Patriots stock up, stock down: Cole Strange more than holds his own vs. Panthers

·6 min read

Perry: Cole Strange more than holds his own vs. Panthers originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

FOXBORO -- While the No. 1 story out of Wednesday's joint practice between the Patriots and Panthers was that both teams couldn't stop trying to pummel each other, there was a little bit of football played.

Here's our stock watch for Day 2 of joint practices between Carolina and New England ...

Stock up: Nelson Agholor

Nelson Agholor was the best receiver on the field Wednesday. And, yes, you read that right. The two best plays of the day for the Patriots came when Mac Jones found the veteran wideout in the end zone in 11-on-11 periods.

The first came just two plays into the first-team offense's day. Jones dropped one in the bucket to Agholor from about 20 yards away, and Agholor caught it one-handed. Later, in a different full-team period, Jones lofted one into Agholor. It was another well-placed bucket throw that Agholor caught despite close coverage from Myles Hartsfield and Jaycee Horn.

Agholor caught four of his six targets in competitive periods and received some lofty praise from his quarterback afterward.

"I love Nelson," Jones said. "He’s obviously very quick and very fast. He loves football. I don’t know if I’ve seen a receiver who understands football as well as he does, in terms of just general knowledge. He’s almost like a quarterback out there."

Agholor has been discussed as a potential trade candidate, but he's been solidly one of the team's top-three wideouts throughout camp. On Wednesday, Agholor, DeVante Parker and Jakobi Meyers were the go-to trio in 11-personnel groupings, with Kendrick Bourne (Stock Down through this week) running with backups for the majority of the day.

Stock up: Cole Strange

Strange has had issues at times during one-on-one periods this summer. His play strength could use a bump, according to league sources who've seen him play this summer. But this week? He more than held his own in one-on-one situations.

I charted him as winning all three of his reps on Wednesday against Matt Ioannidis (twice) and beating Derrick Brown in their only matchup. On Tuesday, he was solid as well. He lost one rep to Ioannidis, but it looked like he beat Brown twice. He was flagged for being an ineligible receiver downfield at one point on Wednesday, but taking five out of six one-on-one reps through two days with a new opponent has him trending in the right direction.

Stock up: Marcus Jones

The rookie slot corner's stock only continues to rise during this camp. On Wednesday, he made one of the most impressive defensive plays of the day when he deflected a Sam Darnold pass to himself for an interception. Devin McCourty said later that he and Jones sit by one another in meetings. Seems like the Houston product has picked up a thing or two from his veteran teammate.

Jones was also in on a goal-line stuff later in the practice, and during a hurry-up period he was targeted three times and helped force incompletions with tight coverage on two.

Stock up: LaBryan Ray

In the first joint session with the Panthers, the undrafted rookie out of Alabama tipped a pass that led to a pick. On Wednesday he continued to make plays, helping make a goal-line stuff and coming through with a "sack" during a hurry-up period.

Ray has been a consistently disruptive force when he's on the field, and it looked like Bill Belichick gave him some time with first-teamers on Wednesday.

Stock down: Deatrich Wise

The Patriots appeared to be more reactionary than instigating when it came to Tuesday's and Wednesday's fights. But Wise helped escalate things when he gave Christian McCaffrey a hard shot by the Panthers bench in an early 11-on-11 period on Day 2. That immediately sent Carolina into a frenzy and led to a long delay to the practice itself.

He was one of the team's best players on Tuesday, but on Wednesday, Wise got himself booted before things really even got started. Henry Anderson filled in for Wise and saw significant reps with the top Patriots defense.

Stock down: James Ferentz

While Cole Strange had himself a nice day during one-on-ones, Ferentz did not. One day after getting kicked out of practice for getting into it with a Panthers defensive lineman, Ferentz had two reps that he lost decisively to Daviyon Nixon -- who played for Ferentz's father Kirk at Iowa -- and Bravvion Roy. Later in the day, Ferentz also appeared to allow a pressure in 11-on-11s that led to a Mac Jones scramble and throwaway.

Ferentz jumped into the huddle for David Andrews during the late-practice hurry-up period after Andrews fell awkwardly and appeared to be in pain as he got back to his feet. (Andrews watched the rest of the practice, standing well behind the Patriots offense.) Though Ferentz knows the Patriots offense and has been in the system for years now, should Andrews miss further time, that would be a real blow to the top offensive unit in Foxboro.

Stock down: Bailey Zappe

While the Patriots rookie quarterback has made strides since the beginning of camp, Wednesday was a tough day. He hit on just 7 of his 17 attempts in full team periods, and he threw a pick in a hurry-up period that hit defensive end Austin Larkin right in the chest.

Zappe did hit Tre Nixon on an impressive back-shoulder touchdown along the back end line in a 7-on-7 period, but he also had one broken up by a paddle -- held by a Patriots staffer to simulate a defenders hand up at the line of scrimmage -- just four plays later.

Stock down: Running game

On both Tuesday and Wednesday, the focus seemed to be primarily on the passing game. That didn't mean the Patriots didn't try to run it, though. When they did, there just wasn't much there for them. Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson took early runs up the gut that didn't go anywhere. Later, Harris took a wide-zone carry for very little yardage, and that was followed by back-to-back Stevenson runs (one inside, one on a toss-crack play) that got caught in a mass of humanity at the line of scrimmage.

Creating more room at the line is going to be something the Patriots try to execute in Friday night's matchup with Carolina at Gillette Stadium. They ran it 17 times for just 50 yards (2.9 per carry) in last week's preseason opener with the Giants, and generating positive plays on the ground has been difficult for the Patriots throughout practices this summer.