FOXBORO – One day after arguably the worst practice of the summer, the New England Patriots fought through the heat and had their final practice before Thursday’s preseason opener. While the lightning waited for the session to end before starting, here were some of the players who were electric on Tuesday.
STUD: OG Cole Strange
The 29th overall selection in this past draft turned heads during rookie minicamp and OTAs. Now that the calendar turned to August, the entire offensive line had struggled up to this point. Tuesday was the best day for the boys in the trenches, as the running lanes were huge. A lot of that can be credited to Strange, who’s fierce blocking style freed up Rhamondre Stevenson and Damien Harris for a number of long gains.
DUD: QB Brian Hoyer
Not much stock needs to be placed on Hoyer, who is slated to be the team’s second quarterback heading into the regular season. But on a day that the offense had stepped its game up, Hoyer had trouble with his accuracy. The longtime veteran went 6-for-18 during 11-on-11s, far and away the worst of the team’s three quarterbacks.
STUD: WR Tre Nixon
As Nixon enters his second pro season, the hype surrounding him was massive. His breakout spring was a springboard for a good summer. While he hasn’t consistently lived up to those expectations, he had a big day on Tuesday. He returned both kickoffs and punts and was a top target during Mac Jones’ two-minute drill offense.
DUD: RB JJ Taylor
Taylor has been on the roster bubble for quite some time now. As rookies Pierre Strong Jr and Kevin Harris get acclimated into the system, the third-year running back has faltered on the depth chart. During 11-on-11s, Strong was taking a lot of the carries, usually the ones that Taylor would have taken. At this point into training camp, special teams is going to be the way that Taylor makes the roster.
STUD: QB Bailey Zappe
Unlike the veteran Hoyer, the rookie gunslinger impressed. His spiral got tighter as the week progressed and his accuracy improved during team drills. In total, Zappe went 15-for-19 through the air, including a touchdown to Matt Sokol. The Western Kentucky prospect has begun to stack days as his first game as a professional looms in the distance.
DUD: OT Justin Herron
Tuesday was not about Herron did. It was about what he couldn’t do. For the past two practices, starting right tackle Isaiah Wynn has either been limited or absent. On Monday, Herron got the starting nod and the offense looked flat all afternoon. Today, it was Yodny Cajuste, who looked fantastic and helped free up some big running plays. Herron is a player who will be competing for the top swing tackle role, but it won’t be for longer if Cajuste keeps this up.
The Patriots do not practice tomorrow as they get a day off before their preseason debut against the visiting New York Giants on Aug. 11.