New England Patriots

Jun 8, 2022; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick during the New England Patriots minicamp at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

The Patriots offseason program has wrapped up early, with the team announcing on Thursday that Bill Belichick has decided to cancel the team’s remaining Minicamp and OTA practices. There will still be optional meetings and workouts over the next few days, but the team won’t take the field again until the start of training camp in late July.

There were three practices left in this year’s offseason workout period. Thursday’s session was set to be the final of Mandatory Minicamp, while there were two remaining OTA dates set for Monday and Tuesday of next week.

It’s not uncommon for teams to cancel the final couple of practices of the offseason period if they like what they’ve seen from the players to start. The Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Giants, and San Francisco 49ers all canceled practices as well over the last 24 hours. There was a lot to like in what the Patriots did over the last two weeks, which included two higher-tempo practices Tuesday and Wednesday of this week.

Minicamp recaps from 985TheSportsHub.com…

Patriots Minicamp Day 2 notebook: Rookies in the headlines

  • Jun 8, 2022; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick during the New England Patriots minicamp at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

    Jun 8, 2022; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick during the New England Patriots minicamp at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

    For their second of three Minicamp practices, the Patriots picked up right where they left off from the first one. Wednesday’s session was similar to Tuesday’s in terms of the focus, tempo, and intensity.

    Wednesday also featured a number of the same standouts on the offensive side of the ball. In addition to those players, a pair of rookies made their presences felt for the first time in Foxborough.

    Here’s a look at which players popped on Wednesday, plus other observations from Gillette…

  • Mac, back-to-back

    Jun 8, 2022; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) during the New England Patriots minicamp at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

    Jun 8, 2022; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) during the New England Patriots minicamp at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

    Mac Jones followed up Tuesday’s stellar performance on Wednesday. Once again, he made multiple pinpoint throws in team drills. In that, he had four highlight throws that stood out.

    The first of those throws went to Tre Nixon (more on him in a bit). Nixon ran a post from the slot, and Jones perfectly dropped the ball in over the top as Nixon was coming out of his break. He followed that up with a throw to Jonnu Smith on a sideline fade on a play resembling one of his highlight throws from Tuesday to DeVante Parker.

    In a later period, he hit Nelson Agholor in stride on a deep ball up the sideline. And then he made what may have been his best throw of the day, connecting with Nixon up the seam on a perfectly-placed throw into strong coverage from Jonathan Jones about 40 yards downfield.

    It’s notable that many of Jones’ best throws came outside the numbers. His ability to deliver the ball with conviction to some of the harder to reach places on the field shows an improvement in both ball speed and confidence, two things that have been circled as logical points of growth for him in Year 2.

  • Tre Nixon stars again

    Jun 8, 2022; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots receiver Tre Nixon (82) during the New England Patriots minicamp at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

    Jun 8, 2022; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots receiver Tre Nixon (82) during the New England Patriots minicamp at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

    That second throw from Jones to Nixon was impressive, but the catch was really the highlight of that play. With Jones hanging all over him, Nixon brought the ball in with one hand and maintained control through hitting the ground.

    When Cam Newton was still with the team last year, Jones and Nixon seemed to develop a strong rapport working together on the second unit. That chemistry has carried over, and Jones continues to look Nixon’s way often.

    There’s plenty of depth ahead of Nixon at the wide receiver position right now, but there’s also plenty of time left for him to make a case he belongs. With these performances, expect him to be one of the main players to focus on when roster battles start in Training Camp.

  • Tyquan Thornton goes deep

    May 23, 2022; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Tyquan Thornton (51) works with training aids at the team's OTA at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

    May 23, 2022; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Tyquan Thornton (51) works with training aids at the team’s OTA at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

    The Patriots have ramped up their rookies slowly in spring practices, but second-round pick Tyquan Thornton seemed to be more involved on Wednesday. His highlight came in 7-on-7s, when he ran past both the cornerback covering him and safety helping over the top to haul in a deep pass up the sideline from Brian Hoyer.

    Thornton has also been repping regularly with the special teams unit. As is the case with most rookies in New England, he may have a role in the kicking game to start his career in addition to his listed positional role.

