Instant observations from Day 1 of Patriots training camp

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New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones went to take a lap at training camp on Wednesday. He’d made a mistake: fumbling the ball on a snap in wet conditions during a half-speed walkthrough. As he rounded the corner of the field near the stands, the crowd erupted in cheers.

It didn’t matter that he made a mistake on Day 1. It mattered that the first-round rookie was there to compete for the starting job at quarterback. The 22-year-old is a much-needed fresh face after the Patriots struggled at quarterback last year, with Cam Newton, Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer, all of whom are back in 2021. This isn’t to say Jones is going to win the competition — there’s hope Newton can bounce back after the Patriots rebuilt their depth chart at receiver and tight end in free agency.

But there’s no doubt: New England is excited to see Jones, who went 15th overall, the highest Belichick has ever drafted a quarterback.

Attendance

ABSENTEES QB Jarrett Stidham CB Stephon Gilmore Special teams player Brandon King TE Dalton Keene LB Chase Winovich RB Rhamondre Stevenson LB Cameron McGrone LB Anfernee Jennings LB Terez Hall S Joshuah Bledsoe TE Devin Asiasi DT Byron Cowart NOTABLE PLAYERS IN ATTENDANCE RB Sony Michel was present. It's the first time he's ever made it to the first day of training camp in his Patriots career. He had previously started on the physically unable to perform list. OT Trent Brown and LB Kyle Van Noy had been on the PUP list, but they were on the field (meaning they're now off PUP). Van Noy wore a red non-contact jersey.

The little details

The weather: The temperature was in the mid-60s, with rain coming and going during practice. The pad level: Shorts and shells. NFL protocol dictates the Patriots start with non-contact practices. The QB order in drills: Newton, Jones then Hoyer. The competitive level: Even without pads, players were pumped to get into action. Kendrick Bourne was flexing after a touchdown in 11-on-11 drills. Adrian Phillips spiked the football after intercepting Newton in a different 11-on-11 session. The best throw: Jones made a point of hammering the defense with beautiful passes for the corner of the end zone. That's where he found a number of receivers for touchdowns. It wasn't a great day for him, but that was where he made his money,

The biggest winner and loser

WINNERS: Phillips was a really tough matchup in coverage for Henry and Smith. He forced one incompletion to Smith and two to Henry, including the interception. With a stroke of good luck, linebacker Raekwon McMillan saw Newton's pass for James White bounce off the running back hands. McMillan was in the right place at the right time for one of two interceptions during the day's practice. It might have even been a long return, considering the open field the linebacker had in front of him. LOSER: Henry struggled to get open, not only against Phillips but also against defensive back Jalen Mills. He is in line to be one of the top options in the passing game -- if not the top option. It didn't look like it on Day 1, with Matt LaCosse looking like the best tight end (in part because of more favorable matchups).

QB stats

Here were the quarterback stats during competitive drills, which included 11-on-11 end zone work and 7-on-7 drills on Wednesday.

  • Newton: 8/15 2 INTs

  • Jones: 9/19

  • Hoyer: 9/17

The top takeaway: This defense is clearly further along than the offense

There were so many strong plays from the defense, whether it was Phillips and Mills coverage or pressure from defensive tackles Davon Godchaux and Christian Barmore. The offense, meanwhile, isn't quite clicking yet. Agholor and Bourne had their moments -- but did nothing spectacular. Smith and Henry were non-factors. And the quarterbacks, especially Jones, are still getting comfortable with their new teammates.

Everything else that's important

  • No gloves today for Harry. Sometimes, receivers take them off due to rain. Perhaps that's why he made the change.

  • The Patriots made a point of doing a lot of walkthroughs early in practice. Offense and defense worked separately. Then special teams work ensued. That's exactly the pace you'd expect on Day 1. They're not rushing into competitive drills like they might later in camp. Belichick said as much on Tuesday when he said it's "still pretty much in a teaching period" until the players put on pads (which will likely start Monday). There were plenty of half-speed reps, too.

  • Winovich, Gilmore, Cowart and Stevenson were at the team's facility on Wednesday.

  • During one of the walkthroughs, Cam Newton and Mac Jones alternated reps with many of the offensive veterans. Hoyer, meanwhile, took all the reps with many of the rookies and younger players against a number of defensive veterans.

  • A few more plays of note from competitive drills: Wilkerson got a sky ball over Dee Virgin for a touchdown. Devin McCourty broke up Jones' pass for Wilkerson. N'Keal Harry caught a back-shoulder throw with Mills in coverage for a touchdown. Harry later beat Virgin for a touchdown in the corner of the end zone. LaCosse got four targets, with three catches, including one with Dont'a Hightower in coverage. LaCosse logged a drop on his final target of the day.

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