Patriots Joint Practice Observations: How Mac Jones, Cam Newton Fared

Cam Newton and Mac Jones had just three incompletions between them


Aug 17, 2021

PHILADELPHIA — The New England Patriots held their second of two joint practices with the Eagles on Tuesday. Here are our observations from Day 2:

Full pads.

Did not participate:
QB Jarrett Stidham
K Nick Folk
CB Stephon Gilmore
CB Jonathan Jones
S Joshuah Bledsoe
DB Myles Bryant
LB Cameron McGrone
LS Joe Cardona
LB Anfernee Jennings
LB Terez Hall
TE Jonnu Smith
TE Matt LaCosse
WR Tre Nixon
TE Troy Fumagalli
DT Lawrence Guy
DT Byron Cowart

TE Hunter Henry

The Patriots have a total of five tight ends on their roster. Four of them were unavailable Tuesday, with Smith, LaCosse and Fumagalli all sitting out and Henry spending the day rehabbing with strength coach Moses Cabrera.

The Patriots also were without top slot cornerback Jonathan Jones, who missed practice for the first time this summer. Jones, Smith and Fumagalli attended practice in workout clothes. There was no sign of LaCosse, who left Monday’s practice after taking a hard hit from Eagles defensive end Derek Barnett.

Smith and Henry are recovering from ankle and shoulder injuries, respectively, and are unlikely to play in Thursday night’s preseason game.

Rookie edge rusher Ronnie Perkins briefly left the field, flanked by a team trainer, but later returned with his right knee taped. He appeared to tweak something during an awkward collision on a kickoff return.

Both of New England’s starting quarterback hopefuls turned in strong performances Tuesday, finishing with near-perfect stat lines.

Cam Newton went 11-of-12 in 7-on-7s, opening with 11 straight completions before a Kristian Wilkerson drop in the end zone. He was 2-of-3 across a few brief 11-on-11 periods, completing a short pass to Kendrick Bourne that was nearly intercepted and a screen to Sony Michel. Newton’s lone incompletion was batted down by a linebacker.

Mac Jones started poorly with an ugly interception on his first 7-on-7 rep — he stared down tight end Devin Asiasi up the seam, and an Eagles linebacker undercut the route for an easy pick — but was flawless from there on out, closing 7s with 10 consecutive completions and going 3-for-3 in 11-on-11s.

Overall, this was a much-improved showing from the Patriots’ passing game, which sputtered at times Monday. Newton and Jones combined for just three total incompletions on 29 attempts.

It will be interesting to see how the Patriots divide reps between the two Thursday night. In last week’s preseason opener against the Washington Football Team, Newton played the first two series, and Jones got the next five.

— Red zone was the primary focus of Tuesday’s practice. All reps in 1-on-1, 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills took place inside the 20-yard line.

— Practice was shorter than Monday’s, wrapping up after about an hour and 20 minutes. It also was light on full-team work, with the Patriots’ offense totaling just 18 11-on-11 reps. Newton and Jones logged close to 60 11-on-11 reps between them on Monday.

— With Henry, Smith, LaCosse and Fumagalli all sidelined, Asiasi played nearly every snap in full-team drills. He dropped a pass from third-string QB Brian Hoyer in 7-on-7s but closed out the day with a touchdown catch from Jones in 11-on-11s. It was Asiasi’s first reception in a competitive 11-on-11 setting this summer.

Asiasi, who also had a catch from Jones in 7s that earned him an atta-boy from position coach Nick Caley, should see a huge workload Thursday night. It’s a golden opportunity for the 2020 third-round draft pick to impress after an underwhelming rookie season (two total catches in nine games) and a bout with COVID-19 that delayed his arrival at training camp.

— Jonathan Jones’ absence triggered some changes in the Patriots’ first-team defense. Jalen Mills, who’s manned Gilmore’s usual outside cornerback spot throughout camp, shifted into Jones’ slot role, and Joejuan Williams bumped up from the second team to replace him.

Mills, a former Eagle, had a standout moment late in practice when he blanketed speedy wideout Jalen Reagor on an end-zone incompletion.

— Rookie defensive tackle Christian Barmore continued to rep with the top defense with Guy out. The Philadelphia-area native could make his NFL preseason debut Thursday night against his hometown team.

— The battles between Patriots defensive backs and Eagles tight ends were fun to watch — and often favored Philly. Dallas Goedert beat Williams and safety Adrian Phillips for touchdowns, and Zach Ertz had a score against Kyle Dugger.

Phillips, who also broke up a pass intended for Ertz, said the matchups against Philadelphia’s two 6-foot-5 pass-catchers — “tall trees,” he called them — were good preparation for the regular season.

— Reagor Moss’d cornerback Michael Jackson during receiver/defensive back 1-on-1s, hauling in this insane one-handed catch:

— Jakobi Meyers had the best catch by a Patriots receiver, reaching across his body to snare an off-target pass from third-string QB Brian Hoyer. Six of the Patriots’ 23 total completions in 7-on-7s went to Meyers (three from Newton, two from Jones, one from Hoyer). The rest of New England’s wideouts combined for eight catches during those periods.

— The Patriots continued to rotate all six of their running backs in with their first-team offense. Brandon Bolden provided the most impressive rush of the day when he powered through rookie cornerback Zech McPhearson at the goal line, prompting a hearty cheer from the Patriots’ sideline.

Mills, who was heckled by his former Philadelphia teammates throughout Monday’s practice, ran down to celebrate with Bolden.

— Undrafted rookie kicker Quinn Nordin went 3-for-4 on field-goal attempts, hitting from 33, 40 and 44 yards before pushing a 46-yard bid wide left. Nordin, the Patriots’ lone UDFA, is looking to pry a roster spot away from the veteran Folk, who hasn’t practiced or played since Aug. 4.

— Gunner Olszewski made a diving touchdown catch during 1-on-1s and showed off some tenacious run blocking in 11-on-11s, driving cornerback Josiah Scott out of the end zone on a Bolden carry.

— Bourne won all three of his 1-on-1 reps. Nelson Agholor — one of the top performers in Monday’s practice — drew a defensive hold on his first rep but dropped passes on his next two, prompting him to kick over an empty trash can in frustration.

— Mac Jones sported a different, smaller brace on his left knee Tuesday. The QB said Monday that he planned to try out a few different pieces of protective equipment this week.

— Bolden, Kyle Dugger and J.J. Taylor handled kick return duties.

— The Patriots must trim their roster to 85 players by 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday. They entered the day with one additional cut to make after releasing wide receiver Marvin Hall, tight end David Wells, outside linebacker Rashod Berry and offensive lineman Jerald Hawkins earlier in the week.

Thumbnail photo via Paul Rutherford/USA TODAY Sports Images
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