  • Rookie cornerback stands out

    Jun 8, 2022; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots cornerback Jack Jones (53) during the New England Patriots minicamp at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

    Jun 8, 2022; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots cornerback Jack Jones (53) during the New England Patriots minicamp at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

    On the defensive side of the ball, fourth-round pick Jack Jones was the first rookie to have a standout day. Jones has been involved more that most rookies from the practices we’ve seen so far, but Wednesday was his most highlight-filled performance.

    Jones’ day actually started out on a low note – he tweaked something while fielding a punt and walked off the field with a member of the training staff. When he came back though, he made his presence felt with a tip-drill interception. On that play, he lined up on the outside opposite Kristian Wilkerson, who was running a shallow slant. Off the throw from Bailey Zappe, both Wilkerson and Jones got to the spot at the same time. Jones got his hands up first, and held onto the ball through the collision.

    Towards the end of practice, Jones showed up again. This time working against Agholor, he forced a fumble on a play in the flat. It’s those kinds of ‘playing to the whistle’ plays that will stand out as he looks to earn a role with the starting defense.

  • Strange setting a tone

    May 23, 2022; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots offensive linebacker Cole Strange (50) heads to the practice field for the team's OTA. Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

    May 23, 2022; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots offensive linebacker Cole Strange (50) heads to the practice field for the team’s OTA. Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

    First-round pick Cole Strange continues to be a tone-setter in these practices. On Tuesday, he had to be separated from Matthew Judon late in practice. On Wednesday, he got in a veteran’s face once again. After Malcolm Butler grabbed a tip-drill interception in 11-on-11’s, Strange chased him down to the sideline on the return. While things didn’t get physical this time, there were some extra words exchanged between the two.

    Strange’s nasty streak should make him a fit up front for the Patriots. Multiple times last season, center and captain David Andrews talked about the team having a bully ball identity. Early on, Strange doesn’t seem like the kind of player who will back down from an overly-physical style of play.

  • Offensive line shakeup continues

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - SEPTEMBER 27: Isaiah Wynn #76 of the New England Patriots looks on after the game against the Las Vegas Raiders at Gillette Stadium on September 27, 2020 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – SEPTEMBER 27: Isaiah Wynn #76 of the New England Patriots looks on after the game against the Las Vegas Raiders at Gillette Stadium on September 27, 2020 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    For the second day in a row Isaiah Wynn played right tackle for full team drills. Wynn was asked about the change after practice but didn’t say much, generally falling back on the answer of playing “wherever the team needs me.” Prior to practice, Belichick mentioned the team “building depth” when asked about Wynn playing right tackle.

    While it’s too early to assume that will be his full-time position in the regular season, it’s also not a factor to completely ignore either. Further complicating things is the fact that Wynn is in a contract year.

  • Defensive line camaraderie

    Nov 14, 2021; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots defensive end Deatrich Wise (91) and defensive end Lawrence Guy (93) react after sacking Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (not seen) during the second half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

    Nov 14, 2021; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots defensive end Deatrich Wise (91) and defensive end Lawrence Guy (93) react after sacking Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (not seen) during the second half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

    One small but significant observation through the first few practices of the spring has been how well the defensive linemen all work together, not just during plays but between them as well. Players from that group seem to regularly be coaching each other up, both between plays and staying after practice to do so. Two players who have stood out in particular giving advice have been Lawrence Guy and Bill Murray.

  • Punter hang times

    May 23, 2022; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots punter Jake Bailey (7) walks to the practice field for the team's OTA at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

    May 23, 2022; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots punter Jake Bailey (7) walks to the practice field for the team’s OTA at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

    Both punters got 11-on-11 work for the second practice in a row. Jake Bailey took reps in two sessions, while Jake Julien repped once. Here’s the hang times from each player.

    Bailey, 1st session:

    4.97 seconds
    4.85
    4.77
    5.11

    Bailey, second session:

    4.47
    4.65
    4.18
    4.61
    4.27

    Julien:

    4.73
    4.37
    4.70
    4.46

  • Taking attendance

    Jun 8, 2022; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots receiver Kendrick Bourne (84) during the New England Patriots minicamp at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

    Jun 8, 2022; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots receiver Kendrick Bourne (84) during the New England Patriots minicamp at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

    There were two changes from Tuesday’s attendance. Wide receiver Kendrick Bourne return to practice after not being spotted on Tuesday, and defensive tackle Carl Davis was not spotted after taking part in Tuesday’s session.

