Instant observations from Day 8 of Patriots training camp

Bill Belichick said before practice that the New England Patriots were “not competing against the weather” during their training camp session on Thursday. But at times, it felt like they were indeed battling the conditions.

Receiver Kendrick Bourne, for example, had four targets in a row bounce off his hands. They wouldn’t all qualify as drops, but if a ball hits a receiver’s hands, he should catch it (most of the time). And then there was quarterback Mac Jones, who fumbled his exchange with backup center Marcus Martin at one point during practice.

There was plenty of sloppiness from the offense, which the defense — and particularly cornerback J.C. Jackson — seemed to enjoy. Jackson was among the best players on the field, with breakups on passes intended for Nelson Agholor and Kristian Wilkerson. Jackson finished with three PBUs on the day.

Here’s more from the Patriots’ eighth training camp session on Thursday.


ABSENTEES NEW: DL Christian Barmore NEW: K Nick Folk NEW: WR Devin Ross NEW: S Cody Davis NEW: CB D'Angelo Ross LB Raekwon McMillan DT Akeem Spence OL Ted Karras QB Jarrett Stidham CB Stephon Gilmore TE Dalton Keene LB Chase Winovich LB Cameron McGrone LB Terez Hall S Joshuah Bledsoe C/G Ted Karras TE Devin Asiasi NOTABLE PEOPLE IN ATTENDANCE Retired Safety Patrick Chung was walking around the field to help out with practice. LIMITED Linebacker Kyle Van Noy was wearing a red non-contact jersey. Safety Adrian Colbert left the practice field early with a trainer. Outside linebacker Ronnie Perkins appeared to leave practice early with a left hand or arm issue, and did not return to practice, instead watching from the sideline.

The little details

The weather: Rainy and chilly. Low 60s. The pad level: Full pads. Contact, baby. The QB order in drills: Cam Newton, Mac Jones, Brian Hoyer, Jake Dolega. The competitive level: The practice started fairly muted. It's easy to imagine the rain brought down the mood. That said, during competitive drills, it did heat up slightly -- especially on the goal line where there was clearly some trash talk and shoving.

The biggest winner and loser

WINNER: Jones got an absurdly high volume of reps during this wet practice. I'm not sure that it's because he's edging out Newton or anything like that. Rather, I think the Patriots wanted to give Jones experience working in the elements (rain and relatively chilly weather). Regardless, that's good news for Jones, who got plenty of work rather than having to watch Newton. The more work, the better for a rookie. Honorable mention: Ja'Whaun Bentley hasn't made all that many plays, with training camp (passing-focused) not exactly suiting his strengths as a hard-hitting run-stuffer. That said, the Patriots clearly love him planted right at the middle of their starting defense. LOSER: Kicker Quinn Nordin continues to look out of place. The kid can absolutely bomb the ball. But his kicks look too much like my overswings with a driver in golf: Nordin sprays the ball all over the place. He had a shot to impress with Folk out. It sounds harsh, but Nordin did not impress.

QB stats

Here are the -- completely out of context -- stats from Thursday's practice.

  • Jones was 10-of-14 in fully competitive 11-on-11s

  • Newton was 2-of-6.

The top takeaway: Adrian Phillips has been an absolute nightmare for TEs

Early in the practice, Phillips logged a nice pass breakup on Jonnu Smith. Phillips and Hunter Henry have had plenty of hotly contested matchups. And Phillips is winning a lot of those matchups. It's been consistent throughout training camp. It also sounds like Phillips and the safeties room aren't afraid to talk a little trash about it. "There’s going to be some back-and-forth here," safeties coach Brian Belichick said. "We’re in training camp, we’re going to be going against each other a lot. So any chance we get to get after (Hunter) Henry and throw it back in his face for not being able to come down with it, we’re going to take advantage of it and they’re going to do the same thing to us."

