New England Patriots

  • The Patriots kept things situational for Day 2 of training camp. This will likely be the case for the rest of the week, and until the first padded practice on Monday.

    In addition to focusing heavily on the red zone, the Patriots mixed in some special teams periods on Thursday as well. We’ll get to those, but let’s actually start today’s notebook with the final period of the practice…

  • Defense makes a stand

    FOXBOROUGH, MA - JULY 28, 2021: Jalen Mills #2 of the New England Patriots walks onto the field during training camp at Gillette Stadium on July 28, 2021 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Kathryn Riley/Getty Images)

    FOXBOROUGH, MA – JULY 28, 2021: Jalen Mills #2 of the New England Patriots walks onto the field during training camp at Gillette Stadium on July 28, 2021 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Kathryn Riley/Getty Images)

    In what was the most competitive period we’ve seen through two days of camp, the offense and defense went head-to-head in 11-on-11 red zone snaps to conclude Thursday’s practice. Of those 11 reps, Mac Jones quarterbacked seven while rookie Bailey Zappe took four.

    The first 10 reps of the drill were all won by the defense. Some bigger stops included a nice pass breakup by Jalen Mills working against Nelson Agholor, and then later rookie Marcus Jones sticking to Kendrick Bourne and forcing an overthrow.

    However, to close things out the sides lined up for a ‘got to have it’ rep on the 11th snap. On that play, Jones found tight end Hunter Henry in the flat, with Henry turning across the goal line to score. So, despite getting 10 of the 11 snaps, it was the defense left doing push-ups for the second day in a row.

  • More from the secondary

    May 23, 2022; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots safety Joshuah Bledsoe (24) 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 safety Joshuah Bledsoe (24) walks to the practice field for the team’s OTA at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

    There were other highlights from the secondary beyond that final practice session. Second-year defensive backs Joshuah Bledsoe and Shaun Wade both recorded a pass breakup.

    Bledsoe has been active through two days of practice. With Jabrill Peppers still on PUP there are extra safety reps up for grabs, and he seems to be making the most of that opportunity early on. Bledsoe was a sixth-round pick last spring, but missed his rookie season after offseason wrist surgery.

    Wade has also been noticeably involved to this point. His versatility stands out – he can play both boundary cornerback and in the slot. With two boundary corners in Jonathan Jones (PUP) and Myles Bryant (NFI) not yet practicing, and multiple boundary cornerback spots open for the taking, he’s had a number of chances to show the coaching staff what he has. The Patriots acquired Wade at the end of training camp last year from the Ravens.

    Malcolm Butler had a strong day too, bouncing back after getting beat a couple of times on Wednesday. He was in coverage on two of the red zone stops late in practice.


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  • Parker continues to pop

    May 23, 2022; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver DeVante Parker (11) catches the ball at the team's OTA at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

    May 23, 2022; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver DeVante Parker (11) catches the ball at the team’s OTA at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

    Although he wasn’t featured much during that final period, it was another strong overall day for DeVante Parker. The newly-acquired wide receiver was the story after Day 1 of camp, and picked up where he left off on Day 2.

    His highlight was arguably the catch of the day. Working against Mills in red zone 7-on-7’s, he hauled in a knee-high back shoulder throw from Jones, twisting away from the defender to make the grab. It was truly excellent execution on both ends, and displayed the chemistry that is quickly building between the two.

    Asked about the play after practice, Parker was quick to give Jones credit. “Mac sees where the defender is, he put it in a great spot, and I’m just able to come down with it,” Parker explained.

  • New wrinkle in play calling

    Head Coach Joe Judge of the New York Giants leaves the field after being defeated by the Washington Football Team 22-7 at MetLife Stadium on January 09, 2022 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

    Head Coach Joe Judge of the New York Giants leaves the field after being defeated by the Washington Football Team 22-7 at MetLife Stadium on January 09, 2022 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

    On Wednesday, Matt Patricia handled the play-calling duties exclusively. He also made the bulk of the calls on Thursday, but there was some sharing of the responsibilities.

    Joe Judge had the walkie-talkie for one 7-on-7 period during practice. Bill Belichick also seemed to mix in some calls midway through the day.

    Patricia still seems like the favorite for the role. But it will be interesting to see the distribution of responsibilities once things really get going with padded and joint practices.

  • Video headlines

  • A way onto the roster

    May 23, 2022; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Tre Nixon carries the ball at the team's OTA at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

    May 23, 2022; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Tre Nixon carries the ball at the team’s OTA at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

    We got to see some 11-on-11 work from the kickoff and kick return units on Thursday, meaning it was the first chance to see what players are working in those personnel groups.

    Two names that stand out are wide receivers Tre Nixon and Lil’Jordan Humphrey. Both are bubble players right now, with the team already having five likely roster locks at the position. For them to make the team, special teams contributions will be key (especially since the other receiver fighting for that potential final spot – Kristian Wilkerson – is an excellent special teams player).

    Neither Nixon nor Humphrey have much special teams experience coming into camp. In 18 NFL games, Humphrey has played just 52 total snaps in the kicking game, while Tre Nixon spent all of last year on the practice squad. That will need to change if they make the roster, so getting these reps in is key.

    In another special teams personnel development, two UDFAs got a chance to work with coverage aces Matthew Slater and Cody Davis during individual drills. Brenden Schooler and DaMarcus Mitchell and  both were walking through technique with those two veterans. Schooler’s background is in special teams – after transferring from Oregon to Texas and moving from wide receiver to safety, he was mainly used in the kicking game by the Longhorns. Mitchell was a starting outside linebacker for Purdue last year, but his speed and explosiveness could make him an effective kick coverage player.

  • Taking attendance

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - SEPTEMBER 26: Deatrich Wise Jr. #91 of the New England Patriots celebrates a defensive play against the New Orleans Saints in the first quarter of the game at Gillette Stadium on September 26, 2021 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – SEPTEMBER 26: Deatrich Wise Jr. #91 of the New England Patriots celebrates a defensive play against the New Orleans Saints in the first quarter of the game at Gillette Stadium on September 26, 2021 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

    There was one new absence at practice on Thursday. Deatrich Wise wasn’t spotted after being a full participant in Wednesday’s session. David Andrews, Jonathan Jones, Jabrill Peppers, and James White remain out on PUP while Jake Bailey, Myles Bryant, Chasen Hines, Quinn Nordin, and Andrew Stueber are still on NFI.

    Like Wednesday, there was one brief injury scare when Nelson Agholor pulled up during a drill early in practice. However, he returned to action after briefly getting stretched out by the trainers, and was a full participant the rest of the day.

  • What’s next?

    The Patriots are back on the practice fields tomorrow. It will be another 9:30 a.m. start. The session is free and open to the public, with gates opening at 8:30.

  • 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 abarth@985TheSportsHub.com.