FOXBORO, Mass. — The New England Patriots held their first full-pads practice of training camp Tuesday morning.
Here’s everything we saw on Day 6 of Patriots camp:
Full pads. A welcome change for players and observers after five days of helmets and shorts.
Did not participate:
QB Jarrett Stidham (physically unable to perform list)
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)
DL Henry Anderson
DT Byron Cowart (PUP)
LB Kyle Van Noy (red non-contact jersey)
Karras hasn’t practiced since suffering an apparent knee injury last Friday, sitting out the last three sessions. Anderson went down late in Monday’s practice after a collision with offensive lineman Marcus Martin. Both were part of the Patriots’ wave of offseason signings, and both are expected to contribute this season.
Asiasi, who reportedly tested positive for COVID-19 two weeks ago, was spotted at the facility for the first time since camp began. Gilmore, Winovich, McGrone, Bledsoe and Cowart continued their rehab.
The Patriots lost two additional defensive players to injuries during practice.
Linebacker Raekwon McMillan, who’s enjoyed a solid camp thus far, appeared to tweak something in his lower leg while running down in punt coverage. He was evaluated by head trainer Jim Whalen in the team’s medical shed before eventually exiting toward the locker room.
Later, rookie defensive tackle Christian Barmore could be seen with his left shoe off on the sideline, receiving attention from Whalen during an 11-on-11 drill. He did not return to the field but did remain on the sideline for the remainder of practice, which could be viewed as a positive sign.
Expectations are high for Barmore after the Patriots traded up to draft him in the second round, and he logged several impressive reps in O-line vs. D-line 1-on-1s before his injury.
On Mac Jones’ seventh rep of 11-on-11s, wide receiver Jakobi Meyers streaked across the field on a deep crosser, yards away from the closest Patriots defender. Meyers tried to signal to his QB waving his arms as he sprinted through the secondary — the universal sign for “I’m wide open.”
Jones, though, didn’t look Meyers’ way. Instead, he tried to force a tight-window pass to Kristian Wilkerson along the left sideline. Cornerback Joejuan Williams, in tight coverage, broke it up.
It was that kind of day for the rookie quarterback, easily his shakiest of Patriots training camp to date.
Jones completed just 1 of 6 passes in full-team drills. His first attempt resulted in an interception by linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley, and his second-to-last clanged off the hands of Anfernee Jennings. Both were ill-advised throws with little chance of finding their intended target. Jones also threw an interception to Myles Bryant during receiver vs. defensive back 1-on-1s.
Jones did go a perfect 8-for-8 across two 7-on-7 periods, but most of those were short throws and checkdowns. Reserve wideout Devin Ross caught Jones’ only completion in 11-on-11s.
Cam Newton started slowly — his first two passes in competitive drills were underthrown and broken up, with safety Kyle Dugger nearly picking off the first — but went on to deliver two of the best completions of camp: a 50-yard bomb to receiver Nelson Agholor and short floater to tight end Hunter Henry in the corner of the end zone. (Dugger was in coverage on both plays.)
Newton also was able to flash his rushing ability, keeping the ball on three of four reps in a late goal-line period. That’s one aspect of the veteran’s skill set that Jones cannot replicate.
Overall, Newton went 5-for-7 in 11-on-11s and 6-for-10 in 7s. Both quarterbacks finished practice with a simulated two-minute drill ran at less than full speed.
Newton has been far from perfect this summer, but in our view, Jones needs to outplay him by a significant margin in order to win QB1 status. Six days in, that has not been the case. And Tuesday was a decisive win for the incumbent.
PLAYER OF THE DAY
There were a few candidates, but we’ll go with edge rusher Matt Judon, who was a force in both 1-on-1s and 11-on-11s. Early in the latter, he worked his way into in the backfield almost immediately, forcing a Newton spike. The high-priced free agent is going to be a problem for opposing tackles this season.
Second-year pro Josh Uche also dominated in 1-on-1s, and Barmore was impressive before his injury.
PLAY OF THE DAY
Newton’s deep ball to Agholor.
— With pads on for the first time this summer, Tuesday’s primary focus was on the run game. Patriots quarterbacks combined for just 13 pass attempts in 11-on-11 drills, down from 40 on Monday.
Players generally are discouraged from full-on tackling each other in practice, but there were a few takedowns late in the day. Jumbo-sized rookie running back Rhamondre Stevenson supplied the biggest collision when he truck-sticked the much smaller Bryant on an off-tackle handoff.
— The first competitive period of practice was a 4-on-4 offense-vs.-defense drill with fourth-stringer Jake Dolegala at quarterback. This period focused mainly on run blocking in space, but Dolegala — who hasn’t been included in 7-on-7s or 11-on-11s — was allowed to air out a few passes.
Gunner Olszewski hauled in a nice contested catch against Dee Virgin, Meyers shook Jalen Mills and made a nifty tiptoe grab along the sideline, and Isaiah Zuber and Wilkerson beat D’Angelo Ross and Bryant, respectively, on deep routes.
During this drill, Newton, Jones and Brian Hoyer worked with a small group of running backs on the opposite end of the field.
— Day 6 featured the first interpositional 1-on-1 periods of training camp, with receivers and tight ends going up against defensive backs and defensive linemen and edge rusher trying to best offensive linemen.
N’Keal Harry made three receptions in 1-on-1s that drew cheers from the training camp crowd. He closed out the session with a back-shoulder touchdown grab against slot corner Jonathan Jones, showcasing the kind of contested-catch ability that helped make him a star at Arizona State.
— Kendrick Bourne swept his three 1-on-1 matchups against starting corner J.C. Jackson.
— Judon, Uche and Barmore were defensive standouts in 1-on-1s.
The Patriots’ reserve tackles were not match for the speedy Uche, who had decisive wins against Korey Cunningham, Yodny Cajuste and R.J. Prince. Prince also was on the receiving end of a powerful straight-arm from roster hopeful Rashod Berry that knocked him backward.
Montravius Adams had a few notable losses. He’s competing with players like Carl Davis, Akeem Spence and Byron Cowart for one of the final D-line roster spots.
— Offensively, guard Shaq Mason was stout in 1-on-1s, and center David Andrews put at least two opponents on the ground.
— Davis, Ronnie Perkins, Mike Onwenu, Will Sherman, Nick Thurman and Sony Michel were among those forced to run penalty laps during practice, mostly for jumping early.
— The Patriots brought in an NFL officiating crew to moderate Tuesday’s practice. We spotted flags on Agholor (offensive holding), Bourne (offensive pass interference) and tackle Jerald Hawkins (likely illegal hands to the face).
— Jones’ final pass of full-speed 11-on-11s — to Agholor in the left corner of the end zone — sparked some controversy. Agholor caught the ball, but an official ruled him out of bounds, prompting Newton to sprint in from behind the play and protest, waving a white towel through the air.
— Newton has said playing in empty stadiums last season was difficult for him. He’s embraced the crowd during these camp practices, launching into elaborate celebrations and handing the football to a fan after each touchdown he scores. (Alas, those gifts are only temporary; an equipment staffer swiftly steps in to retrieve the ball.)
On Tuesday, while the defense and special teams were running a lap following a goal-line touchdown, Newton turned to the crowd and raised his arms, eliciting several waves of applause.
— Head coach Bill Belichick huddled his players on the field before warmups, the first time he’s done so this summer. His message?
“Let’s go,” defensive end Deatrich Wise relayed. “Let’s have a good practice, start fast.”
— Patriots Hall of Famer Tedy Bruschi watched practice from the sidelines.
— The Patriots will be back on the field Wednesday morning for Day 7 of camp.