Patriots Training Camp Observations: Nelson Agholor Flashes On Day 3

It was the veteran wideout's best day yet


Jul 30, 2021

FOXBORO, Mass. — The New England Patriots hit the field for their third practice of training camp Friday morning. Here’s everything we saw in that session.

Helmets and shells.

This was a step up for the Patriots, who were able to strap on soft shoulder pads after sporting helmets, practice jerseys and shorts on Days 1 and 2. They won’t be in full pads until Tuesday, per head coach Bill Belichick.

Did not participate:
QB Jarrett Stidham (physically unable to perform list)
CB Stephon Gilmore (PUP)
LB Brandon King (PUP)
TE Dalton Keene (PUP)
LB Chase Winovich (PUP)
LB Cameron McGrone (non-football injury list)
LB Anfernee Jennings
LB Terez Hall (PUP)
S Joshuah Bledsoe (NFI)
TE Devin Asiasi (reserve/COVID-19 list)
DT Byron Cowart (PUP)

LB Kyle Van Noy (red non-contact jersey)

Rookie running back Rhamondre Stevenson returned after missing the first two practices, indicating he’s off the NFI list.

Center/guard Ted Karras suffered an apparent leg injury during 11-on-11 drills. He limped off the field, was escorted to an adjacent shed by members of the athletic training staff and then walked toward the locker room alone and under his own power. Belichick walked over to check on Karras while trainers examined him.

The Athletic’s Jeff Howe reported Karras will undergo a “precautionary MRI” on his left knee but that “there’s optimism he avoided anything serious.” That would be good news for the Patriots, as Karras is expected to be their top interior O-line reserve.

A 2016 Patriots draft pick, Karras returned to New England this offseason after one season with the Miami Dolphins.

Mac Jones again delivered several of the most impressive throws of practice — his back-to-back touchdowns to Nelson Agholor (slant) and Kendrick Bourne (corner) were especially pretty — but Cam Newton was the more consistent QB for the second consecutive day.

Newton completed 14 of 20 passes in 11-on-11 drills while Jones went 8-for-18. As he did Thursday and at points in the spring, Jones faded toward the end of practice, connecting on just three of his final 10 throws.

The rookie was victimized by two drops, though, including one by Agholor on what would have been a gorgeous deep-ball touchdown. And overall, he’s shown much better anticipation than his veteran counterpart, consistently getting the ball out quickly and on schedule.

Jones also had a couple nice hookups with Gunner Olszewski, hitting him with a strike up the seam for a touchdown and later rolling out to find him in the back of the end zone during a 3-on-3 passing period. Olszewski later beat Jonathan Jones on an out route for a touchdown from Newton.

Newton overthrew Agholor deep and missed badly on another long heave that landed between Agholor and Jakobi Meyers.

Neither quarterback has been anywhere close to perfect thus far in camp, but in our view, Jones needs to be significantly better than Newton to win the starting job. Three days in, that has not been the case.

Even with his aforementioned drop, this was a great day for Agholor. He hauled in a team-high five receptions during 11-on-11 drills and scored a spectacular touchdown on a pass from Newton. Agholor beat cornerback J.C. Jackson on a crossing route in the back of the end zone and elevated for an acrobatic grab. (Newton’s touchdown passes to Agholor and Olszewski came on consecutive reps.)

On another similar play, Agholor made a nice adjustment to snare a pass from Jones that was thrown slightly behind him.

This was by far the most active day of camp for the 28-year-old wideout, who comes in with high expectations after signing a two-year, $22 million contract in March.

If it wasn’t Agholor’s highlight-reel touchdown snag, it was tight end Jonnu Smith outjumping and outmuscling safety Devin McCourty in the end zone during a 3-on-3s. (Fellow tight end Hunter Henry beat McCourty for another score one play later and celebrated with a spike.)

Smith, another high-priced free agent addition, showed up much more in this practice than he did on Days 1 and 2, catching three passes from Newton in 11-on-11s and finding the end zone at least twice in 3-on-3s.

— We saw our first scuffle of training camp. Center David Andrews and defensive end Rashod Berry needed to be separated after one rep in 11-on-11s. No punches were thrown, and tempers seemed to cool quickly.

— Tashawn Bower (on Newton) and Josh Uche (on Brian Hoyer) both swatted passes down at the line, with Uche’s nearly resulting in an interception for Van Noy. Jackson, Dee Virgin, Adrian Colbert and Kyle Dugger all registered pass breakups.

— Matt Judon — who has a big fan in teammate Davon Godchaux — “sacked” Jones after overwhelming his left tackle on one 11-on-11 rep.

— Not much to report on Stevenson in his first practice of the summer, but he did beat linebacker Ja’Whuan Bentley for a touchdown from Newton in 3-on-3s.

— Though there were a number of offensive highlights during that 3-on-3 period, the defense appeared to win the drill, as all offensive players and coaches were forced to do pushups after it ended.

The offense had to do pushups again after an apparent miscommunication or blown assignment involving Smith resulted in an incompletion. It was a reminder that the tight end still is adjusting to the Patriots’ offense — and that he might be a bit behind his fellow newcomers in that respect after skipping voluntary OTAs and missing most of minicamp with an injury.

— Henry had to run a penalty lap. It wasn’t clear what his infraction was.

— After muffing a punt during Thursday’s practice, Olszewski was the first player on the field Friday, spending several minutes catching punts shot from a JUGS machine.

Olszewski, J.J. Taylor, Marvin Hall and Meyers all returned punts during practice.

— The Patriots announced their practice schedule for the next week:

Saturday: 9:45 a.m. ET
Sunday: Off
Monday: 9:30 a.m.
Tuesday: 9:30 a.m.
Wednesday: 9:30 a.m.
Thursday: 9:30 a.m.
Friday: Time TBA (in-stadium practice)

Thumbnail photo via Paul Rutherford/USA TODAY Sports Images
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