Patriots training camp notebook: Inside the stadium on Day 9
Gillette Stadium following the Patriots in-stadium training camp practice. (Alex Barth/98.5 The Sports Hub)
The Patriots held their annual in-stadium practice Friday night at Gillette Stadium. It was the first chance for the 2022 Patriots to take their true home field.
It was about a 75-minute practice, which was held in a scrimmage format. The roster was split into two teams, with half the players wearing blue and the other half wearing white. Let’s start with how the players were split…
Blue vs. White
Jul 28, 2021; Foxborough, MA, United States; New England Patriots linebacker Raekwon McMillan (46) during training camp at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports
The players wearing blue including the presumed starters and roster locks. That team was quarterbacked by Mac Jones and Brian Hoyer (the quarterbacks still wore non-contact red like they would for a normal practice). Players in white were projected depth players, and quarterbacked by rookie Bailey Zappe.
This split gave us a chance to see how the team may view some players currently projected on the roster bubble. The most notable inclusion on the blue team was third-year linebacker Anfernee Jennings. After missing all of last season due to injury, Jennings has had a strong start to camp. He could be the favorite to take over a significant number of the snaps vacated by the departures of Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins.
Raekwon McMillan and Mack Wilson were both with the blue team as well. They project as the Patriots’ top off-ball middle linebackers right now, and the kind of athletic three-down linebackers the team was missing last year.
Malcolm Butler was also with the blue team. That could be a sign he’s the favorite for the third cornerback spot after Jalen Mills and Terrance Mitchell.
Only two rookies made the blue team – first-round pick Cole Strange and third-round pick Marcus Jones. Strange has been penciled in as a starter since draft night, but it’s Jones that’s made a big push in camp towards a role both on defense and as a returner.
Among those working with the white team were Myles Bryant, Ronnie Perkins, Tre Nixon, Justin Herron, and J.J. Taylor. Some of those placements may be due to making sure each team had enough players at certain positions (ex. putting Nixon on the blue team would have split the receivers five and three), but it could also be a sign those players aren’t as locked in to roster spots as may have been projected.
Jul 30, 2022; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots senior football advisor Matt Patricia walks to the practice field at the Patriots training camp at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports
Not only were the players split – but the coaching staff was divided between the sidelines as well. Matt Patricia seemed to be calling the offensive plays for the blue team, while it was Joe Judge handing things for the white team.
On defense, Steve Belichick held the walkie-talkie for the white team, with Jerod Mayo close behind him. Defensive line coach DeMarcus Covington, in his sixth year with the team, appeared to be doing the communication for the blue team defense.
Friday Night Fight
Jul 29, 2022; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots linebacker Josh Uche (55) during training camp at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports
Ok, it wasn’t a full-on fight, but we did see our first skirmish of camp on Friday night. Early in the the ‘second half’ of the scrimmage, Josh Uche (blue team) and Justin Herron (white team) had to be separated after the whistle. Both were then sent off the field and back to the locker room, which has been the protocol for training camp fights with the Patriots under Bill Belichick.
Adjusting to the environment
Oct 10, 2021; Houston, Texas, USA; New England Patriots kicker Nick Folk (6) and punter Jake Bailey (7) react after a field goal during the game against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
The in-stadium practice is always a big one for the special teams units. For kickers and punters, it’s a chance to see the different sight lines and wind tunnels created in the stadium. For returners, they get a chance to see the wind as well as the layout of the lights, which they look up into when fielding kicks. This year, that element is even more pronounced with the ongoing construction in the north end of the stadium.
For the kickers, there didn’t seem to be any issues. Both Nick Folk and Tristan Vizcaino finished 3-for-3.
Jake Bailey had one of the highlights of the night. Starting with his foot on the back end line of his own end zone, he punted the ball to the other 35 yard line. That’s a 75 yard punt, which was still spinning enough that Myles Bryant had trouble fielding it when it got to him.
Aug 12, 2021; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots outside linebacker Matt Judon (9) at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports
Jabrill Peppers, Jahlani Tavai, and Dalton Keene were all on the field but not in uniform. Keene’s presence is a good sign after he left Thursday’s practice early with an apparent leg injury.
Matthew Judon and Rhamondre Stevenson also weren’t spotted. Both were limited late this week.
Gillette Stadium Practice Field (Jim Louth/98.5 The Sports Hub)
The Patriots are set to have Saturday off, their first off day since last Sunday. Their next scheduled open practice is Monday morning back on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium. That session will be open to the public, with gates opening at 8:00 a.m. ET.
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.