FOXBORO, Mass. — With the Carolina Panthers coming to town Tuesday for a pair of joint practices, the Patriots took things slow in their return to the field.
New England mostly operated at three-quarters speed in its first practice since last Thursday’s preseason opener against the New York Giants, saving the full-intensity drills for later in the week.
Here’s everything we observed Monday on Day 12 of Patriots training camp:
Helmets and shells.
Did not participate
CB Malcolm Butler
ST Cody Davis
CB Joejuan Williams
OL Bill Murray
OL Andrew Stueber
OT Justin Herron
OT Isaiah Wynn
TE Dalton Keene
Herron and Murray were evaluated for injuries during last Thursday’s preseason opener against the New York Giants. The former was present at practice but worked on a side field and was not in uniform.
The reasons for Butler’s, Davis’ and Williams’ absences were unclear. Butler and Williams played against the Giants; Davis did not, sitting out along with most of New England’s regulars.
Stueber is on the non-football injury list with an ailment ESPN’s Mike Reiss suggested likely is season-ending.
Wynn, the Patriots’ projected starting right tackle, now has been a non-participant in three consecutive practices. He also did not dress against the Giants.
Mac Jones completed 23 of 30 passes in 11-on-11 drills, including several periods that were not fully competitive.
Jones started efficiently with 18 completions on his first 19 attempts, but a late two-minute drill proved problematic for the Patriots’ first-team offense. Five of Jones’ final eight passes fell incomplete, including one throwaway, one miscommunication with Nelson Agholor and one throw over the middle to Hunter Henry that was tipped and intercepted by safety Jabrill Peppers.
Brian Hoyer went 9-for-19, and Bailey Zappe was 9-of-12. This practice featured no 7-on-7 or 1-on-1 drills.
PLAYER OF THE DAY
Agholor had the aforementioned mix-up with Jones but also pulled down the two most impressive receptions. He beat Jonathan Jones and Jalen Mills for one-handed touchdowns.
The veteran wide receiver’s name has been mentioned in trade rumors of late, with New England potentially looking to offload his hefty $9 million salary. But this has been a solid summer overall for Agholor, who looks more comfortable and involved than he did during his disappointing debut season in New England.
Agholor saw seven targets from Mac Jones on Monday and caught five of them.
PLAY OF THE DAY
In addition to the two highlight-reel Agholor grabs, rookie Tyquan Thornton also pulled down a pretty over-the-shoulder touchdown from Bailey Zappe in the corner of the end zone. That pass beat tight coverage from fellow 2022 draftee Jack Jones, who notched two pass breakups in practice.
— Yodny Cajuste was treated in the sideline medical tent last Thursday after suffering an apparent knee injury, but that proved to be just a scare. Cajuste was a full participant in practice, repping at right tackle on the top offensive line.
Head coach Bill Belichick said Cajuste, who’s seen offensive snaps in just three regular-season games, is enjoying the best camp of his four-year Patriots career. The 2019 third-round pick is challenging Herron for the third tackle spot and may have jumped ahead in that roster battle, as Herron had a miserable practice at right tackle last Monday and then had two false start penalties against New York.
— Is Jonathan Jones officially an outside cornerback now? He’s played there in every practice for the last week-plus, lining up opposite Mills on the first-team defense.
Those two seem to be the favorites to start at those spots, and that would be a significant change for Jones, who’s primarily played in the slot (with a smaller role at safety) since he joined the Patriots in 2016.
If Jones does stick outside, rookie Marcus Jones and third-year pro Myles Bryant look like the two top contenders for the slot role. Both saw work with the top defense Monday, though Bryant got first ups.
A position change for Jonathan Jones also decreases the odds of New England carrying both Butler and Terrance Mitchell on their 53-man roster, as both are outside cornerbacks with limited positional versatility.
— One of the under-the-radar surprises of Patriots camp is how quiet Kendrick Bourne has been.
Coming off a breakout 2021 season, Bourne has not caught more than one pass from Mac Jones in competitive team drills (11-on-11s and 7-on-7s) in any practice since the opening day of camp.
Here are his day-by-day catch and target totals from Jones, per NESN.com’s charting:
Day 1: 3 of 3
Day 2: 1 of 2
Day 3: 1 of 2
Day 4: 1 of 2
Day 5: 1 of 2
Day 6: 0 of 0
Day 7: 1 of 1
Day 8: 0 of 0
Day 9: Non-competitive practice
Day 10: 1 of 2
Day 11: 0 of 1
Day 12: 0 of 1
Bourne’s lone target Monday was an incompletion in two-minute. He’s still consistently repping with Jones and the top offense, but he hasn’t commanded nearly the same target volume as players like Jakobi Meyers and Agholor.
— During one kickoff period, Mac Jones worked individually with Agholor, DeVante Parker and assistant receivers coach Ross Douglas. During another, he linked up with Henry, Jonnu Smith and tight ends coach Nick Caley. Jones also got additional throws in with Agholor and Parker after practice.
— Ty Montgomery, Marcus Jones, Kyle Dugger, J.J. Taylor and Rhamondre Stevenson returned kicks.
— The team staffers running the sideline chain gang appeared to draw Belichick’s ire on multiple occasions. The head coach unleashed two torrents of expletives when the chains did not display the correct down and distance, prompting him to briefly pause practice.
— The Patriots must cut their roster to 85 players by 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday. They entered Monday with 87 players after re-signing rookie defensive back Devin Hafford, who debuted at practice wearing No. 43.
The Panthers will be in town for joint practices Tuesday and Wednesday ahead of the teams’ Friday night preseason matchup.
NESN.com’s coverage of New England Patriots preseason is presented by Cross Insurance, protecting your team since 1954.