    Offensive linemen Chasen Hines and Andrew Stueber, defensive lineman Byron Cowart, and kickers Nick Folk and Quinn Nordin weren’t spotted for the second consecutive day. Belichick said before practice that Hines and Stueber – both rookies – “weren’t ready” to be on the field.

    Rookie cornerback Marcus Jones was wearing a red non-contact jersey once again. Jones had shoulder surgery during the offseason.

    There were two players listed who aren’t on the roster, kickers wearing No. 2 (who was also present on Tuesday) and No. 8. They’re likely two of the three kickers the Patriots worked out earlier this week.

  • Go Aggies

    Bill Belichick spent a good portion of Wednesday practice chatting with Utah State defensive coordinator Ephriam Banda. Last season, Utah State went a program best 11-3 and won the Mountain West. Prior to joining the Aggies in 2021, Banda spent four years working with the secondary in Miami.

  • What’s next?

    Jun 8, 2022; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick during the New England Patriots minicamp at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

    Jun 8, 2022; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick during the New England Patriots minicamp at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

    The Patriots will hold their third and final Minicamp practice Thursday afternoon. Rain is in the forecast, so it could be a session heavy on footwork and ball security drills.

Patriots Minicamp Day 1 notebook: Increasing the intensity

  • The Patriots first two open OTA practices were clearly the first steps in the offseason program. There weren’t many competitive drills, mostly individual or positional work. For the first Minicamp practice on Tuesday though, the intensity noticeably picked up.

    Now, things still aren’t at full-speed in Foxborough. These practices remain unpadded and low-contact. But Tuesday’s session featured the offense working against the defense, and the tempo was above the walkthrough level we’ve seen so far.

    Who made the most of the active session? Here’s a run through of Tuesday’s headlines…

  • Mac Jones’ big day

    May 23, 2022; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) with the ball during the Patriots OTA's at Gillette stadium. Mandatory Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

    May 23, 2022; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) with the ball during the Patriots OTA’s at Gillette stadium. Mandatory Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

    In his first practice against somewhat significant coverage, Mac Jones put on an accuracy clinic. He was tabbed with just one incompletion on 26 pass attempts, and had some real thread-the-needle moments.

    His first came early in practice in 7-on-7s. Tre Nixon was running a slot fade deep up the sideline, and gained a bit of separation from Jonathan Jones, with Devin McCourty in position over the top. Jones placed a rainbow throw just between the two, giving Nixon enough room to lay out and make the grab.

    That catch was part of an impressive day for Nixon too. The 2021 seventh-round pick saw an increase in reps and made the most of his chances. Last year, Nixon flashed in camp due to both his speed and quickness. Those traits were back on display on Tuesday, but his growth as a route-runner was also apparent. If the Patriots choose to keep six receivers, Nixon should be in contention for one of the final spots on the roster – especially if he builds on what he did on Tuesday.

    Jones’ other highlight throw was to one of his newest targets, DeVante Parker. During 11-on-11’s, Parker worked his way up the sideline from an outside alignment, and was able to get positioning working against Jalen Mills. Jones lofted the ball up where only Parker could get it, and Parker high-pointed the ball for what was probably about a 15-20 yard completion.

  • Adjustments coming of the offensive line?

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - SEPTEMBER 27: Isaiah Wynn #76 of the New England Patriots looks on after the game against the Las Vegas Raiders at Gillette Stadium on September 27, 2020 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – SEPTEMBER 27: Isaiah Wynn #76 of the New England Patriots looks on after the game against the Las Vegas Raiders at Gillette Stadium on September 27, 2020 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    After not taking part in the first two weeks of OTAs, Isaiah Wynn made his return to Foxborough on Tuesday for Minicamp. However, he didn’t return to the left tackle spot he’s played for the last three seasons.

    Instead, Wynn played most of his snaps at right tackle – a position he hasn’t played before in an NFL game. Trent Brown saw some reps on the left side, although he seemed to be limited overall.

    Of course, this was just one practice and the Patriots preach being ready for any and all situations – especially when it comes to roster depth. Still, Wynn’s usage is now something to monitor moving forwards.

