5 takeaways from Day 17 of Patriots training camp practice

It was back to the practice grind on Tuesday for the New England Patriots, who took a couple of days off after Saturday’s preseason game with the Green Bay Packers.

This was a lighter practice with the team working in helmets and shells. They were slated to travel to Tennessee early this week for joint practices with the Tennessee Titans, but those plans have been canceled. So the team will finish up training camp in Foxborough in preparation for Friday’s preseason finale in Nashville.

Here’s the full list of absent players from Day 17 of training camp practice:

CB Isaiah Bolden

G Mike Onwenu

G Cole Strange

CB Jonathan Jones

DE Trey Flowers

WR Tyquan Thornton

OT Conor McDermott

OT Calvin Anderson

ST Cody Davis

WR Tre Nixon (waived)

Don’t let the relaxed practice fool you. The stakes are still high for those on the roster bubble with the 53-man cut deadline rapidly approaching. Let’s delve into some takeaways from Tuesday’s practice.

Mike Gesicki returned to practice

The Patriots’ tight end room got a major lift with Mike Gesicki returning to practice for the first time since suffering his shoulder injury. He wasn’t a full participant, and he could be seen wearing the red non-contact jersey. But the fact that he was actually on the field participating in drills is a great sign for the Patriots.

Gesicki has been one of the more impressive offensive playmakers throughout camp. He’s a massive receiving target with the finesse to make receiver-like adjustments mid-air to come down with the ball. The combination of him and Hunter Henry could be the heart of the offense, particularly in the red zone, which is an area the team struggled in last season.

Gesicki isn’t expected to be available for the preseason finale, but there is hope that he could be ready in time for the Sept. 10 regular season opener.

Zeke ramps things up in the backfield

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Ezekiel Elliott is settling into his new role with the Patriots, and his on-field opportunities are increasing behind Rhamondre Stevenson. Not only was he taking hand-offs on Tuesday, but he was also getting more involved in the passing game.

That’s one of the more underrated elements of his game, the ability to serve as a receiver when coming out of the offensive backfield. His versatility in combination with Stevenson is going to make for quite the dynamic duo in New England.

He could see more work in Friday’s preseason finale against the Titans, or the Patriots could opt to play it safe and hold him out for more meaningful games.

Don't sleep on Myles Bryant

Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports
Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

One player that has quietly started to come on for the Patriots has been fourth-year defensive back Myles Bryant.

He has finished top-10 in Pro Football Focus defensive grades for the team in each of the last two preseason games. At Tuesday’s practice, he intercepted an ugly pass attempt from quarterback Mac Jones intended for wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster.

Plays like that, along with his versatility, are the main reasons why Bryant could end up sticking around. He could play safety, corner and even help out on special teams. So his value is always going to be tough to pass up.

But he has clearly improved as a defender. In a crowded defensive backfield, Bryant might find a way to work his way into the mix.

Keeping an eye on Demario Douglas

Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports
Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

Demario Douglas has been one of the standouts of Patriots training camp this year. The rookie sixth-round draft pick has been on the field making plays since Day 1, which is rare for young receivers on a Belichick-coached team.

Douglas was seen working out on the conditioning field at this practice instead of participating in team drills with the rest of the team. Is he dealing with some sort of injury?

It’s just something to keep an eye on moving forward, particularly with him looking every bit of a draft hit for the Patriots.

Belichick has often been accused of having a blindspot for receivers, but his draft vision must have been working exceptionally well when he selected Douglas and Kayshon Boutte in the 2023 NFL draft.

Rough day for rookie K Chad Ryland

Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports
Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

It was a windy practice for the kickers, but it’s tough to make excuses when locked into a kicking battle with a veteran like Nick Folk.

Rookie fourth-round draft pick Chad Ryland had an ugly kicking day, going 0-for-3 on field goals missing to the left. Belichick isn’t just going to hand him the starting kicking job, but his up-and-down training camp has put the team in an interesting position.

It’s hard to believe they’d outright cut him considering they spent a fourth-round draft pick to get him, but this could be a situation where he sticks around and takes a backseat to Folk. Belichick has already said he isn’t against the idea of carrying two kickers on the roster.

Getting the right kicker could mean the difference between winning and losing for a team that struggled in the red zone as much as the Patriots did last season.

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Story originally appeared on Patriots Wire