Run game rolls, Mac Jones loses ground in QB competition – Lowell Sun
FOXBORO — Pop. Thud. Crack.
The fields were alive with the sounds of football Tuesday, when the Patriots held a padded practice for the first time in 2021. The coaching staff devoted most team drills to the running game, with Damien Harris and Sony Michel each breaking free for long runs to start a period. Dont’a Hightower’s defense claimed its fair share of victories, too, stonewalling ball carriers in a crowd at the line of scrimmage.
For once, the quarterbacks took a back seat to the rest of the roster, despite Cam Newton uncorking his two finest passes of the summer. Meanwhile, Mac Jones fired his first interception and endured his worst practice of training camp, as another rookie starred in 1-on-1 pass rush. And no position group enjoyed a better overall day than the wide receivers.
Here are the Herald’s complete practice observations:
Injured: LB Raekwon McMillan
Absent: DL Henry Anderson, OL Ted Karras
Non-contact jersey: LB Kyle Van Noy
PUP: CB Stephon Gilmore, OLB Chase Winovich, QB Jarrett Stidham, DL Byron Cowart, TE Dalton Keene, LB Terez Hall
NFI: S Joshuah Bledsoe, LB Cameron McGrone
COVID-19 reserve: TE Devin Asiasi
Play of the Day
Newton strikes deep to Agholor
This was a long time coming.
After underthrowing or overshooting his deep targets through most of camp, Newton delivered a pinpoint long ball to Nelson Agholor to cap a physical 11-on-11 period. Agholor had blazed through the Pats secondary on a post route, and with second-year safety Kyle Dugger in tow, snagged Newton’s bomb in stride as he crossed the goal line. The pass covered almost 50 yards in the air, just like they drew it up.
Player of the Day
DT Christian Barmore
Let’s just say Barmore’s breakout was worth the wait.
The second-round rookie dominated his 1-on-1 pass rush reps, notching five clean victories against young O-linemen and veterans alike, including David Andrews. Barmore burst off the line at each snap, then ran through and by his competition, shedding blocks like a seasoned pro. His raw pass-rushing talent is unmatched among Patriot D-linemen.
Now, he just needs to harness and hone it for Sundays.
Note: The passing stats below were tallied during competitive 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 periods only. Full training camp stats are in parentheses.
Cam Newton: 4/8 (49/79, 3 INTs, 4 drops)
Mac Jones: 4/9, INT (50/89, INT, 2 drops)
WR N’Keal Harry
In most practices when a receiver fails to register a catch in team drills, it’s a down day. Tuesday’s run-focused session was an exception.
Harry won all three reps he saw in a head-to-head drill pitting wide receivers against cornerbacks, making contested catch after contested catch. On one such reception, he twisted mid-air to snatch a Newton bomb in the end zone and drew a roar from the crowd. The much-maligned Harry is enjoying his best training camp yet.
LB Josh Uche
Second only to Barmore, Uche shone in 1-on-1 pass rush periods, smoking Pats offensive tackles off the edge. He dominated Justin Herron, Korey Cunningham and Yodny Cajuste in separate reps, flashing the quick-twitch athleticism that led the Patriots to trade up for him two drafts ago. The Uche hype train shows no signs of slowing down.
DL Montravius Adams
Adams was billed as a rotational run stuffer when he left Green Bay in free agency last spring. That tag should stick in New England — if he even makes the team.
Adams lost 1-on-1 pass rush reps to veteran journeymen James Ferentz and Alex Redmond and two to sixth-round rookie Will Sherman on Tuesday. Arguably no defensive linemen with a real shot of making the final 53 had a worse showing.
QB Mac Jones
Jones’ interception was an early birthday gift to Ja’Whaun Bentley, who turns 25 in a few weeks. The rookie fired into triple coverage, trying to thread a non-existent needle to Kendrick Bourne on a dig route. Later, he lofted another gift into the arms of Anfernee Jennings, who dropped the ball and then to his knees in disappointment. Two of Jones’ four completions in competitive team periods were a check-down and flat throw.
- Overall, the offensive line gets a slight nod over the defense for how it played the run in several competitive team periods.
- Damien Harris and Sony Michel both led off separate periods with carries, ripping off long runs from the start. Not everything went smoothly, but that’s camp.
- Newton’s impact as a runner in the red zone can’t be understated. He becomes the fulcrum of the Pats’ run game in that area, adding an extra gap with his ability to execute option runs and break tackles at 6-foot-5, 245 pounds.