  • Tide rolling on the defensive line

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - OCTOBER 17: Christian Barmore #90 of the New England Patriots reacts after a play in the second quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at Gillette Stadium on October 17, 2021 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – OCTOBER 17: Christian Barmore #90 of the New England Patriots reacts after a play in the second quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at Gillette Stadium on October 17, 2021 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    As a rule of thumb, I generally stay away from evaluating line play – good or bad – before the pads come on. Anytime before that, the positions just can’t be played completely.

    That being said, a pair of Alabama defensive linemen did stand out on Tuesday. Christian Barmore got into the backfield a couple of times during 11-on-11 drills, and given the nature of the drills showed off his explosive first step.

    Perhaps more interesting though was UDFA defensive end LaBryan Ray. Even standing around other defensive linemen, Ray’s length (listed 6-foot-4, 290 pounds) really stands out. Watching him both in individual and team drills, his hand technique also seems to be ahead of the curve for a player who played just 36 games over five years in college.

    When it comes to continuing the Patriots’ streak of at least one UDFA making the initial roster, Ray should be considered a frontrunner in that conversation. There are spots to fill along the defensive line, and he should be in contention for a rotational role.

  • Hangtimes are back

    Aug 12, 2021; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots punter Jake Bailey (7) punts the ball during the second half of a game against the Washington Football Team at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

    Aug 12, 2021; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots punter Jake Bailey (7) punts the ball during the second half of a game against the Washington Football Team at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

    In addition to the offense and defense working against each other, the Patriots also did 11-on-11 punt drills for the first time this spring. That means it’s time to bring back a fan-favorite features – punter hang times!

    Both Jake Bailey and UDFA Jake Julien got two periods each. Of course, these numbers don’t mean everything, as the coaches may have asked each player to kick the ball a certain way on certain kicks.

    Bailey’s hang times were 5.06, 5.19, 5.10, and 5.71 second on his first turn, and 4.60, 4.38, 4.65, and 4.74 on his second. Julien had kicks of 4.05 and 4.45 seconds is first time up, and 4.36, 4.38, 4.32, and 4.49 seconds the second time.

  • Coaching updates

     

    Earlier this week, Jeff Howe of The Athletic reported that “it’s trending” towards Matt Patricia being the team’s playcaller this season. Both Patricia and Joe Judge led the offensive huddle at different points during Tuesday’s practice.

    On the lighter side of things, Bill Belichick took a true hands-on approach to Tuesday’s practice. At one point, the former Wesleyan University center was actually on the ball, handling the snapping duties for Mac Jones during a handoff drill with the running backs.

  • Tempers flare

    Nov 7, 2021; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA;  New England Patriots outside linebacker Matt Judon (9) sacks Carolina Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold (14) in the fourth quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

    Nov 7, 2021; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; New England Patriots outside linebacker Matt Judon (9) sacks Carolina Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold (14) in the fourth quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

    There was a bit of a scrum to close out practice on Tuesday. During an 11-on-11 drill, Nelson Agholor had a pass knocked out of his hands by Terrance MitchellMatthew Judon fell on the ball as if it was a fumble, and was then tackled from the ground by rookie Cole Strange. Judon seemed to take exception to the play, and the two had to be seperated.

  • Taking attendance

    May 23, 2022; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Kendrick Bourne (84) works with a training aid at the team's OTA at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

    May 23, 2022; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Kendrick Bourne (84) works with a training aid at the team’s OTA at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

    Unlike the first two open practices of the spring – which were optional – Tuesday’s session and every session this week in mandatory. Players can be fined by the team for not attending.

    Given that, a number of key players who were away the last two weeks took part in practice on Tuesday. That included Judon and Wynn. Wide receiver N’Keal Harry was also back in Foxborough after spending the prior stages of the offseason away from the team.

    There were six players not spotted at Tuesday’s practice, although that doesn’t necessarily mean those players didn’t take part in the session all together – they may have just been elsewhere in the facility. Belichick declined to say if any of them were unexcused absences. Those not seen were wide receiver Kendrick Bourne, offensive linemen Andrew Stueber and Chasen Hines, defensive lineman Byron Cowart, and kickers Nick Folk and Quinn Nordin.

    There was one new player spotted at practice, kicker Tristan Vizcaino. Vizcaino is with the Patriots on a workout basis, and at as of Tuesday’s practice had not been officially signed to the roster.

  • What’s next?

    The Patriots will hold their second of three Minicamp practices this week on Wednesday. The forecast calls for heavy rains, so expect ball security to be a big part of that practice.