New England Patriots

New England Patriots

New England Patriots

New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) directs the offense before running a drill at 2023 training camp in Foxboro. (Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports)

On Wednesday, the Patriots’ offense had its best day of the summer in the team’s second fully-padded practice of the year. Back in full pads on Thursday for Day 8 of training camp, the defense got some revenge.

It wasn’t an overly-dominant day for the defense, but it wasn’t for the offense either. Instead it really looked like a healthy back-and-forth, punch-for-punch kind of practice – the kind of day that hasn’t been seen often in Foxborough in recent years.

The wins for the defense came in the form of turnovers. Kyle Dugger and Adrian Phillips both grabbed interceptions. Dugger got Mac Jones, who had a miscommunication with Tre Nixon that led to the throw behind a bit behind, and Dugger adjusted on the ball for the INT. Phillips picked up Bailey Zappe in the red zone, lurking in a middle zone and jumping in front of a crosser intended for Demario Douglas.


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Those weren’t the only turnovers for the defense. Ja’Whaun Bentley forced a fumble on tight end Matt Sokol in 11s. Forced fumbles are rarely seen in training camp given there’s no tackling, especially among the top units.

Still, the offense got theirs late in practice. Jones threw a couple of touchdowns in the final red zone period of the day. One of those was the play of the day – he hit Kendrick Bourne on a deep out in the back corner of the end zone. Jones lofted the ball just over the hands of cornerback Christian Gonzalez, putting it where only Bourne could make a play on it. Bourne leaned over the boundary to make the catch, and toe-tapped to complete the score. The other touchdown was to JuJu Smith-Schuster. Zappe had his moment in the red zone as well, hitting Kayson Boutte a touchdown in the back corner of the end zone.

While Jones connected with his top targets late in practice, he actually had a different experience earlier in the day. Let’s get into that as we continue our breakdown of Day 8 of Patriots training camp…

  • Mixing it up on offense

    Aug 3, 2023; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) and offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Bill O'Brien head to the practice fields for training camp at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

    New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones and offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Bill O’Brien head to the practice fields for 2023 training camp in Foxboro. (Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports)

    For the first team drills in practice on Thursday, the groupings looked a little different than they have so far this summer. Mac Jones was still working with the projected starting offensive line, but second-team receivers in Demario Douglas, Te Nixon, and Kayshon Boutte. Meanwhile, Bailey Zappe was behind the same line he’s been all summer but got to work with JuJu Smith-Schuster, Kendrick Bourne, and DeVante Parker. The defense didn’t mix up in turn – the Jones-led unit repped against the top group, with Zappe going against the backups.

    The results were pretty much as expected. Zappe’s play was elevated playing with the higher-level pass-catchers, and during that period he looked as good as he has all summer. His highlight plays included a dart over the middle to Smith-Schuster, who caught the ball in stride for a first down, and a rep where he maneuvered in the pocket to buy time before hitting Bourne in a tight window in the intermediate part of the field for another first down.

    As for Jones, he made a few big throws during his time with the backups, including a 50-plus-yard deep post to Nixon for a touchdown over Jabrill Peppers. (Side note: Nixon has put together a couple of very impressive practices since the pads came on earlier this week.) However, his timing and chemistry with that group of receivers wasn’t what it’s been with the starters, and that showed at times – including the interception by Kyle Dugger.

    So what should we make of the Patriots’ coaches switching up the personnel for one period – they went back to full starters and full backups for the remainder of practice later in the day – on one day of camp? It’s hard to say.

    Could it be the start of a quarterback competition? Maybe, but Zappe still hasn’t repped against the top defensive unit, which would need to happen for a full comparative evaluation against Jones. It’s also possible they were trying to get both quarterbacks reps with other receivers in case of emergency – something they did in the spring. People will certainly interpret this how they want, but from the outside looking in there’s no clear answer.

  • Tyquan Thornton limited again

    Tyquan Thornton at New England Patriots training camp.

    Tyquan Thornton at New England Patriots training camp. (Alex Barth/98.5 The Sports Hub)

    You may have noticed Tyquan Thornton isn’t included in the above section. That’s because he wasn’t on the main field with the team. After stretching, he went down to the lower field to do conditioning work.

    This is the second day in a row Thornton was limited after a rough start to camp. Given he was the 50th overall pick just a year ago his roster spot shouldn’t be in jeopardy, but with rookie receivers starting to emerge – especially Demario Douglas, who can push him as the ‘speed’ option on offense – his role could become up for grabs. Thornton’s reliability has been a question since he arrived in New England. He suffered a broken collarbone in camp last year, and missed significant time this spring with a ‘soft tissue’ injury.