Everything else that's important

  • N'Keal Harry got flagged for OPI in 1-on-1 drills. He then couldn't quite get separation or shield off Joejuan Williams for a catch on a flag route in the end zone in a different 1-on-1 rep. Harry's final rep was an incompletion where the quarterback threw to a different place than where the receiver was -- a clear miscommunication. Harry remains involved in special teams and, in particular, kickoff coverage and kickoff return.

  • Williams went 2-0 during 1-on-1 reps, a good bounce-back day after a brutal Wednesday.

  • Receivers Kristian Wilkerson, Isaiah Zuber and Marvin Hall went 2-0 in 1-on-1 drills. Wilkerson beat J.C. Jackson once. Zuber nabbed a brilliant jump ball near the end zone on a flag route. Maybe this receiving corps doesn't have a top-end talent, but it does have depth.

  • More on the receivers: Kendrick Bourne had some issues catching the ball in the rain. He couldn't haul in back-to-back targets, one being an overthrow that hit Bourne's hands on the dive and one on an out route that hit him in stride. He dropped the ball off a tipped pass during 11-on-11s. And then Jones threw a bit off target for Bourne near the end zone in 11-on-11s, and it fell incomplete.

  • EVEN more on the receivers: Nelson Agholor seems to have almost no role on special teams, one sign that he's the WR1. There's also his contract: $11 million per year, most among receivers (but third among pass-catchers behind Smith and Henry, each at $12.5 million per year).

  • During a kickoff session, the quarterbacks worked on a separate field with Smith, Henry and Agholor. One player who wasn't there: Jakobi Meyers, the team's leading receiver in 2020.

  • Adrian Phillips logged a breakup on Brian Hoyer on a pass intended for Jonnu Smith on a drag route.

  • Deatrich Wise knocked the helmet off Alex Redmond in a half-field running drill.

  • Jonnu Smith was forced to run a lap during a half-field running drils. (Perhaps he missed a block?) He came back on the following drill and cleared out LB Josh Uche on the edge.

  • Jones and center Marcus Martin fumbled a snap during that same running and blocking drill. They were forced to run a lap. For whatever reason, Brian Hoyer also fumbled a snap, but didn't run a lap. Veteran privilege, I suppose.

  • Jones showed impressive ball-handling in the rain, with a nice fake that helped set up a screen.

  • Defensive tackle Lawrence Guy could have absolutely rocked Brian Hoyer on an 11-on-11 rep, but the defensive tackle instead gave up on the play (because, of course, he's not allowed to hit the QB). But 'ball don't lie.' The ball fell incomplete.

  • Newton connected with Smith on a slippery route in 7-on-7s despite tight coverage from safety Kyle Dugger. It was a nice piece of execution from the offense.

  • A group of defensive backs -- which included Jackson, Dugger and Mills among others -- forced Newton to hold the ball way too long and, ultimately, almost throw an interception.

  • No one loves to finish their runs like Damien Harris, who will take the ball into the end zone on every rep, even when he's clearly been "stopped" by a defense that's not allowed to tackle him. Watching Harris run all the way to the end zone -- sometimes 60 yards -- always cracks me up. That said, he did bust off a real 50-yard touchdown run, largely as a product of excellent blocking from Isaiah Wynn and Michael Onwenu.

  • During 11-on-11s, Deatrich Wise would have logged a sack -- probably even a strip-sack -- on Mac Jones. But it's training camp, so Wise couldn't tackle Jones, who found Hunter Henry for a long touchdown. (It's just one example of why training camp stats ... lack context.)

  • In 11-on-11s, we saw a great play from Myles Bryant, who jumped into the backfield to get a 3- or 4-yard loss on a Rhamondre Stevenson run. It's payback from Tuesday when Stevenson trucked Bryant.

  • Newton hesitated on a pass in the deep middle of the field for Nelson Agholor in 11-on-11s. That gave J.C. Jackson enough time to jump in front of the ball for a PBU. That's what we don't want to see from Newton in 2021. He was too hesitant in 2020, which led to timing problems just like this one. Jackson logged another breakup on a Jones toss for Kristian Wilkerson in the end zone.