Patriots Training Camp Observations: Mac Jones’ Reps Increase On Day 5

The Patriots will practice in pads for the first time Tuesday


August 2, 2021

FOXBORO, Mass. — You can refer to Monday as “Calm Before the Storm Day” at New England Patriots training camp.

Here are our observations from the team’s fifth camp practice:

Helmets and shells.

Full pads come on Tuesday. Get excited.

Did not participate:
QB Jarrett Stidham (PUP)
CB Stephon Gilmore (PUP)
TE Dalton Keene (PUP)
LB Chase Winovich (PUP)
LB Cameron McGrone (non-football injury list)
LB Terez Hall (PUP)
S Joshuah Bledsoe (NFI)
C/G Ted Karras
TE Devin Asiasi (reserve/COVID-19 list)
DT Byron Cowart (PUP)

LB Kyle Van Noy (red non-contact jersey)

Karras hasn’t practiced since leaving last Friday’s session with an apparent knee injury. His status bears monitoring, as he’s projected as the Patriots’ top interior O-line reserve. Marcus Martin appears to be the next man up in that role.

Martin, who signed with the Patriots late last season, started 14 games at center for San Francisco in 2015 but hasn’t played a regular-season offensive snap since 2016.

Defensive lineman Henry Anderson received medical attention late in practice after Martin appeared to knock him to the ground on a goal-line running play. It was difficult to ascertain what type of injury Anderson suffered, but he did not return to the field.

Cam Newton: 14 of 21 (9 of 14 in 11-on-11s)
Mac Jones: 21 of 28 (16 of 21)
Brian Hoyer: 5 of 5 (5 of 5)
Jake Dolegala: no competitive reps

Newton continued to lead off each drill, as he has since the start of the spring, but Jones saw an uptick in reps on Day 5. The team gave him an extra 11-on-11 series that typically would have gone to Hoyer, and Jones went 7-for-8 during it while playing with offensive reserves. The highlight play of that sequence — and Jones’ day as a whole — was a 45-yard touchdown pass to receiver Isaiah Zuber, who took advantage of some poor deep-ball defense by cornerbacks Dee Virgin and D’Angelo Ross.

Periodic hiccups persisted for the former Alabama star, however. Two plays after his touchdown to Zuber, Jones underthrew a similar long heave to Devin Ross. He also missed on a short pass to running back James White, threw low on two crossers in 7-on-7s and ended practice with a 1-for-4 showing in a goal-line period. On one of those incompletions, his pass to Hunter Henry seemed to arrive sooner than the tight end was expecting.

Newton’s best completion of the morning came in that same goal-line period. He delivered a strike to wideout Jakobi Meyers, who beat cornerback Jalen Mills on a quick slant for a touchdown.

Jones and Newton both went 5-for-7 in 7-on-7s. The QBs ran those simultaneously. Most of the projected starting offensive and defensive players were on Newton’s field, while Jones’ featured mostly reserves.

Meyers had a very productive practice, catching six passes on six targets in 11-on-11s. Four of those completions came from Newton, with whom he developed a strong connection last season.

Defensively, safety Adrian Phillips continues to put the clamps on the Patriots’ high-priced tight ends. He applied tight coverage on end-zone incompletions to Henry and Jonnu Smith near the tail end of practice.

Ja’Whaun Bentley showed off his hops on an interception in 7-on-7s. Newton was trying to hit Meyers on a crossing route but found the leaping linebacker instead.

Jones’ bomb to Zuber was the most noteworthy offensive play.

— The overall pace of Monday’s practice was relatively slow, though it did tick up in the final few team periods. Expect Tuesday’s session — the first in full pads this summer — to be a significant step up in intensity.

— Linebacker Raekwon McMillan flashed with two pass breakups, knocking down a throw from Jones in 7-on-7s and one from Newton in 11-on-11s. Head coach Bill Belichick said before practice that he’s been “very impressed” with McMillan’s intelligence and work ethic.

The Patriots targeted McMillan, a former Ohio State standout, in the 2017 NFL Draft, but he was off the board before they made their first selection. The 25-year-old has a familiarity with New England’s defense after playing under Brian Flores in Miami.

— Rookie D-tackle Christian Barmore disrupted former Alabama teammate Jones on two consecutive reps in 11-on-11s, forcing the QB to tuck and scramble on the second. He’ll be a player to watch in 1-on-1 lineman drills later this week.

— Cornerback J.C. Jackson made back-to-back defensive stops in the final minutes of practice, breaking up a pass intended for Nelson Agholor in the corner of the end zone and then forcing Meyers out of bounds inside the 1-yard line.

— Dont’a Hightower’s and Kyle Van Noy’s abilities to play both off the line and on the edge make them valuable chess pieces in the Patriots’ front seven.

— The final rep of practice was a “gotta-have-it” situation from the 1-yard line, with the offense given one play to score. Newton tried to hit Agholor on a goal-line slant, but he got tangled up with Mills, and the pass fell incomplete.

Several offensive players argued that Mills should have been called for pass interference, but Belichick disagreed. As punishment, every offensive player and coach had to run an extended lap around both practice fields before heading off to the locker room.

— Marvin Hall (from Jones), Smith (from Newton), Tre Nixon (from Hoyer) and Sony Michel (from Newton) all dropped passes. Hall’s and Nixon’s came during non-competitive periods.

— The Patriots value special teams more than most NFL clubs, so it’s always notable to see which players are given extra work in the kicking game during these summer practices.

On Monday, Kristian Wilkerson split off from a wideout drill to take reps as a punt gunner with Matthew Slater, Justin Bethel and Dee Virgin.

(Wilkerson, who’s having a strong camp overall, also has seen a lot of opportunities with established offensive players. He ran a nice route in 7-on-7s to shake Mills and haul in a sideline pass from Newton. We included him over N’Keal Harry in our latest 53-man roster projection.)

Later, Jakob Johnson, Rashod Berry, Harvey Langi, Cody Davis, Brandon Bolden, Brandon King and rookie Ronnie Perkins practiced punt protection while most of the team ran through positional drills.

For players on the roster bubble, special teams ability can be the difference between a roster spot and a roster cut.

— Gunner Olszewski seems to be firmly entrenched as the top punt returner — unsurprising after he made first-team All-Pro last season. And speaking of All-Pros, it’s hard not to marvel at punter Jake Bailey’s leg strength, even two years into his Patriots career.

Oh, and Slater acrobatically downed a punt at the 6-inch line. He’s still really good, too.

— Guard Alex Redmond had to run two penalty laps for a false start in 11-on-11s. Typically, that’s a one-lap infraction. Johnson (false start) and Agholor (unclear) also ran laps.

— Safety Adrian Colbert was the first player on the field. Defensive linemen Deatrich Wise and Bill Murray were the last players off.

— Tuesday’s practice is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. ET on the fields behind Gillette Stadium. It is open to the public.

Thumbnail photo via Paul Rutherford/USA TODAY Sports Images
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