Day 1 of New England Patriots Training Camp was, in some ways, a microcosm of the irregularities the last 16 months have presented; amongst the alternations of chilly downpour and pleasantly cooling weather were the highs and lows of a team in its first true year of a rebuild.
These were the biggest standouts in the Patriots' first time hosting fans since January 2020.
Best Throw: Cam Newton to N'Keal Harry in 11v11s (Honorable Mention: Mac Jones to Kendrick Bourne)
Late in practice, Newton connected with Harry on a laser of a back-shoulder throw, needling the ball between two defensive backs for one of the better throws you will see.
In a separate drill, Jones threw an out route to Bourne at the back of the end zone; the ball was thrown with incredible touch over a defender playing excellent coverage on the back hip.
Worst Throw: Newton's interception to Adrian Phillips
After a sequence of three poor throws, Newton culminated his lackluster practice with a throw behind Hunter Henry on an out route; Phillips, right on Henry's back hip, won the contact point to make the interception.
Most Unique Play: Kendrick Bourne (wide receiver) lined up at running back
During one scrimmage play early in the practice, the New England offense lined up in single-back with Bourne as the tailback. Bourne has some experience lining up in the backfield and even scored on such a play in 2018. This look could be used in future matchups to exploit defenses with slower second levels.
Most Impressive Offensive Player: N'Keal Harry
Harry looked legitimately menacing today as the true jump-ball receiver he was supposed to become. Though his footwork on routes is still a tad heavy, he has shown improvement from his rookie year -- additionally, he showed dependable hands in both drills and scrimmage.
After catching a touchdown pass from Newton, Harry enthusiastically celebrated with the rest of the offense; though Harry did request a trade a few weeks prior, it does seem like he has made strides this offseason.
Most Impressive Defense Player: Adrian Phillips
Adrian Phillips was consistently worked in coverage by both Newton and Jones -- and he responded with force. In addition to an interception late in practice, Phillips played lockdown coverage on the team's tight ends throughout, showing improvement from an already strong 2020 campaign.
Biggest Dark Horse: Marvin Hall (wide receiver)
Hall is a slot receiver that not many have heard of -- however, his shiftiness and efficient footwork during drills immediately stood out. Though he did not have any noteworthy plays in scrimmage, his physical tools prime him to make the roster (or at the very least, the practice squad).
Best Day(s): Phillips, Gunner Olszewski, Nelson Agholor
Olszewski immediately looked like one of the more shifty receivers on the field. While he still may not have Julian Edelman's route elusiveness (not many do), he has still shown significant improvement and was the best-looking slot receiver on the field.
Agholor simply impressed throughout the drills and scrimmages, consistently creating separation. Despite his history of drops, Agholor looked comfortable when securing the ball.
Worst Day: Patriots QB Room (and my brother's friend)
Past a few otherwise incredible flashes of promise, the team's quarterbacking corps looked dull as a unit.
On his first throw during solo wide receiver routes, Jones overthrew a bullet so badly that it nearly hit my brother's friend in the face. Of the bunch, however, Jones looked the most poised, consistently demonstrating anticipation and decisiveness. On one particularly impressive play, Jones remained steadfast in the pocket and transitioned through multiple reads under pressure before throwing an anticipatory slot-out to Olszewski in the back of the end zone.
However, the QB unit generally had trouble getting the ball out quickly and seemed stymied by the defense.