Patriots training camp notebook: Getting ready for the Panthers on Day 12
Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports
After a weekend off following their preseason opener on Thursday, the Patriots returned to the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium Monday morning. This was their 12th practice of training camp.
Practicing in shorts and shells, the team worked at a slower tempo on Monday. Why was that? Let’s start there…
Getting ready for Carolina
Bill Belichick speaks to the media before practice. (Alex Barth/98.5 The Sports Hub)
Monday was the last time the Patriots will practice solo for a few weeks. On Tuesday, the Carolina Panthers come to town for two joint practices leading up to the preseason game on Friday. The Patriots then head west for joint practices with the Las Vegas Raiders ahead of the final preseason game.
The Patriots seemed to take this chance on Monday to prepare for those practices, which Bill Belichick said Monday morning can in some way be more valuable than the preseason games themselves. At times, the session resembled a pre-game walkthrough, with the defense working off of play cards for multiple periods, indicating a scout team period.
Another Tyquan Thornton moment
Wide receiver Tyquan Thornton during Patriots training camp on July 28, 2022. (Syndication: The Providence Journal)
It feels like every day at training camp, rookie wide receiver Tyquan Thornton does something that highlights what is clearly at this point a diverse skillset. Often, this explanation is preceded by some sort of qualifier like ‘everybody knows about Thornton’s speed, but…”
Today though, it is the speed. During an 11-on-11 drill late in practice, Thornton was working a go route up the sideline against Shaun Wade. They drew off the line, and were step for step the first five or 10 yards of the route. Thornton then hit another gear, seemingly effortlessly accelerating to pull away from Wade creating about five yards of separation by the time the ball got to him. The pass ended up falling incomplete as Brian Hoyer’s throw led him out of bounds, but it was still an impressive display of speed by the second round pick.
May 23, 2022; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots defensive back Jonathan Jones (31) walks to the practice field for the team’s OTA at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports
Last week, we highlighted that Jonathan Jones, who has been a slot cornerback in his six years in New England, has been playing more on the boundary. That trend continued on Monday. Given the game planning type of practice Monday was, that stands out.
Jones was primarily matched up with Nelson Agholor on Monday, which could be a hint as to why the Patriots are moving him to the outside. Agholor is one of the Patriots’ fastest receivers, and the Patriots have a number of burner wide receivers on their schedule this year, and Jones is one of their fastest defensive backs boundary or otherwise. Having him as a more universal matchup piece may help bring together the defensive game plans against certain opponents.
Catches of the day
May 23, 2022; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Nelson Agholor (15) runs around a training aid at the team’s OTA at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports
Agholor was able to make a couple of standout catches on Monday, including one with Jones draped all over him. Working on passing goal line drills, Agholor lined up with Jones across from him on the outside. He ran a short out, and Mac Jones delivered a bullet about shoulder-high. Agholor was able to grab the pass with one arm while holding off Jones with the other.
His other catch came a period later. On a back corner fade, Agholor jumped and twisted around to high-point a ball, catching it with one hand Odell Beckham style.
Prior to last week’s preseason opener, reports suggested Agholor could be the ‘odd-man out’ of the Patriots’ wide receiver room. In his first action since that report (he didn’t play Thursday night) he certainly did his part to remind the team why he belongs.
May 23, 2022; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots offensive tackle Yodny Cajuste (72) walks to the practice field for the team’s OTA at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports
Let’s start with the offensive linemen here. The Patriots had three players leave Thursday’s game early with injuries in tackles Yodny Cajuste and Justin Herron and defensive-lineman-turned-guard Bill Murray. Cajuste was present for Monday’s session, Herron was limited, and Murray wasn’t spotted.
Monday was a big chance for Cajuste. Not only was Herron limited, but Isaiah Wynn missed his third practice in a row. That afforded Cajuste significant reps with the starting offense. Last week, Belichick had noted Cajuste is having “the best camp” he’s had since being drafted by the Patriots in the third round in 2019.
The other absences on Monday were Malcolm Butler, Joejuan Williams, and Cody Davis. Dalton Keene returned to the field after missing practices last week, but was limited.
Gillette Stadium Practice Field (Jim Louth/98.5 The Sports Hub)
Things hit another gear Tuesday, with the first of two joint practices against the Carolina Panthers. These are the most valuable practices of camp in terms of both development and evaluation.
Practices begin at 9:30 a.m. with Belichick scheduled to speak beforehand. The practice is free and open to the public, with gates opening at 8:00.
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 @RealAlexBarthor via email at abarth@985TheSportsHub.com.