FOXBORO — Call it the calm before the storm.
While this may be an overly ambitious way of describing the two days of joint practices which lay ahead with the Carolina Panthers, the New England Patriots took part in a ‘tune-up style’ practice on Monday on the practice fields adjacent to Gillette Stadium.
Wearing shorts and shells, the Pats focused on fundamentals and sharpening skills before the pads are set to make their return on Tuesday morning.
Here are some of the morning’s highlights:
Right tackle Isaiah Wynn missed practice on Monday, continuing a trend which began last week. Wynn was limited last Monday, and absent from Tuesday’s practice. He did not play during Thursday’s preseason loss to the New York Giants, a game which was largely devoid of starters. To date, it is uncertain whether Wynn’s absences are due to injury.
Swing lineman Justin Herron was also a non-participant. Herron last saw the field during the Pats preseason opener. Late in the second half, he suffered an apparent leg injury, but left the field under his own power. Herron has struggled as of late, with fellow reserve lineman Yodny Cajuste getting the majority of the snaps at right tackle.
Reserve offensive lineman Bill Murray was absent, as was rookie Andrew Stueber, who remains on the non-football injury (NFI) list.
On the defensive side of the ball, cornerback Malcolm Butler, safety Cody Davis and cornerback Joejuan Williams were also absent.
Tight end Dalton Keene was present, but limited in his participation.
Keeping with a more relaxed atmosphere, New England conducted 11-on-11 team drills, with only five of which allowing for any notable competition. The Pats ran a greater amount of play-action, mixing in some run-pass options (RPO), as well as a few bootlegs. The offensive line provided competent blocking, with the overall offense demonstrating smoother execution.
Starter Mac Jones completed 9 of 15, with an interception at the hands of safety Jabrill Peppers. He completed five passes in 2-minute drill exercises, four of which were in the flat. Collectively, Jones looked more comfortable than in previous sessions while operating the Pats offense.
Veteran Brian Hoyer finished the morning, going 4 of 9, while rookie Bailey Zappe completed 4 of 5 in team drills. The Western Kentucky product connected with receiver Kristian Wilkerson on a deep touchdown with cornerback Jack Jones in coverage. Zappe also found fellow rookie wideout Tyquan Thornton for an over-the-shoulder grab in the end zone.
At The Corner of Jones, Mills and Jones?
The Patriots defensive backfield is known to employ one of the most productive trio of safeties in the NFL in Devin McCourty, Adrian Phillips and Kyle Dugger. However, a new triumvirate of tenacity may be in the works at cornerback.
Though Jalen Mills is expected to be the Pats top option at the position to begin the season, cornerback Jonathan Jones has taken the majority of his camp reps on the perimeter. Jones has played almost exclusively at outside corner, lining up opposite Mills on the first-team defense.
Since he joined the Patriots in 2016, Jones has been New England’s primary slot cornerback. However, the Pats may view his speed and experience as their best option to pair with Mills to defend the numerous speedy receivers and running backs they will face in their division, as well as throughout the league.
Should Jones remain in the Pats plans on the perimeter, another Jones may be set to take his place. Rookie corner Marcus Jones took several reps with the top defense Monday, as did third-year defensive back Myles Bryant. While Jones has clearly impressed his coaches with his abilities to quickly adapt to the Patriots defensive schemes, Bryant has also been making a late-camp surge to earn a roster spot.
New Life for Nelson?
Amidst continued trade rumors, receiver Nelson Agholor continues to compile strong performances in practice. The 29-year-old once again turned heads on Monday, hauling in 3 of 4 passes thrown his way in impressive fashion. Agholor made two one-handed catches, pulling one into his body in the back left corner of the end zone over Jonathan Jones, while making the other on an end-zone fade out of the air with one hand over Mills in coverage. Whether it be to solidify his roster spot, or increase his value on the trade market, Agholor has proven himself capable of being a valuable pass catcher in 2022.
The Patriots will welcome the Carolina Panthers to Foxboro, Massachusetts on Tuesday for the first of two joint practice sessions on the Gillette Stadium practice fields. Practice is set to begin at 9:30 a.m. and will be open to the public. Gates will open at 8 a.m.