Patriots training camp notebook: Offense takes a step forward on Day 11
Jul 29, 2022; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) hands the ball off to running back Damien Harris (37) during training camp at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports
Tuesday afternoon the Patriots held their 11th training camp practice, which was their final open session before the preseason opener on Thursday. It was a last chance to get things clicking before taking the field for a real football game.
‘Getting things clicking’ has been the step many have been waiting to see from the Patriots’ offense, which had been stagnant and struggling through the first 10 practices. However, things seemed to open up a bit on Tuesday.
What opened up for the offense? That and more in today’s training camp notebook…
A step forward
Jul 30, 2022; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) lines up behind center David Andrews (60) at the Patriots training camp at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports
To put some context to the Patriots’ offensive struggles so far in camp – they’ve looked good in one-on-one and seven-on-seven drills. The issues have come in 11-on-11 drills, which obviously stands out given that’s the closest to real football we see during camp. With that, a lot of attention has fallen on the offensive line – the group that is on the field for 11’s but not the other two periods.
On Tuesday, the offense starting moving the ball during those full team sessions, sparked by better play up front. In the ground game, they were able to open holes somewhat regularly. When passing, Mac Jones was given time in the pocket.
Overall, there seemed to be more urgency and purpose from the offensive players on Tuesday. After Monday’s practice, which was a rough one for that side of the ball, David Andrews addressed the unit separately from the coaches. It seems like whatever message he delivered landed on Tuesday.
After practice, Jones preached consistency from the offense, which will be the next step. But they took a strong step on Tuesday and head into the preseason opener on a high note.
May 23, 2022; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots running back Rhamondre Stevenson (38) works on his footwork at the team’s OTA at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports
With the offensive line clearing rushing lanes, this was a good of a chance as there’s been to see how the running backs look in full pads. Rhamondre Stevenson instantly stood out.
When Stevenson joined the Patriots as a rookie last season, he was viewed as a bowling ball back adding more punch to the position room. However, Stevenson appears to be rounding out his game and adding some lightning to go with the thunder. The 225 pound back was swift moving in and out of cuts, showing nimble footwork for a player his size. With a larger role projected for him in 2022, a deeper toolbox will only help.
More: Alex Barth on Toucher & Rich (starts at 19:11)
Building depth at cornerback?
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
In yesterday’s notebook, we pointed out that slot cornerback Jonathan Jones saw more reps on the outside. That continued on Tuesday, including a couple of strong plays against DeVante Parker and Nelson Agholor.
Why is Jones suddenly seeing more time on the outside? Is this just a camp move, or something to expect more of looking ahead? Asked about Jones’ usage before practice on Tuesday, Bill Belichick told reporters “that’s how you build your depth. You work people at different positions and let them have an opportunity to do those things and see how it works together.” Jones’ usage remains something to keep an eye on Thursday.
More receiver depth emerging?
Jul 30, 2022; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Lil’Jordan Humphrey (83) to the practice field at the Patriots training camp at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports
It’s been a busy couple of days for wide receiver Lil’Jordan Humphrey. In the background for most of camp Humphrey has caught six passes during competitive drills in each of the last two days. That includes an impressive twisting high-point catch on a back-shoulder fade on Tuesday.
Humphrey remains on the outside looking in for a roster spot with all the depth ahead of him at the wide receiver position. At the same time though, he’s one of the few big body receivers currently on the team at 6-foot-4, 225 pounds. The featured player in that role, Parker, does have a bit of an injury history. If Humphrey keeps this up over the final few weeks of camp, he’ll be a strong candidate for a practice squad spot.
Jul 30, 2022; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots defensive end Christian Barmore (90) after a drill at the Patriots training camp at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports
As mentioned above, the offense upped the intensity on Tuesday. That extra intensity bubbled over a couple of times during practice.
It started during lineman one-on-ones. As one point, the entire group came together to break up a skirmish. That was separated quickly, and nobody was asked to leave practice (it was tough to tell from the media angle who was involved).
The next scrum wasn’t as light. During 11-on-11 drills, David Andrews and Christian Barmore started going at each other after the whistle. They wrestled each other to the ground, with both sidelines emptying to break things up. Barmore was sent back to the locker room, while Andrews spent the rest of practice in the equipment shed behind the fields. It’s always been team policy under Belichick for players to be removed from practice after a fight.
Aug 19, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; New England Patriots offensive tackle Isaiah Wynn (76) walks off the field against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
The Patriots had near perfect attendance on Tuesday. Aside from James White and Andrew Stueber who remain on PUP and NFI respectively, Isaiah Wynn was the only other player not spotted on the field. This comes after Wynn was present but limited on Monday.
When Wynn missed Monday’s session, Justin Herron saw most of the time at right tackle. On Tuesday, those snaps went to Yodny Cajuste. That could be a brewing position battle heading into the first preseason game.
The Patriots will hold a minimal walkthrough-type practice on Wednesday, which will be closed to the public and media. That will be in preparation for the preseason opener Thursday night at Gillette Stadium. That’s a 7:00 p.m. game, with coverage beginning at at 4:00 on 98.5 The Sports Hub.
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.