After two days of red zone work to open training camp, the Patriots stepped back from the goal lines on Day 3 and worked in the middle of the field. The result? A fairly fun and fascinating workout with footballs flying and Cam Newton having his best passing performance of camp.
The Patriots are still in shorts, shells and helmets so the contact remains very soft but the competition on balls in the air and the pursuit are both full speed.
And while the focal point of camp is by far the quarterback competition between Newton and rookie Mac Jones, there was more opportunity for others to shine on Thursday. Specifically, wide receiver Nelson Agholor and safety Kyle Dugger.
Agholor had a big day with both quarterbacks and caught a pair of touchdowns in competitive passing periods.
He nearly made a spectacular catch early in practice on a bomb from Jones but the pass kind of came in directly over Agholor’s helmet and he had to drop to his knees and twist to make an attempt on it. He still almost came up with it but it fell incomplete. After that rep, Agholor and Jones got together to hash out the ball placement it appeared which is standard operating procedure, especially at this point in camp.
The big takeaway from Agholor right now is that he is the most polished downfield receiver the Patriots have had since Brandin Cooks was here in 2017.
As for Dugger, his coverage ability continues to stand out. On one goal-line rep with Jones at quarterback, Dugger blanketed Matt Lacosse (quietly having a capable camp so far) and easily slapped away a pass intended for the tight end. Last season, Dugger seemed ahead of the curve as a rookie. This year, he’s been even smoother and it will be interesting to see how much he shows up when the pads come on next week.
Other Day 3 Takeaways
- Rookie running back Rhamondre Stevenson was on the field for the first time so he’s off the PUP list.
- There was a small skirmish early in practice between center David Andrews and Rashad Berry. It was quickly stifled by a large crowd from both sides of the ball.
- Newton didn’t start practice too well. His first throw downfield significantly overshot Agholor and he had a screen slapped down by Tashawn Bower.
- Jones had three of the best throws during the workout early on -- a zipped pass to Agholor, a beautifully timed throw to Kendrick Bourne from about the 10-yard line that was out before Bourne was even out of his break and a seam throw to Gunner Olszewski (again, perfectly timed) for a pickup of about 20 (it was the far end of the field ... mighta been over the goal line).
- Jakobi Meyers and Jones nearly had a spectacular end-zone hookup but after the Lynn Swann-ian dive by Meyers to bring it in, the ball popped loose.
- Newton’s timing on getting the ball out was much, much better on Friday. He had two of his best throws near the goal line, timing up an on-point delivery to Gunner Olszewski that gave corner Jonathan Jones no chance to defend and also ripping a dart to Agholor.
- Through three days, the passing offense continues to look more crisp and on-time more often when Jones is under center regardless of what happens with the throw and catch. There are very few “I have no idea what happened on that …” reps with Jones than there are with Newton. And Jones’ performance so far is ahead of what we’ve seen from rookies like Jimmy Garoppolo, Jacoby Brissett and Jarrett Stidham in their first and even second camps.
- Joejuan Williams, now in his third season, needs to make a push this year at cornerback and he’s had a few plays where he’s definitely shown up. His size -- 6-foot-3 -- is exceptional, especially in the red zone, where there’s a finite amount of space for quarterbacks to loft the ball up at to the back line. That was seen on Friday when Gunner Olszewski ran a route to the back right pylon with Williams in coverage. Basically, you couldn’t even see Olszewski when Williams leapt and caused the pass to fall incomplete.
- Backup center Ted Karras was the first noticeable injury of training camp. He went down with a lower-body issue and limped off.