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Patriots Training Camp Studs/Duds Day 8: Which Young Defenders Stand Out?

New England saw some of its youngest players contribute to the starting units on Thursday.

FOXBORO – Yet again, the New England Patriots donned the pads as they continued to work on preparations for the upcoming NFL season. Today was more of a focused practice with periods designed specifically for team drills and situational football. It was also a nice tune up before Friday’s in-stadium practice.

So which Patriots showed out during the day?

STUD: LB Josh Uche

The former Michigan Wolverine finally had a strong day after starting the summer slow. Uche won all three of his battles against the offensive line and showed his speed and agility during the drill. As he enters his third season, Uche has a chance to heavily contribute to the defense, which has gotten significantly faster this past offseason.

DUD: RB JJ Taylor

Taylor is one of the players that currently sits on the bubble as we head into the preseason, but the third-year running back did not have the best of luck today. For the second straight practice, Taylor saw a pass bounce off his hands and fall to the ground. Especially with rookie Pierre Strong Jr, who participated for the first time all camp, joining the backfield, the 5-foot-6 running back needs to step up in the passing game.

STUD: WR Tre Nixon

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The wide receiver was the player making waves on social media after the team’s spring practices. While that hype hasn’t translated to training camp yet, Nixon did flash during the session today. Although he did have a drop, Nixon made a couple of impressive catches and is starting to have a bounce-back after what was a slow start to the summer.

DUD: WR DeVante Parker

For how well he started training camp, the new pass catcher has been completely fazed out of the offense as of late. Parker saw no throws come his way during the entire practice and has seen players like Nelson Agholor, Jakobi Meyers and Kendrick Bourne leapfrog him in terms of practice participation. While it shouldn’t be a major cause for concern, his struggles with consistently separating could impact his preseason production.

STUD: LB Anfernee Jennings

Matt Judon was absent from the practice and Jennings, who is looking for his first season of real NFL contributions, filled in nicely. The third-round pick back in 2020 missed all of last season on injured reserve, but has made waves during his third training camp. Jennings has provided the defense with some additional pressure towards the quarterback and allows the defense to not worry about the run defense as much when he comes off the edge.

DUD: Injury Bug

Ugh. The Patriots were staying healthy all camp until today. Jahlani Tavai, who head coach Bill Belichick recently praised as a “four-down player,” went down with a non-contact, lower-body injury. He was down on the turf for a bit until trainers helped him into the medical tent. Hopefully for New England, the injury is not serious, but it is never good to see a player go down without being hit.

The Patriots will wrap up the week of practice with their annual in-stadium practice Friday for season ticket holders and Foxboro residents, with the event beginning at 7 p.m.