Patriots training camp notebook: Linebackers stand out on Day 6
Jul 30, 2022; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots defensive back Marcus Jones (52), linebacker Ja'Whaun Bentley (8) and linebackers coach Jerod Mayo Sr. (L to R) workout at the Patriots training camp at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports
Tuesday saw the Patriots take the field for their second padded practice of 2022. With that, it was another day of focusing on the trenches, with significant time spent working on the running game.
Which players and positions were making plays, and which groups will come back looking to bounce back on Wednesday? Here’s the highlights from Tuesday’s practice…
Big day for the linebackers
Jul 30, 2022; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots linebacker Mack Wilson Sr. (30) walks to the practice field at the Patriots training camp at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports
The competition at middle linebacker projected to be one of the best in this year’s camp. There hadn’t been much movement through five days, even into the first day of padded practices. However, a number of players made a statement on Tuesday.
Mack Wilson – acquired back in the spring in a one-for-one swap with the Cleveland Browns involving Chase Winovich – looked like the best player on the field regardless of position. A ‘sack’ (pass rushers aren’t allowed to hit the QB in camp, but it would have been a sack in a game situation), a lunging pass breakup, and a standup stick filling a hole in run defense highlighted what was a solid day overall.
Raekwon McMillan andJahlani Tavai also made notable plays in the running game. Tavai’s involvement in particular stood out following comments from head coach Bill Belichick last night on Sirius XM NFL. “I think he [Tavai] will be a big factor for us this year, on all four downs; not just defensively but also in the kicking game,” Belichick said during the interview.
More focus up front
Jul 30, 2022; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots offensive tackle Trent Brown (77) works on the tackle sled at the Patriots training camp at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports
For the second day in a row, the defensive line seemed to pick up the overall win against the offensive line. In addition to Wilson, Christian Barmore, Josh Uche, Ja’Whaun Bentley, and Ronnie Perkins all recorded unofficial sacks during team drills.
On the offensive side, one player who did have a bounce-back day was left tackle Trent Brown. Brown looked especially good in pass protection. That included manhandling Uche and Matthew Judon in team drills.
Jul 29, 2022; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) throws the ball during training camp at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports
Today was a lighter day for Mac Jones. Bailey Zappe ended up with more reps in team drills. Jones went 8-for-13 when he was under center for 11-on-11’s, while Zappe was 8-for-13.
For a full breakdown of Tuesday’s quarterback play, including quotes from Jones after practice, check out Matt Dolloff’s Mac Watch here.
Nelson Agholor shines
May 23, 2022; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Nelson Agholor (15) makes a catch at the team’s OTA at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports
Regardless of who was throwing the ball, Nelson Agholor was reeling it in. It started early in practice, when he beat Terrance Mitchell clean on a go ball in one-on-ones. He made a few similar plays throughout practice, using his speed up the sideline.
His best play came late in practice in a red zone drill. Working across the end line, he separated from his defender but there were two underneath defenders between him and Jones. Jones put the ball up out of the reach of those underneath players, and Agholor climbed the ladder to make the catch.
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
Tre Nixon was noticeably involved in the red zone today. Working the goal line, he caught one touchdown from Jones and one from Zappe.
This is the second positive day in a row for Nixon. When he started playing well in the spring, the analysis came with the caveat of ‘he needs to keep it up when the pads come on’ – which is common for speed-dominant receivers. With two padded practices in the plus column, he’s kept himself squarely in the mix for the final wide receiver roster spot.
Catch of the day
Wide receiver Tyquan Thornton during Patriots training camp on July 28, 2022. (Syndication: The Providence Journal)
For the second day in a row, the catch of the day goes to rookie Tyquan Thornton. Early in practice in one-on-ones, Thornton was working against Jalen Mills on a go route. Thornton actually failed to track the ball initially, but picked it up at the last second. He turned his shoulders just in time to pick up the ball, and with Mills on his back hauled the ball in breadbasket style with his outside arm.
It’s early, but Thornton has looked to be every bit the deep threat he was projected to be coming into the draft. The next big step for him will be to see how he looks in joint practices next week.
Jun 8, 2022; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Brian Hoyer (5) during the New England Patriots minicamp at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports
Two new signings made their Patriots debuts on Tuesday. Safeties Brad Hawkins and Jalen Elliott were on the field with the team, wearing numbers 35 and 36 respectively. They both recently signed following free agent workouts in Foxborough. Elliott even made a play on Tuesday, forcing an Agholor fumble during a ball control drill.
As for those not present – in addition to the three players remaining on PUP and NFI, the Patriots had three absences on Tuesday. Dalton Keene missed his first practice of the summer, while Deatrich Wise and Brian Hoyer remain out as they’ve been since late last week.
Gillette Stadium Practice Field (Jim Louth/98.5 The Sports Hub)
The Patriots return to practice tomorrow. That session begins at 9:30 a.m. ET with the gates opening for fans at 8:00. Bill Belichick is scheduled to speak before practice.
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.