New England Patriots

Jul 30, 2022; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots senior football advisor Matt Patricia coaches quarterback Mac Jones (10) at the Patriots training camp at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

  • As detailed in yesterday’s notebook, that un-padded practice was a bit of a reset and a chance for the Patriots to make adjustments. On Thursday, the team was back in full pads putting some of those adjustments to the test.

    In a much more up-tempo session, the Patriots starting offense drilled against the starting defense in a handful of sessions. The offense showed some progress after a rough couple of days to begin the week, but there are still areas they will look to improve. Let’s start with a breakdown of the progress and lack thereof.

  • What got better?

    Jul 29, 2022; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) calls a play during training camp at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

    Jul 29, 2022; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) calls a play during training camp at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

    The Patriots’ offensive strides came in the passing game. Perhaps the most notable improvement was the entire unit collectively building a rhythm. At one point in the middle of practice, Mac Jones completed a pass on 10 reps in a row.

    Pass protection was still a bit of an issue at times, with Jones having to throw two passes away while almost instantly being pursued by a rusher after the snap. But overall, things looked better than they did Monday and Tuesday, which is a win at this point in camp.

    For a full breakdown of Jones’ performance on Thursday, check out Matt Dolloff’s Mac Watch here.

  • Mac’s favorites

    Jul 29, 2022; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots tight end Jonnu Smith (81) catches the ball during training camp at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

    Jul 29, 2022; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots tight end Jonnu Smith (81) catches the ball during training camp at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

    Jones seemed to key in on two returning pass catchers during today’s practice. Jonnu Smith and Jakobi Meyers each caught four passes during team drills.

    Smith’s involvement in particular really stands out. The tight end has been heavily involved in the passing game throughout camp, showing a diverse route tree. Among the Patriots’ 2021 record-breaking free agent class, Smith’s jump in the second year in the Patriots’ system may be more crucial than any other player from that group.


  • (Click here to subscribe to the Sports Hub Patriots Podcast and Patriots Audio on 98.5 The Sports Hub.)

  • What still needs improvement?

    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

    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

    While the passing game may be starting to find its rhythm, the rushing game didn’t have the same success. Rushing holes were still few and far between, especially along the interior.

    Last year, the Patriots leaned heavily on their rushing attack. While they’ve added more weapons in the passing game, it still figures to be a big part of what they do this year. With that, it’s crucial to get these issues fixed before Week 1.

  • Is the defensive line for real?

    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

    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

    Maybe the Patriots’ offensive line is struggling in this new zone system to block the run, or maybe the defensive line is just playing at an incredibly high level. The true reasoning is really somewhere in the middle, but the group up front deserves some credit for what they’ve done so far.

    Second year defensive tackle Christian Barmore has arguably been the most impressive player on the field in Foxborough since the pads came on. Between team drills and his one-on-one reps, it’s clear any attempts to neutralize him with a single blocker in the passing game simply won’t work. At the same time, he’s looked improved against the run with the question looming of whether or not he can be a three-down player this year.

    Further down the depth chart, the two UDFA defensive linemen continue to impress. LaBrayan Ray had another pressure today after picking up a ‘sack’ in each of the first two padded practices. DaMarcus Mitchell showed some advanced moves from his toolbox during one-on-ones, with his spin move particularly standing out.

  • A Strong step

    Jun 8, 2022; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots running back Pierre Strong Jr (54) during the New England Patriots minicamp at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

    Jun 8, 2022; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots running back Pierre Strong Jr (54) during the New England Patriots minicamp at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

    Thursday saw a significant step for rookie running back Pierre Strong. Prior to today, the fourth-round pick had been limited in every training camp practice. However, late in Thursday’s practice Strong participated in team drills for the first time this summer.

    It was just a few reps that strong was on the field, working in an offense led by Bailey Zappe. Still, just seeing him get involved in that regard is an encouraging step. We’ll see how much his involvement increases next week heading into the first preseason game.

  • An opportunity for Anfernee Jennings

    Anfernee Jennings speaks to the media following a Patriots training camp practice. (Alex Barth/98.5 The Sports Hub)

    Anfernee Jennings speaks to the media following a Patriots training camp practice. (Alex Barth/98.5 The Sports Hub)

    Matthew Judon was not on the field for Thursday’s practice. In his absence, 2020 third-round pick Anfernee Jennings saw his role increase, playing the majority of the snaps that would usually go to Judon. Not only was Jennings on the field quite a bit, he looked good too.

    Coming into camp, many viewed Jennings as a fringe roster player. Drafted 87th overall in 2020, he played mostly special teams his rookie year before missing all of last season with an injury. Now fully healthy though, he’s had an impressive start to camp. There are outside linebacker snaps there for the taking following the departures of Jamie Collins and Kyle Van Noy, and Jennings has put himself squarely in the running to earn some of that vacated playing time.

  • Punter hang times

    The Patriots ran just one team punting period on Thursday. It was apparently an off day for Jake Bailey, with UDFA Jake Julien getting all four kicks. Here’s his hang-times.

    4.61 seconds
    4.40
    4.58
    4.06

  • Injury watch

    Thursday saw the first seemingly major injury of training camp for the Patriots. Late in practice, linebacker Jahlani Tavai stayed down on the field after a rep on the goal line, and remained down for a few minutes while talking with trainers and the coaching staff. When he made it to his feet, he walked slowly off the field with the help of the training staff.

    Earlier this week, Bill Belichick indicated Tavai might play a big role for the Patriots this year during an interview with Sirius XM NFL. Now, the team waits to find out if he’ll be available for the start of the season.

  • Taking attendance

    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

    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

    A number of veteran players returned to action after being limited on Wednesday. Devin McCourtyMalcolm ButlerJabrill Peppers, Lil’Jordan Humphrey and Brian Hoyer were all full participants. Deatrich Wise was limited.

    In addition to Judon missing practice, Dalton Keene was spotted. Keene has now missed three practices in a row.

  • What’s next?

    Sep 13, 2020; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; A detailed view of the Gillette Stadium sign before a game between the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins. Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

    Sep 13, 2020; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; A detailed view of the Gillette Stadium sign before a game between the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins. Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

    The Patriots wrap up their second week of training camp on Friday, but things will look a little different. Instead of practicing in the morning behind Gillette Stadium, they’ll be on the game field and under the lights for their annual in-stadium practice. That session will be open to season ticket holders and residents of Foxborough. That practice will begin at 7:00 p.m., with the gates opening at 6:00.

  • 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 @RealAlexBarth or via email at abarth@985TheSportsHub.com.