FOXBORO — With storms brewing Tuesday, the New England Patriots offense approached their 11th training camp practice of 2022 with a sense of urgency.
In the process, they demonstrated some much-needed signs of marked improvement.
After moving the start time of Tuesday’s practice from 4 p.m. to noon (to accommodate for the potential of inclement weather), the Patriots donned full pads as they continued their preparation for Thursday’s preseason opener against the New York Giants.
Here are some of the afternoon's highlights from the Patriots’ practice fields.
Right tackle Isaiah Wynn was absent for Tuesday’s practice, after not participating in team drills on Monday.
Tight end Devin Asiasi was a limited participant, after having left the field during Monday’s practice with a hand injury.
Running back James White continues to be the only Patriot remaining on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list, while rookie offensive lineman Andrew Stuber is the only Patriot presently residing on the non-football injury (NFI) list.
Starting quarterback Mac Jones returned to form on Tuesday, looking more comfortable and crisp than in recent practices. He moved the ball efficiently, completing short, accurate passes in both sets of team drills, especially in the red zone. Jones finished the day completing 10-of-14 passes with an interception. The Alabama product’s pass was tipped at the line, which caused it to bounce off the hand of receiver Kendrick Bourne. Linebacker Harvey Langi caught the pass for the pick. In 7-on-7 drills, Jones completed 5-of-6 passes.
Rookie Bailey Zappe connected on 8-of-11 of his throws during 11-on-11 drills, and 5-of-6 in 7-on-7s. Zappe is developing a growing synergy with receiver Kristian Wilkerson, which could be a partnership to watch throughout preseason.
Veteran Brian Hoyer completed 3-of-11 passes during 11-on-11s, while connecting on all four attempts during 7-on-7 drills.
Echoing coach Bill Belichick’s sentiments (which he conveyed to reporters prior to the start of practice), the Patriots took the field intent on demonstrating notable progress on the offensive side of the ball. Fortunately for the Pats, their work clearly paid off, as the offense operated in an overall smoother manner. The offensive line was able to open significant holes for the running game, which showed some life for the first time in quite some time. Running backs Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson each ran for significant gains, while rookie Pierre Strong Jr. saw extended action in short-yardage, red zone drills. While the Patriots offensive woes have far from completely corrected themselves, the progress observed on Tuesday was a significant step in the right direction.
Changing of the Tackle?
A key reason for the Pats offensive improvement was the enhanced movement along the offensive line. Rookie Cole Strange played an integral role in run protection, contributing several blocks during rushing drills.
Still, the day’s standout may have been reserve tackle Yodny Cajuste. With right tackle Isaiah Wynn limited on Monday, fellow backup Justin Herron struggled throughout practice with the first unit. In light of Wynn’s absence, Cajuste got the nod and fared much better than his counterpart. He and starting right guard Michael Onwenu combined for a significant push on the right side of the line, which helped free Stevenson for a significant run. Overall, Cajuste proved to be quick enough to get into position, while also remaining strong enough to wall-off defenders in the running game. As a result, he seems to be back in contention to earn a roster spot on New England’s offensive line.
Foxboro Fight Club:
After leading an emotionally-driven huddle at the conclusion of Monday’s practice, center and team captain David Andrews carried that intense momentum into Tuesday’s practice. Andrews and defensive lineman Christian Barmore engaged in an altercation, causing both sidelines to clear. While the tension was quickly diffused, both Barmore and Andrews were banished from practice for fighting, in accordance with team rules. Prior to the Andrews-Barmore dust-up, New England’s offensive and defensive lines had already experienced some emotions, including a heated scuffle during team drills.
The Patriots are expected to conduct a closed, walkthrough practice on Wednesday, before hosting the New York Giants on Thursday evening in their first preseason game of 2022. Start time is set for 7 p.m. at Gillette Stadium.