Rain fell during every minute of Thursday morning’s full-pad practice at Gillette Stadium. Sometimes it was just a heavy mist. Sometimes it was just short of a downpour. But it was constant and it was pleasing to head coach Bill Belichick, who loves to see how his team responds physically and mentally to adverse weather.
From the media area, it looked like they did just fine. There were very few slip-and-falls and the passing game made it through surprisingly intact as the team went through just its second full-gear workout of camp.
Phil Perry has our detailed quarterback report, but the headline is that Mac Jones bounced back from a tepid performance on Tuesday, the first day the team was in full pads.
The lion’s share of Tuesday’s work was in the running game. Pass attempts were kept to a minimum and Jones, for the first time, looked like a first-year player while Cam Newton shined. Thursday, there was a helluva lot more throwing and a helluva lot more reps for Jones and he had a performance far more in keeping with his work on every day that wasn’t Tuesday. Accurate. On-time. Efficient.
What does it all mean? Long-term, not much. Nothing that happened last week, nothing that happens this week will be referenced in September. But short-term, Jones keeps stringing positive days together. That allows the coaching staff to keep putting more on his plate. The arrow is pointing up.
As these workouts stack up heading toward what will be the climactic period of camp -- August 16 to 26 when the Patriots will have joint practices with the Eagles and Giants and two preseason games -- the differences between Newton and Jones are impossible to overlook. When Jones is on the field and they throw, they look better and produce more consistently. When Newton’s on the field and they run there are oodles more options in how to attack and there’s far more room for the backs to operate because Newton adds a runner defenses have to account for.
- Newly retired Patriot Patrick Chung was a guest at practice.
- Kicker Nick Folk, DB Cody Davis, WR Devin Ross, DB DeAngelo Ross, DT Christian Barmore and LB Raekwon McMillan were among those missing practice. Barmore, who’s been showing up particularly in 1-on-1 reps, left Tuesday’s practice with a foot malady. He was out there on Wednesday before missing this workout.
- Mac Jones got a long instruction session from Bill Belichick midway through practice. After Jones completed a little screen pass on the final rep of a session, Belichick called him over. He gestured emphatically about -- as it turned out -- ball placement, according to Jones. It was about a 90-second discourse that ended with Belichick giving Jones a pat on the butt and sending him on his way. It recalled a long teaching moment Jones had with Josh McDaniels earlier in the week in which McDaniels implored Jones to be more assertive at the line.
- Jones also had to do pushups after having a ball come loose during a ball security drill. There was also a bad center-quarterback exchange that had Mac running later in the practice.
- J.C. Jackson had another standout day defensively with multiple pass-breakups. He had a pick and a PBU on consecutive plays against Newton on Wednesday.
- N’Keal Harry had a solid day which is a comedown from the past two sessions where he was outstanding. He had a drop in 1-on-1s and drew an OPI on a comeback route (refs are still working practice).
- Jones’ best throws of the day came in 1-on-1s to Marvin Hall and Tre Nixon on double-moves (almost impossible to guard 1-on-1) and an over-the-shoulder downfield throw to James White.
- With the sloppy weather, it was a good chance to work on recovering loose balls. The approach? Slide at it like a baserunner and cradle it when it gets into the old chest/stomach area. Don’t be diving on it like a greased pig.
- Jones got giddy after a throw to Harry on a shallow crosser that Harry took downfield for a big gain.
- Kendrick Bourne had a couple of passes glance off his hands that would count as drops.
- Rookie linebacker Ronnie Perkins was in some pain after a running play. It appeared to be an arm injury. He spent the rest of the practice watching.
- With Nick Folk down for practice, bazooka-legged rookie kicker Quinn Nordin was front-and-center. And left. And right. The Michigan signee just hasn’t been nearly accurate enough so far to give the Patriots any cause to think twice about running it back with the always-accurate Folk.