2021 Patriots training camp: Key takeaways from Day 2 action

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Curran: Day 2 of Cam v. Mac and other Thursday takeaways originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

For a while on Thursday, Mac Jones appeared to be having a more polished practice than Cam Newton. Even though the reps were non-contact and many weren’t highly competitive, the rookie’s quick decision-making and surprisingly smooth feet stood in contrast to Newton’s ponderous pocket presence.

And then the final block of red-zone passing plays rolled around. Newton took five reps and threw a high-percentage completion to Jonnu Smith, completed his nicest throw in two days to an out-breaking Brandon Bolden on the goal line then hit Hunter Henry with a laser. On the other two reps, he overshot a well-covered Jakobi Meyers and then had one of those interminable, “DO SOMETHING WOULD YOU?!” reps that ended with a completion to Meyers. On came Jones.

His first throw -- an out to N’Keal Harry on the right -- was easily slapped away. He then threw low and wild to Meyers on a shallow cross. Jones sunk into a squat and slapped the ground with both hands. He followed that rep with a dart to Tony Fumagalli underneath -- a simple throw -- before concluding with a throw high and outside to a well-covered Meyers.

Since we talked about this quarterback competition on Wednesday like a boxing match and gave Jones a convincing 10-9 round, let’s do it again and say that Newton stole the round with a flurry at the end. We have Newton narrowly at 10-9 on Thursday.

The Senator Phil Perry goes into more granular detail on the two quarterback’s full practices, but when it comes to takeaways from a workout that is still more instructive than competitive the ending was the story.

When that drill ended, Jones appeared to still be stewing. He walked past former Patriot Tedy Bruschi who was visiting practice and standing with Matt Patricia. Both men turned to watch Jones walk past. Eventually, Brian Hoyer walked next to Jones and spoke to him for a minute or two. Jones eyes remained down for the most part. Then Newton walked over and spoke at length with Jones.

We said on Wednesday after Jones’ impressive first day that there’d be days like this. And while it wasn’t a full day of sluggish work, merely a few reps, it’s all worth remarking on this summer.

 Patriots Talk podcast: The Cam Newton-Mac Jones battle begins and there’s already a leader | Listen & Subscribe | Watch on YouTube

Stidham Update

Bill Belichick acknowledged before practice that Jarrett Stidham would be missing some time with what has been reported as a bad shoulder. Nobody wants a bad shoulder or to miss time. But there could be a silver lining for Stidham in this cloud. To wit: what good does it do Stidham to run around in a diminished state, competing against two guys clearly ahead of him? Better to rest and get surgery if necessary.

Meanwhile, the top of the depth chart gets sorted out and it can be determined whether Stidham ought to stick on PUP for the year or if he’s got a role on the roster to come back to. And then both he and the team can move forward to 2022. Bottom line? Stidham is a player trending toward being a backup/third-quarterback.

Injury prevented him from answering the bell in 2020. It’s done the same in 2021. Life comes at ya fast.

QB Mobility

Another interesting note from the quarterback battle is this: while Newton is obviously a very good running quarterback as his 2020 season demonstrated, Jones is quicker and more nimble around the pocket. That shouldn’t come as a great surprise when you reflect on the physics. Newton is 6-foot-5, 245 pounds; Jones is 6-foot-2.5, 215 pounds. Newton is a battleship. Jones is a ... pontoon boat.

Anyway, it shows up when first reads aren’t available and it’s time to move around. Newton really doesn’t. He mostly just stands and scans while patting the ball. Jones on a couple of occasions did break from the pocket and direct traffic downfield on Thursday and showed good feet while doing so.

Another note on Newton? His arm looks awesome in terms of strength and velocity through the first two days. No shortage of zip.

Other Day 2 Takeaways

  • Dan Koppen and Tedy Bruschi were spectators at practice. Koppen has slim-lined significantly since his playing days. He cuts a handsome figure.

  • Bruschi spent an extended time on the sideline catching up with owner Robert Kraft who’s been out at both practices so far.

  • Some chicanery ended with Cam Newton hauling in a pass. We’re not supposed to tell all the things that led up to it but it was exotic. Further chicanery soon followed and a drop-in-the bucket rainbow throw from Meyers to James White was completed in the right corner of the end zone in a non-competitive rep. Meyers has thrown a lot of good deep balls in the past two years. Not good for a wide receiver. Good by any measure. He’s a good thrower.

  • Jake Bailey’s leg remains powerful. The punter unloaded about a 70-yard boot that chased Gunner Olszewski back to the end zone where he muffed it. Gunner had to take a lap for that.

  • A couple of others who had to take a lap were defensive linemen Davon Godchaux and Deatrich Wise, who jumped on an 11-on-11 rep. It was a free play for Newton who airmailed his intended target down the left side.

  • Even though these aren’t cutthroat reps, Donta Hightower’s effort level has been worth noting on both days. He’s gotten hands on a few passes for breakups and just looks to be moving very smoothly.