all but five of his 19 passes in 11-on-11s. Three of those incompletions were dropped (by Sanu, James White and Olszewski).

Newton also had more opportunities to showcase his rushing ability than he has in most practices, and he was behind center during the lone two-minute drill period to close out practice.

Though the reps still were tilted sharply toward Newton, Stidham was more active than he had been in recent sessions and completed all six passes he attempted in full-team drills.

The Patriots employed a rapid QB rotation during one team period, going Newton, Hoyer, Newton, Stidham, Newton, Hoyer on six successive snaps.

Overall, though, Newton looked like the clear No. 1, leading off eight of the nine competitive periods.

Hoyer, who led off the other, continued his steady play, though he underthrew a pass to Zuber that resulted in a pass breakup and sailed a pass over Harry on a sideline route.

Interceptions: None

Pass breakups: CBs Jason McCourty, J.C. Jackson, D’Angelo Ross, Michael Jackson

Drops: WR Mohamed Sanu, TE Paul Quessenberry, RB James White, WR Gunner Olszewski

More notes:

— Patriots receivers and cornerbacks engaged in some spirited 1-on-1 battles. Here were the results of those, with the winner in bold:

Mohamed Sanu vs. Stephon Gilmore
Gunner Olszewski vs. Jonathan Jones
N’Keal Harry vs. Joejuan Williams
Damiere Byrd vs. J.C. Jackson
Isaiah Zuber vs. Justin Bethel
Gunner Olszewski vs. Michael Jackson
Mohamed Sanu vs. Jason McCourty (PBU)
N’Keal Harry vs. J.C. Jackson (PBU)
Gunner Olszewski vs. D’Angelo Ross (PBU)
Damiere Byrd vs. Myles Bryant
Isaiah Zuber vs. Michael Jackson
Mohamed Sanu vs. Stephon Gilmore
Gunner Olszewski vs. Jonathan Jones
N’Keal Harry vs. J.C. Jackson
Damiere Byrd vs. D’Angelo Ross
Gunner Olszewski vs. Myles Bryant
Isaiah Zuber vs. Michael Jackson
Mohamed Sanu vs. Justin Bethel

— After losing his first rep to Byrd, J.C. Jackson bounced back with a vengeance, breaking up one pass to Harry and smothering him in coverage to force another incompletion.

— Overall, though, this was another encouraging showing for Harry, who missed three days with an injury last week and struggled Sunday in his first day back.

Early in practice, the physically gifted second-year wideout pulled down impressive back-shoulder receptions against Williams in 1-on-1s and Jason McCourty on the first rep of 7-on-7s — reminiscent of the highlight-reel grabs Harry would make with regularity last summer.

Harry also provided the biggest jolt of nastiness in what otherwise was a relatively low-intensity session. He and Michael Jackson, who recently came over from Detroit in a trade, jawed at one another after the whistle during 11-on-11s, then had to be separated after Harry bodyslammed Jackson to the ground during a 1-on-1 blocking drill.

Even in his slimmed-down state, Harry has shown some ferocious blocking ability.

The Patriots, who have questionable depth at receiver, have to like what they’ve seen from their top 2019 draft pick over the last two days.

— The play of the day came courtesy of undrafted rookie running back J.J. Taylor.

Late in practice, Taylor motioned out of the backfield, breezed past inside linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley on a vertical route and hauled in a 30-yard deep ball from Newton.

This hasn’t been a flawless camp for “Little Dion,” but he’s certainly an intriguing talent who will be in the mix for a roster spot if Michel and/or Miller can’t make it off PUP.

— In Day 2 of the Patriots’ kicker competition, Nick Folk went 3-for-3 on field goals during team drills, hitting from roughly 33, 43 and 48 yards. Justin Rohrwasser went 2-for-3, pushing his attempt from 43 wide right.

Folk, who signed over the weekend as competition for the rookie Rohrwasser, also missed from roughly 50 yards out while kicking toward the skinny practice goal posts.

— Olszewski continues to stack positive days together. Drops remain an issue for the second-year wideout, but he looked like the Patriots’ best receiver Tuesday with Edelman sitting out.

Olszewski caught six passes on seven targets in team drills, including a contested catch against Jones in 7-on-7s that elicited a celebratory howl from Newton.

— Zuber, an undrafted rookie, had his best day of camp, catching four of the five balls thrown his way in team drills. He was able to shake J.C. Jackson’s man coverage — no small feat — on one of them.

— Byrd was able to create ample separation on multiple 1-on-1 reps, but deep balls to the speedy wideout have been low-percentage plays since early in camp.

— Maluia and outside linebacker Derek Rivers had likely sacks in 11-on-11s (players are not allowed to hit the quarterback in practice). New guy Michael Barnett also had two nice plays on the edge in run defense.

— Rookie tight end Dalton Keene laid a key block on an edge defender to spring Rex Burkhead for a touchdown.

— To simulate crowd noise, the Patriots pumped what sounded like the drone of low-flying airplanes (?) over their speakers.

At least a few of the Patriots’ opponents this season — including the Kansas City Chiefs and Miami Dolphins — are planning to allow a limited number of fans into their stadiums, and all teams might be able to pipe in simulated crowd noise.

Thumbnail photo via New England Patriots

Thumbnail photo via New England Patriots
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