    There’s still time to go for Thornton to turn things around. But for a player that was viewed as a guy who could truly elevate the offense, he’s come up well short of expectations to this point.

  • One-on-one winners

    Jun 12, 2023; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots tight end Hunter Henry (85) works on his footwork at the Patriots minicamp at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

    New England Patriots tight end Hunter Henry runs a drill during minicamp in Foxboro. (Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports)

    With another fully-padded practice, we also got more one-on-one drills for both the pass catchers/defenders and offensive and defensive linemen. Once again, I watched the passing drills while Matt Dolloff followed what was going on in the trenches. Here’s a look at the winners…

    On the passing field, Hunter Henry was the most impressive player for the second day in a row. He had a couple of definitive wins.

    Demario Douglas was impressive during the period once again. He won twice, including a rep where he crossed up Marcus Jones to the point where he fell down. Douglas also stood out in one-on-one live tackling drills – a rarity in Patriots camp that showed up on Thursday.

    Rhamondre Stevenson also showed good patience in his route running when he hit linebacker Olakunle Fatukasi with a stutter-and-go move that got him plenty open up the sideline.

    It was another interesting day for Christian Gonzalez. In his lone rep against a starter, JuJu Smith-Schuster beat him pretty clean off the line on a slot fade, but Gonzalez showed excellent recovery skills and ended up getting in position to break up the pass with room to spare. That ability to quickly change direction and close on a receiver is part of what made Gonzalez so highly regarded coming out of Oregon this spring. Elsewhere on defense, Myles Bryant picked up a decisive win against Nixon.

    For the linemen, one of the more notable one-on-ones was actually a draw. Rookie guard Atonio Mafi, who has seen regular time with the starters due to injuries so far in this camp, held his own against Christian Barmore, who is having a dominant summer. For a rookie to come up strong in that matchup is a good sign. In other matchups featuring projected starters, Deatrich Wise beat Conor McDermottRiley Reiff beat Josh Uche, and Lawrence Guy beat Kody Russey.

  • Jack Jones’ interesting day

    Jul 27, 2023; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots cornerback Jack Jones (13) sprints during training camp at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

    New England Patriots cornerback Jack Jones sprints during 2023 training camp in Foxboro. (Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports)

    It was an interesting day for cornerback Jack Jones, who was coming off of a rough day on Wednesday. Let’s go through it step-by-step.

    First, it looked like Jones wasn’t going to have a day. He wasn’t on the field with the team initially, and didn’t emerge from Gillette Stadium until halfway through the stretching period.

    During an early 11-on-11 period, the Patriots had their defensive-backs wearing boxing pads on their hands. This is something they’ve done for years, to help their cornerbacks work on their coverage techniques without getting grabby in the route.

    Jones was matched up on Kendrick Bourne during this session. He was targeted on an out-route, and Zappe made a good throw to fit the ball by Jones and get Bourne just in bounds. After falling to the ground during the play, Jones slammed one of the pads into the turf, visibly upset. Shortly after he walked of the field towards Gillette Stadium, with Jabrill Peppers speaking with him during most of that walk.

    That whole sequence made Jones’ absence seem like an ejection, but he returned to the field in uniform towards the end of practice. He remained on the sideline and chatted with both Matt Groh and Jalen Mills.

    Was Jones tossed because of his anger with the play? Did he maybe get hurt? So far, we don’t know. But it was an odd sequence for a player who has been in the spotlight before, from being suspended by the team at the end of last season to his arrest this past offseason.

  • Late-round pick making the most of an opportunity

    Patriots cornerback Isaiah Bolden during a conditioning drill at training camp. (Katie Bennert, 98.5 The Sports Hub)

    Patriots cornerback Isaiah Bolden during a conditioning drill at training camp. (Katie Bennert, 98.5 The Sports Hub)

    With Jones off the field, that meant the Patriots would need another cornerback in their top rotation. Today, that cornerback was rookie seventh-round pick Isaiah Bolden.

    Bolden has started to come on strong over the past couple of days, and was rewarded with a big chance today. He was on the field as the second boundary cornerback opposite Gonzalez in 11-on-11s during a two-minute drill late in practice. Bolden got to rep against DeVante Parker, and recorded a PBU when the knocked the ball out of Parker’s hands on a deep route of the left sideline. It was a very competitive play by Bolden with good positioning, with Parker making a strong play on the ball initially.

