By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The pads went back on for the Patriots on Wednesday, getting back to some Real Football™ after practicing in shells for season ticket holders on Monday night. But the intensity level? Still relatively low.
Bill Belichick’s slow build continues for the 2019 season, and it’s hard to argue with it after the Patriots won Super Bowl LIII in February. It’s also understandable when you consider that they will hold joint practices with the Titans in Nashville next week. That’s not likely to be low-intensity.
Overall, the biggest movers on Wednesday were rookie wide receivers. N’Keal Harry’s roster spot is secure, but he had another noticeably up-and-down day. Jakobi Meyers out of N.C. State and Ryan Davis out of Auburn made a handful of standout plays, though, and will not go quietly with the bottom of the receiver depth chart open.
Even so, the Patriots’ ridiculously deep secondary also made plays of their own, most frequently cornerback Jonathan Jones, who has been the most consistently impressive player so far. That unit will not have a weak link, and it may be hard to find a weak link along the whole defense with the depth they have this year. Here’s a rundown of what we saw on Wednesday.
— PUP/NFI: OT Yodny Cajuste, S Nate Ebner, WR Julian Edelman, CB Ken Webster
— WR Dontrelle Inman returned to practice after missing two in a row. Rookie DL Byron Cowart also returned after missing three practices with a minor quad injury (per Kevin Duffy), but he later worked on the lower field.
— S Patrick Chung is still practicing in a red non-contact jersey. It was a padded practice but a relatively light one, anyway.
— RB Rex Burkhead was present for the start of practice, but worked on the lower conditioning field for a few sessions before returning. So he counts as a limited participant. Looks like he’s dealing with some sort of minor injury.
— OT Isaiah Wynn participated early on, but eventually worked on the lower field.
— N’Keal Harry epitomized his up-and-down camp on consecutive plays. First, he dropped a shallow crosser from Brian Hoyer and appeared disgusted with himself. But on the next snap, he leapt and made a nice catch on a deep ball from Brady. The kid’s physical tools are undeniable; for him it’s about consistency and picking up the offense, which remains a work in progress. He also dropped a pass right off his hands in a late 11-on-11 two-minute drill, after he had Stephon Gilmore beat. He had four drops in total.
— Rookie CB Joejuan Williams broke up a deep throw intended for Phillip Dorsett. He’s barely made contact with a receiver or the ball so far in camp, so that counts as a step in the right direction.
— CB Jonathan Jones broke up a pass intended for Ben Watson. Jones has been arguably the best defensive player on the field in camp. He is playing like a man who knows the Patriots could get rid of him at no cost whatsoever. He needs to prove he belongs over younger, cheaper options, and so far he has done that.
— Undrafted rookie WR Jakobi Meyers made a great leaping grab over Keion Crossen on a throw from Jarrett Stidham. Meyers looks like he’s gaining traction. He’s the betting favorite to be the undrafted rookie who makes the team, which would keep their 15-year streak alive.
— Tom Brady went 0-for-5 in the first 7-on-7 session, but you could argue that no incompletions were his fault. Throws to Ben Watson and Braxton Berrios clanged off their hands, while J.C. Jackson made a pass breakup on N’Keal Harry and disrupted his route on another one. Tight end Matt LaCosse appeared to make a grab over the middle before the ball hit the turf. Still not the best session for Brady’s connection with his newer targets.
— Jonathan Jones made a nice pass breakup against Braxton Berrios. Tight coverage all the way over the middle and got an arm in to disrupt the catch.
— Undrafted CB D’Angelo Ross made a pair of pass breakups against Berrios and Gunner Olszewski.
— Rookie free-agent WR Ryan Davis made a nice grab on a deep ball from Brady to the end zone. He tracked the ball well over his shoulder and beat CB Duke Dawson to the spot.
— Wednesday MVP: Jonathan Jones
— This was the third fully padded practice of camp after last Saturday and Sunday kicked off those festivities.
— Tom Brady worked to the side with N’Keal Harry, Jakobi Meyers, Ben Watson, Sony Michel, and James White for one session.
— Punt returners during that same session were Maurice Harris, Braxton Berrios, Phillip Dorsett, and Gunner Olszewski.
— At one point in practice, the second-team offense had to run a lap. I didn’t see what mistake caused it, but it was probably an egregious mental error. Newly signed rookie tackle Martez Ivey labored around the field. We’ll let you know if he retires.
More camp coverage coming Thursday morning. Practice is scheduled to start around 9:15.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.