One down, Two to go.
The New England Patriots returned to the practice fields adjacent to Gillette Stadium Monday as they opened the final phase of their offseason workout program before training camp officially opens in late July.
Mandatory Minicamp 2021 has begun, and there were no shortage of stories on this rainy Monday in New England.
Here are some of the highlights of an eventful first day:
As earlier reports had indicated, cornerback Stephon Gilmore indeed skipped mandatory practice Monday and will reportedly sit out the rest of minicamp. The 30-year-old star of the Patriots’ secondary reportedly has decided to do so in hopes of getting a new contract.
Gilmore, 30, is entering the final year of his deal with a $7 million base salary. While incentives could increase that amount by nearly a half-million dollars, Gilmore’s 2021 salary would still be far below market value for a player of his caliber.
Despite Gilmore’s absence, he continues to have the support of his teammates.
“I support my brother,” safety Adrian Phillips said during a video media session after practice Monday. “I wish he was here, but I support him all the same. What he has going, whenever he gets back, he’ll let you know how that went. But, you know, that’s my guy. We’re brothers. We’re all keeping contact with each other.”
In addition to Gilmore, four other players missed practice Monday: edge rushers Chase Winovich and Rashod Berry, linebacker Terez Hall and defensive lineman Byron Cowart.
Linebackers Anfernee Jennings and Cam McGrone, along with wide receiver Devin Smith were present at practice, but worked out on the lower field, indicating that they were rehabbing injuries.
All other players on New England’s current roster were present and full participants in practice Monday.
Quarterbacks On Display
Despite suffering a hand injury during an OTA practice session June 4, quarterback Cam Newton was back in action Monday. Newton was joined by rookie Mac Jones as well as Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer.
Newton was the first man up throughout practice. Newton’s injured throwing hand did not appear to be a severe hindrance, and had a nice completion to new Patriots receiver Kendrick Bourne. However, he also struggled a bit with accuracy at times. Per NFL Network’s Mike Giardi, Newton was “more erratic than the other quarterbacks.”
Rookie Mac Jones enjoyed a solid day, looking sharp in both his decisiveness and accuracy. Jones attempted the same number of passes during 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 drills. Jones went 13-for-20 on Monday, while Newton wrapped up practice going 12-for-20. Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer saw fewer reps than they did last week, with Stidham going 8-for-15 and Hoyer finishing the day 2-for-6.
Much-maligned receiver N’Keal Harry earned some praise for his performance Monday. The former first-round pick by the Pats in the 2019 NFL draft displayed the physicality for which he was heralded at Arizona State. Harry was seen boxing out defenders and making a contested catch by "snatching the ball with authority,” according to ESPN’s Mike Reiss. Harry is facing an uphill battle to earn a significant spot on the Patriots wide receiver depth chart in the upcoming season. It will be interesting to watch his progress over the next couple of days, before the start of training camp.
It Takes Two (Tight End Packages)
Patriots fans have been excited about the return of the two-tight-end packages that the team will employ in light of the free agent signings of Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry in March.
Monday marked the first time both Smith and Henry shared the field as teammates in New England. Henry showed virtually no signs of ailing from an ankle injury suffered last Thursday when he became entangled with safety Adrian Colbert during a practice drill. Smith also moved well on the field, prior to suffering an injury of his own. Smith reportedly injured his left hamstring in the middle of practice and was unable to finish the session.
Mills, Uche Shine on Defense
The Pats are expected to employ a "magnificent front seven" of sorts in 2021. On Monday, a few defenders stood out from the rest. Kyle Van Noy, in now his second tour of duty with the pats, notched an interception in 11-on-11s, picking off a Brian Hoyer pass over the middle.
Newly acquired defensive lineman Henry Anderson showed that he can be a disruptive presence, pushing his way into the backfield on several occasions. Sophomore defender Josh Uche continued to turn heads, applying pressure from the interior on nearly every snap. Throughout the offseason, Uche’s play has stood out on the edge.
With Stephon Gilmore absent, free agent defensive back Jalen Mills lined up as the No. 2 cornerback opposite J.C. Jackson. Mills provided solid coverage and continues to make a strong first impression in a Patriots uniform.
Eluemunor Finds Another Team
While the Patriots have been praised for their prowess and depth on the offensive line, one member of New England’s 2020 unit will be taking his talents to South Florida.
Offensive tackle Jermaine Elumenor agred to terms with the Miami Dolphins on Monday. Eluemunor was traded to the Patriots in August 2019, appearing in 10 games that season. He earned a spot as the team’s starting right tackle in 2020. However. Eluemunor suffered an ankle injury in Week 6 against the Denver Broncos, which sidelined him for the middle of the season. After his return, he started four games at left tackle after th Patriots stuck with rookie Michael Onwenu at right tackle.
Eluemunor ended up playing 12 games with eight starts last season. He went unsigned as an unrestricted free agent this offseason before the Dolphins came calling.