New England Patriots

New England Patriots

FOXBOROUGH, MA - JULY 29, 2021: Mac Jones #50 of the New England Patriots smiles during training camp at Gillette Stadium on July 29, 2021 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Kathryn Riley/Getty Images)

Wednesday’s Patriots training camp was, in terms of anticipation, one of the biggest individual training camp practices in recent Patriots history. With Cam Newton sidelined due to COVID protocols, Mac Jones has had a unique chance to gain ground in the team’s quarterback competition over the last few days.

However, no day was more valuable than Wednesday, with the New York Giants coming to town for a joint practice. Bill Belichick has spoken in the past about how those joint sessions can be more impactful from a player evaluation standpoint.

With those stakes set,  Jones took the chance and ran with it. The rookie took every competitive snap, going 21-of-25 throwing the ball in 11-on-11’s, and 35-of-40 overall. He appeared in charge, in control, and looked the part of a starting NFL quarterback. It was his best practice so far in New England, and the kind of performance fans seemed to be expected when it was announced Newton would miss time.

Of course, if the quarterback is playing well that likely means the receivers are playing well too. Jones’ primary target on the day was third-year receiver Jakobi Meyers, who also rose to the occasion. Meyers seemed to always be open, and made four catches during 11-on-11 drills.

Meyers’ best moment came late in practice, when the Patriots’ presumed starters were working against the Giants starters on a two-minute drill. Jones lofted a pass to the back corner of the end zone from 35 yards out, and Meyers made a full extension leaping grab to haul it in. It’s the second time this week Meyers has made that sort of catch, which just further demonstrates his growth in his short time in the league.

Of course, there were more than just two players on the field on Wednesday. Here’s more observations from Day 18 of Patriots training camp…

  • Offensive line up and down

    It was a back-and-forth day for the offensive line, who had their struggles in the previous joint practices as well. They allowed two sacks during team drills, and were flagged for a false start.

    On the plus side, Yodny Cajuste turned in another encouraging performance. He saw time as the top left tackle, and seemed to hold his own. Is late push towards the roster continues.

  • Fight!

    Ok, so maybe not a full on ‘fight,’ but it was a pretty serious scuffle. It came during offensive and defensive lineman one-on-ones, with Korey Cunningham at the bottom of the pile for the Patriots and B.J. Hill for the Giants.

    Following the scrap, the entire Patriots offensive line was sent on a lap. They were joined by quarterback Mac Jones, who was resting on the sideline while the rest of the team ran through special teams drills.

  • Jake Bailey Hang times

    Speaking of those special teams reps, the Patriots were able to work on their punting group in an 11-on-11 setting. Here’s the hang times from Jake Bailey. He had one punt that wasn’t recorded, because it happened during the ‘fight.’

    4.72 seconds

  • The other Jones

    While the Patriots heavily featured Mac Jones, Wednesday was also a close look at New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones. The Duke product proved to be the lesser of the two on the day, and struggled throwing against the Patriots’ defense from start to finish.

    This was evident early in practice when he was intercepted by Patriots safety Kyle Dugger. Dugger barely had to move, as the throw hit him right between the numbers with no receiver nearby. The Patriots’ safety got into the right place at the right time – something he’s had a knack for since Day 1 in the league – and Jones delivered him a gift.

  • Play of the day

    There were two candidates for ‘Play Of the Day’ on Wednesday. The first was the Meyers catch mentioned above, where he laid out in the back corner of the end zone to make a grab.

    James White was the receiver on the other play, grabbing a wheel route from Mac Jones in a separate two minute drill. Jones lofted the ball over the covering linebacker, and White turned to make the sliding catch just in time.

  • Injury watch

    A number of players left the field early on Wednesday, which isn’t overly surprising due to the excessive heat. Nelson Agholor and Isaiah Wynn both headed back to the locker room with trainers about halfway through practice and didn’t return. No reason has been given for their departure.

    One other injury note – on Meyers’ highlight catch, he was slow to get up and was escorted back to the sideline by trainers. However, a few minutes later he was standing on his own laughing with Isaiah Zuber, so it’s possible it was just a stinger.

  • Notable quotables

    James White on Sony Michel being traded: “Definitely tough. That’s my guy. Being with him since his rookie year, kind of helping him become the player he is today and he’s gotten better and better each year. It’s tough to see him go, for sure. He’s a hard worker, tough guy. Definitely puts the team first. Definitely going to miss him, but best of luck to him.”

    David Andrews on Sony Michel being traded: “I got to be a teammate [of his] in college, I knew what kind of person he was, obviously, you know, was super-excited when we drafted him, got to be his teammate another three years, or three and a half, or four, whatever. So, Sony’s a great player, man. I’m super happy for him. It’s just part of this business.”

    Deatrich Wise on what he’s learned about the defense during camp: “Good question. I think our defense is definitely growing in confidence and growing in chemistry. One of the things that has been very impressive is how we’ve been able to grow together. (inaudible). Week in and week out we’re improving. Coverage, pass rush, it’s all coming together.”

    Kendrick Bourne on the offense’s performance on Wednesday: ““It definitely felt like we kind of won the day. Always can be better in certain areas. Overall, I thought it was a productive day for the offense.”

    Jakob Johnson on the NFL allowing international players to wear their home country’s flag on their helmet: “Oh man, it’s cool. I know, especially here we’re usually not big on everybody having their individual little things. It’s more like everybody wears the same uniform, everybody wears the same gear, but just to have that acknowledgement from the NFL that they are interested in growing the game and they’re acknowledging some of our unique paths to making it here, that’s awesome. My guy Sandro was out here today from Austria. I saw him when he came through the international program, and just to see that part of the game grow means a lot to maybe not you guys, but it means a lot to the kids overseas. When I was back home [in Germany] training this offseason, making it to the league was never a thing that I think was a viable option for people that played football overseas. But little symbols like that make it real, and provide a perspective for the kids that are growing on that path over there.”

    Lawrence Guy on keeping the Giants out of the end zone: “At the end of the day, it’s a competition. We’re all competing. Stopping somebody is always a great feeling. So that’s the pride you take in it. When you score, you want to celebrate with your teammates, you want to tell them that was a great job. Same thing when you stop them. But like I said, we’re competing. You know, it’s still practice. We’re still put in situations to compete so that when it comes up in a game, we know what we got to do. It’s always a great feeling when somebody does good on your side of the ball.”

  • Podcast recap

    For more on Day 18 of Patriots training camp, check out today’s recap podcast featuring PFF’s Doug Kyed.

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