The New England Patriots kicked off the second week of full-speed training camp by returning to their full-pads outfit last worn on Thursday. The intensity and physicality was naturally much improved again, with the session itself being one of the most spirited to date: the offense and defense were verbally engaged on numerous occasions, letting hear the other side about big plays on a regular basis.
Before getting ahead of ourselves, however, let’s recap what happened at today’s practice.
- One new player was added to the list of absentees: offensive tackle Yodny Cajuste, who spent all of last year on the sidelines following offseason quad surgery, was not present for today’s session, joining seven others to sit out practice as well.
- Four players were back in action after sitting out Sunday’s practice, including three who might have fallen victim to the NFL’s recent hiccup in Covid-19 testing: running backs James White and J.J. Taylor as well as cornerback Michael Jackson. Linebacker Tashawn Bower, meanwhile, returned after being out all of last week.
- Kicker Nick Folk and defensive lineman Michael Barnett, who were worked out over the weekend, were present for today’s practice after signing free agency deals with the Patriots.
- Second-year linebacker Terez Hall walked off the field rather gingerly about 45 minutes into practice. He has been solid so far in camp while trying to carve out a role on the Patriots’ off-the-ball linebacker depth chart.
- Rookie linebacker Cassh Maluia went down with what appeared to be a shoulder injury after a physical block by Devin Asiasi during 11-on-11 work. The sixth-round draft pick, who also had a promising training camp, slowly walked off the field.
- Cam Newton continues to be on his way to earning the starting quarterback job, once again led the team in passing game reps, and had some impressive throws as he becomes more confident in the system. That being said, he did have some problems with accuracy, especially late in practice, and ball security as well: Newton threw an interception during 11-on-11 work and later was forced to run a penalty lap for losing a fumble.
- Wide receiver N’Keal Harry stole the show on Monday and had his best practice of the open portion of training camp. The former first-round draft pick looked very good during 1-on-1 drills — at one point out-leaping fellow second-year man Joejuan Williams for a back-shoulder catch — and also had two touchdown grabs versus J.C. Jackson during 11-on-11s on passes from Cam Newton: one came on a back-shoulder fade, the other on a slant.
- The offense had some sloppy moments during full-team work as well, however. As noted above, Newton was forced to run a penalty lap after losing a fumble during an 11-on-11 drill. Wide receiver Gunner Olszewski later followed him for also putting the football on the ground.
- Jarrett Stidham was a limited participant again while working through a hip injury, but he did see an increased workload compared to the last two practices. The second-year quarterback participated not just during early-practice warmup and position drills, but also threw passes during 1-on-1s as well as 11-on-11s. It was a step in the right direction.
- Myles Bryant’s promising training camp continued on Monday as the undrafted rookie cornerback registered yet another interception. This time, he was able to pick off Cam Newton on a deep passing attempt intended for Damiere Byrd. Newton had Julian Edelman open underneath but instead floated a deep ball into double coverage that came up short of his target. Bryant took advantage of the ill-advised throw for his third pick of camp.
- Edge defender Chase Winovich, who is poised to take on a bigger role this year following the free agency departure of veteran Kyle Van Noy, had two of the defense’s best plays of the day. First, he was able to get into the backfield to take quarterback Cam Newton down for what would have been a sack in a real-game situation on 3rd-and-goal. Later, he forced a fumble off Newton and returned the loose football for a touchdown.
- Winovich was not the only active pass rusher on Monday. Josh Uche also performed well and registered a pair of would-be sacks, while Jason McCourty and Deatrich Wise Jr. both added quarterback takedowns of their own late during practice while the team was going through end-of-game/end-of-half work. Adam Butler and Derek Rivers, meanwhile, also had some good moments while the pass rush as a whole looked very potent.
- The Patriots’ kicking competition is underway, and the first day went to recently re-signed Nick Folk from a purely statistical perspective: the veteran made four of four field goal attempts during team drills, compared to Justin Rohrwasser making three of four kicks. The rookie did have some additional miscues earlier during practice.
- Justin Rohrwasser was again the first player on the field.
- The Patriots had their annual rookie slip ‘n’ slide today. With Tom Brady no longer part of the team, Matthew Slater took over the honor of operating the hose. First-year coaches also participated in the event.