    Bolden’s usage on Thursday highlights why the battle for the fourth boundary cornerback spot – however mundane that may seem – is important. Given the uncertainty surrounding Jones, that could become a solid rotational role behind Gonzalez and Jonathan Jones. Other contenders for that spot include Marcus Jones, Shaun Wade, and rookie Ameer Speed.

  • Chad Ryland not slowing down

    Jun 12, 2023; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots place kicker Chad Ryland (62) warms up at the Patriots minicamp at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

    New England Patriots kicker Chad Ryland warms up during 2023 minicamp in Foxboro. (Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports)

    Sticking with the theme of rookies on the rise, here comes kicker Chad Ryland. Once again, Ryland handled all of the field goal duties on a day that saw the Patriots kicking early and often, and knocked down all seven attempts including multiple kicks beyond 40 yards. He was also the kicker late in practice when, during the two-minute drill, the Patriots practiced running the field goal unit on to the field without a timeout. As far as the kicker battle goes, he seems to be in good shape.

  • Hang times

    Punters Corliss Waitman and Bryce Baringer wait on a snap from long snapper Tucker Addington at Patriots training camp.

    Punters Corliss Waitman and Bryce Baringer wait on a snap from long snapper Tucker Addington at Patriots training camp. (Alex Barth/98.5 The Sports Hub)

    In addition to their field goal work, the Patriots also had two punt periods during Thursday’s practice. Here’s a look at the hang times for both punters…

    Bryce Baringer:
    4.80 seconds
    4.60
    4.58
    4.38

    3.78 seconds
    4.38
    4.79
    4.65

    Corliss Waitman:
    4.45
    4.50
    4.61
    4.91

    4.60
    4.46
    4.70

  • Malik Cunningham adds to his resume

    Jul 26, 2023; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Malik Cunningham (64) makes a catch during training camp at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

    Jul 26, 2023; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Malik Cunningham (64) makes a catch during training camp at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

    UDFA Malik Cunningham has already gotten plenty of attention since joining the team this spring, as he tries to make the switch from college quarterback to NFL wide receiver. On Thursday, we learned that catching passes isn’t the only responsibility he’s adding.

    During one of those team punt drills, Cunningham – who ran a 4.53-second 40 – took some reps at gunner. Speaking about it after, Cunningham said that he does plan on continuing to work with the special teams unit, but hasn’t made a tackle in a game since playing Pop Warner. We’ll see if he gets an opportunity when the preseason starts next week.

  • Getting open

    Jul 27, 2023; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Raleigh Webb (44) does a running drill during training camp at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

    Jul 27, 2023; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Raleigh Webb (44) does a running drill during training camp at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

    I’ve been contemplating putting this nugget in the notebook for a few days, but since he caught two more touchdowns today let me just say – Raleigh Webb gets open. He gets open often, and he’s been one of the top targets for the third-string offense since the spring. Granted, it’s against the third-string defense, but he still seems to be getting the ball more than other pass-catchers in that group.

    Does that mean Webb – who is a converted college safety and played nearly exclusively (one offensive snap last season) on special teams for the Patriots as a rookie last year – is going to solve the team’s wide receiver woes? No. But he’s clearly been putting in work on that part of his game. In terms of being an emergency option, the Patriots could do worse.

  • Attendance

    Patriots OL Cole Strange arrives for training camp practice. (Jim Louth/98.5 The Sports Hub)

    Patriots OL Cole Strange arrives for training camp practice. (Jim Louth/98.5 The Sports Hub)

    There were only a few minor changes to the Patriots’ attendance on Thursday. Cole StrangeTy Montgomery, and Terez Hall remain out. Strange and Montgomery came onto the field late in practice, but were not in pads and just observed. Strange is still wearing a full sleeve on his left knee, which he hurt on Monday. Mike Onwenu (PUP), Cody Davis (PUP), and Calvin Anderson (NFI) remain out as well.

    Matthew Judon and Trent Brown were limited again on Thursday, along with Tyquan Thornton. Chasen HinesBrad Hawkins, and DaMarcus Mitchell were also limited.

  • What’s next?

    Gillette Stadium following the Patriots in-stadium training camp practice. (Alex Barth/98.5 The Sports Hub)

    Gillette Stadium following the Patriots in-stadium training camp practice. (Alex Barth/98.5 The Sports Hub)

    The Patriots will wrap up their stretch of six days of practice in a row on Friday with the annual in-stadium practice inside Gillette Stadium. This is usually a special teams-heavy practice, and sometimes is played as a scrimmage. That begins at 6:30 p.m., and will also feature the official unveiling of the team’s new scoreboard.

  • Alex Barth is a writer and 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. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at [email protected].

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