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Mac Jones is the headliner of Patriots' 8th Training Camp Practice

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Patriots, Mac Jones, Patriots training camp, Mac Jones training camp

FOXBOROUGH — The New England Patriots put the pads back on for Thursday’s practice, their eighth so far of training camp. This came after going back to shells to work some things out on Wednesday, and it appeared to work — somewhat.

Here are five observations from Thursday’s practice.

Patriots Training Camp Observations

Mac Jones has best practice in pads

Patriots coach Bill Belichick didn’t outright say it, but he heavily implied on Wednesday that the team was moving back to pads because the passing game wasn’t working well in the first two padded practices. Mac Jones and Bailey Zappe both had improved practices in shells, which led to their best practice so far in pads on Thursday.

In the first 11-on-11 session, Jones and the first-team offense went up against the second defensive unit. But the second-year quarterback did what you would hope he would do in that kind of spot. Jones completed 8-of-9 passes during that drill, throwing the ball to several spots across the field. He connected with Jakobi Meyers for a catch over the middle. He connected on deep throws to Jonnu Smith and Ty Montgomery. He also had some zip on quick throws to Smith and Meyers, and he completed a pass 15 yards down the field in a tight window to Meyers, too.

Jones’ lone incompletion in the session came on a deep pass to Nelson Agholor, with rookie corner Jack Jones making a nice play on the ball to force an incompletion.

As expected, Jones didn’t have as easy of a time when he went against the top defensive unit later on in 11-on-11s. While he completed 7-of-9 passes, many of the completions were shorter throws, with the defense getting a would-be sack, forced a throwaway, and forced Jones to scramble on three other plays.

The Patriots worked some play action with Jones and Zappe in the second 11-on-11 session, getting a few completions out of it. As for Zappe, he was only 1-for-4, getting sacked in his other dropback. He did have a nice throw to Tre Nixon on a play-action pass, but it was dropped.

Brian Hoyer returned to practice, but didn’t take part in 11-on-11s. In the brief 7-on-7 period, Jones completed all three passes. Hoyer went 2-for-3 in the session, while Zappe completed all four of his practices.

Ground game still struggles, though

The story out of the first two padded practices was that the Patriots were adding in some zone runs, where running backs get the ball in a single-back formation and run toward the outside of the offensive line. They didn’t have much success doing that.

It was more of the same on Thursday. Of the seven called runs during 11-on-11 drills, four appeared to be stuffs, at least if tackling was allowed.

There appeared to be multiple reasons for Thursday’s poor rushing performance. Top running back Damien Harris was stuffed a pair of times, with one coming on a zone run and the other coming out of the shotgun. Other top back Rhamondre Stevenson was limited so he didn’t take part in the drill, which led to backups Ty Montgomery and Kevin Harris getting carries during the drill.

It’s also fair to point some blame to the offensive line, too. The change in scheme required offensive linemen to be more mobile and athletic as opposed to the inside run game the Patriots have usually used. In addition to getting beat in the ground game, the offensive line allowed a pair of sacks and a pair of pressures during Thursday’s 11-on-11 drills.

Taking stock of the receivers

Jakobi Meyers continues to stand out in training camp. Thursday was another day in which the fourth-year receiver shined. He caught all five passes thrown his way from Jones during 11-on-11s. Meyers also showed some diversity in his catches, making a couple of receptions down the field and being on the receiving end of quick strikes from Jones.

Tight end Jonnu Smith has also been one of the other standouts in training camp so far. After having a difficult first season in New England, Smith got off on the right foot last week, making impressive receptions over emerging safety Kyle Dugger during last Friday’s practice. He had his best practice since then on Thursday, recording six receptions on eight targets during 11-on-11s. One of the incompletions was a miscommunication between him and Jones, but he also made a couple of nice grabs down the field, too.

DeVante Parker, Kendrick Bourne, and Nelson Agholor had quiet days on Thursday. Parker and Bourne didn’t even have a target on Thursday, while Agholor only had one during 11-on-11s. Parker has been pretty boom or bust so far, having some quiet days and having some standout days. Bourne has been quiet for much of camp, though, which could be in part because many of the team drills have been held in the red zone, which isn’t his strength.

Ty Montgomery has been busy out of the backfield in the passing game. The running back/receiver hybrid had a pair of receptions on Thursday.

Potential breakout pass rusher wins the day in 1-on-1 drills

Third-year linebacker Josh Uche had a strong day of camp, at least in the 1-on-1 drills against the offensive linemen. The 2020 second-round pick won a few of his matchups trying to get by a Patriots offensive lineman.

Several people tabbed Uche to be a breakout player in 2021. He appeared to prove them right, recording three sacks in the first two games of the season. However, injuries and his inability to stop the run consistently led to him seeing the field less later in the season, finishing with just three sacks.

Starting left tackle Trent Brown tabbed Uche to be a breakout player for this season on the first day of training camp.

“I think he’s going to have a great year,” Brown said of Uche. “I think he’s going to have a breakout year. I think he’s another guy who took strides over the offseason and he’s prepared through the course of the offseason and he’s good to go.”

Who missed practice and reserve gets injured

A lot of the players who missed or were limited in Wednesday’s practice were back on the field Thursday, including safeties Devin McCourty and Jabrill Peppers, quarterback Brian Hoyer, and receiver Lil’Jordan Humphrey.

Defensive end Deatrich Wise and running back Rhamondre Stevenson remained limited, though. Pro Bowl linebacker Matthew Judon and tight end Dalton Keene were absent, too. Third-year linebacker Anferenee Jennings got snaps in Judon’s place on Thursday and has had some notable moments in camp.

In one of the final plays during the 11-on-11 session, reserve linebacker and special teamer Jahlani Tavai went down with what appeared to be a serious lower-body injury. Multiple coaches, including Bill Belichick and Jerod Mayo, went to see how Tavai was doing while he laid on the ground for a few minutes with teammates taking a knee around him. He was eventually helped off the field. Tavai recorded 14 combined tackles with the Patriots last season.

The post Mac Jones shows out to headline Patriots’ 8th training camp practice appeared first on ClutchPoints.

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By: Conor Roche
Title: Mac Jones shows out to headline Patriots’ 8th training camp practice
Sourced From: clutchpoints.com/patriots-mac-jones-shows-out-headline-new-england-8th-training-camp-practice/
Published Date: Thu, 04 Aug 2022 19:27:33 +0000

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