The New England Patriots once again donned the pads for a rainy eighth day of training camp practices. Despite the somewhat inclement weather in New England, the Pats practiced outdoors on Thursday.
Here are some of the morning's highlights from the practice fields adjacent to Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts:
The following Patriots players were newly absent on Thursday: DL Christian Barmore, WR Devin Ross, S Cody Davis, CB D'Angelo Ross, K Nick Folk
Barmore had left Tuesday’s practice with what looked to be a foot/ankle ailment, but was back at practice on Wednesday. As reported by Henry McKenna of USA Today’s Patriots Wire, Barmore is apparently dealing with a blister on his foot. Per McKenna’s report, Barmore’s absence is a result of the Patriots managing the situation.
LB Raekwon McMillan, DT Akeem Spence and OL Ted Karras were still absent, as well
Once again, QB Jarrett Stidham, CB Stephon Gilmore, TE Dalton Keene, LB Chase Winovich, DT Byron Cowart and LB Terez Hall remain ineligible to practice, as they have been placed on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list.
Rookies Joshuah Bledsoe (S) and Cameron McGrone (LB) remain on the non-football-injury (NFI) list.
TE Devin Asiasi remains absent, after reportedly having tested for COVID-19 last week.
Mac to Work
Taking full advantage of the inclement weather, Bill Belichick, Josh McDaniels and the Patriots coaching staff increased the workload of rookie Mac Jones on Thursday. The 22–year-old performed well while wearing the pads. At one point during team drills, Jones completed 14 straight reps, highlighted by a perfect anticipation throw to N’Keal Harry on a slant. He also took several reps in the Pats vaunted hurry-up offense. While the majority of those reps came against the second unit, Jones was given the chance to operate with the starters, as well. He delivered arguably the ‘throw-of-the-day’ by dropping a pass over the shoulder of James White, where only the Pats running back could field it. Jones finished the day, completing 12 of 17 overall, going 2-5 against the starting defense.
Cam Newton was given a lighter day of work on Thursday. While Newton looked sharp in 7-on-7 drills, including an impressive throw to tight end Jonnu Smith in stout coverage along the sideline, there were times where he looked a bit hesitant as well.
Newton would wrap Thursday's practice completing 4 of 10 passes, while connecting on 1 of 2 against the starters in 11-on-11 drills.
Defensive kind of day
Rainy conditions can make things difficult on quarterbacks. However, the defense made life a bit harder on the men under center. The Pats' preventive unit showed why they might be one of the most improved units in the NFL, compared to 2020. New England’s defenders contributed ten pass break-ups. Cornerback J.C. Jackson and Ja’Whaun Bentley continued their stellar camp performances, each providing two Safeties Kyle Dugger ad Adrian Phillips, cornerbacks Joejuan Williams, Myles Bryant, Michael Jackson Sr, and linebacker Dont’a Hightower contributed one each.
Defensive linemen Davon Godchaux, Carl Davis and Rashod Berry each chipped in strong wins during one-on-one pass rush drills.
Ode to the O-Line
Prior to the start of the 2021 offseason program, the Patriots’ offensive line was universally praised as one of the deepest and most-talented of its kind in the NFL. With the pads on and contact being initiated, evaluation of the Pats’ o-line is now starting to take shape. They did not disappoint on Thursday, especially from the left side. Left guard Michael Onwenu and left tackle Isaiah Wynn look to be forming quite the protective tandem. The pair provided textbook blocking to open a lane for running back Damien Harris, who broke for a 40-yard touchdown.
Still, right tackle Trent Brown was not to be denied his laurels, either. The massive lineman collected more victories than not during one-on-one pass rush drills, making a much stronger showing than he did on Tuesday.
The Patriots will host a practice within the confines of Gillette Stadium on Friday evening at 6:00pm. The event will only be open to Patriots’ season ticket holders, and residents of Foxboro, Massachusetts.