- As a passer, Newton’s catchable pass rate hit 62.5% in team periods. Jones’ was at 50%, with two turnover-worthy plays.
- Newton finished 4-of-6 in competitive 11-on-11 drills, after two underthrown deep balls at the start. Kyle Dugger deflected one up the left sideline to Hunter Henry, and the other hit backup corner Michael Jackson in the back during his coverage of N’Keal Harry on a go route.
- Newton later returned to Henry on an arching, 15-yard wheel-route throw that found Henry ahead of Dugger in the end zone. Perfect pass.
- Jones nearly had his own touchdown to Agholor, which Newton argued for to no avail after a nearby referee declared the receiver out of bounds.
- Harry and Kendrick Bourne starred in the head-to-head wide receiver/cornerback drill.
- Top targets in team drills: Devin Ross (2/2), Henry (1/2), Agholor (1/2), Kristian Wilkerson (0/2).
- 1-on-1 pass rush winners: Shaq Mason (5-0), Trent Brown (3-1), Michael Onwenu (2-0-1).
- 1-on-1 pass rush losers: RJ Prince (0-5), Marcus Martin (0-3), Justin Herron (0-2-1).
- Mason dealt Barmore his only loss in 1-on-1s. He also stopped Lawrence Guy.
- Brown’s only lost rep came against Matt Judon, who beat him with an outside first step and then ducked inside to go untouched into the pocket.
- After Brown, Martin suffered the worst loss of any O-lineman, getting snatched by Carl Davis and tossed aside.
- The projected starting O-line remains the same. From left to right: Isaiah Wynn, Onwenu, David Andrews, Mason and Brown.
- Brown moved exceptionally well on run plays, a 380-pound menace on the hunt.
- During team periods, fourth-round rookie running back Rhamondre Stevenson demolished Myles Bryant after breaking into the second level on an outside run. Bryant slipped right off the 227-pounder.
- Seventh-round rookie Tre Nixon impressed during blocking drills. That type of grit and special teams impact could force the front office into a tougher cutdown decision than expected.
- Fullback Jakob Johnson stood out with several punishing lead blocks and kick-outs that opened wide running lanes. Jonnu Smith also handled his business blocking on the edge.
- Starting and backup personnel during scout-team periods: defensive linemen Lawrence Guy, Davon Godchaux, Akeem Spence, Deatrich Wise, Henry Anderson, Carl Davis and Christian Barmore, linebackers Dont’a Hightower, Matt Judon, Kyle Van Noy, Josh Uche, and Ja’Whaun Bentley, and defensive backs Devin McCourty, J.C. Jackson, Jalen Mills, Kyle Dugger, Jonathan Jones, Adrian Phillips, Myles Bryant, Joejuan Williams and Michael Jackson.
- Would-be sacks: Judon.
- Interceptions: Bentley.
- Pass breakups: Dugger, Williams, Jennings, Michael Jackson.
- Run stuffs: Judon 2, Bentley, Phillips, Wise, Nick Thurman and Tashawn Bower.
- 1-on-1 pass rush winners: Barmore (5-1), Uche (3-0) Ronnie Perkins (3-0).
- 1-on-1 pass rush losers: Adams (0-5), Bill Murray (1-5), Nick Thurman (1-3).
- Bentley continued to call signals from the middle of the starting defense, even when partnered with Hightower at inside linebacker.
- Judon sets a mean edge and has fit perfectly into the defense so far.
- Tough day for Dugger in coverage, his early pass breakup aside.
- Van Noy won his only rep of 1-on-1 pass rush, blowing by Korey Cunningham.
- McCourty made the Effort Play of the Day, covering more than 30 yards as he sprinted across the field during a snap of red-zone work when Newton took off for the corner. McCourty would’ve stopped him short, had tackling been allowed.
- J.C. Jackson struggled more than expected in his 1-on-1 battles, particularly against Bourne.
- Barmore did not finish practice, pulling up with an apparent left foot injury. He had both feet re-taped during the final team periods.
- RaeKwon McMillan also left early with an apparent injury, the day after his best practice of the summer.
- Punt returners: Gunner Olszewski, Jakobi Meyers, J.J. Taylor and Marvin Hall.
- Deatrich Wise long-snapped after practice and revealed he’s done so every season since he was drafted in 2017.
Odds and ends
- Veteran NFL referee Clete Blakeman and his crew officiated practice.
- Stephon Gilmore, Chase Winovich, Byron Cowart and rookies Joshuah Bledsoe and Cameron McGrone, all on the PUP list, were present with Ted Karras. Karras suffered an apparent left knee injury Saturday.