Cam Newton left minicamp 2021 on a high note Wednesday. The Patriots' anointed starting quarterback until further notice was decisive, accurate and in-command and authored his most impressive day of the three-day minicamp and -- probably -- any of the practices open to media this spring.
Newton had a shaky Tuesday workout, struggling with his accuracy as rookie first-rounder Mac Jones took the lion’s share of the reps and looked smooth.
But on Wednesday it was flipped a bit. Newton went 17 for 21 overall, 14-for-17 in 11-on-11 “competitive” reps. Jones was 11-for-20 and 10-for-19 on competitive reps.
Sometimes, the numbers don’t tell any of the story. In this instance, they did.
The best illustration of the difference came when the team started work at about 12:30 (practice began at 11ish) with music and full-speed tempo (no contact).
Newton hit Jakobi Meyers with a comeback, hit Kendrick Bourne on a checkdown, threw an accurate screen to James White, threw outside to Dalton Keene and then went across the middle to tight end Troy Fumigalli. His last rep was a deep throw down the left sideline to running back J.J. Taylor that was perfectly placed but fell incomplete.
Jones was up next. He skipped around the pocket for a bit before checking down (presume a sack), had a great downfield completion to Devin Ross, threw incomplete short to Kendrick Bourne who hit the brakes when Jones thought he’d be continuing, threw over the head of Kristian Wilkerson down the seam then found Keene on a checkdown.
In Newton’s next round of throws (and the final one of the day), he began with his best completion of the day getting it to James White down the right sideline over the coverage of Kyle Van Noy.
Jones started great with a pair of darts in the hurry-up (the second to Gunner Olszewski) that showed off his short range velocity and accuracy. He then had an indecisive rep and threw incomplete downfield, had a very nice rip to Isaiah Zuber go through Zuber’s hands then he threw the day’s lone pick after holding, holding, holding and throwing directly to linebacker Dee Virgin.
This was a great day to observe how much is being demanded of Jones and how far he has to go. In the early portion of the session when the quarterbacks were working against air and being asked to check in and out of formations then go to the right spot based on what they were being told, Jones had a couple of reps he was asked to repeat. Jarrett Stidham did as well.
When the offense was working against non-competitive scout defense in 11-on-11, Jones got the majority of the reps and was challenged to work quicker. Later, it appeared an offensive lineman was directing Jones to please ID someone on the defense prior to a snap.
This was a big third-down day all the way through practice. One of the most enjoyable sessions to watch was when they went into the red zone.
Jones had two excellent throws late at the back of the end zone to Wilkerson and Marvin Hall (the second was incomplete high).
The biggest reaction of the day came when Stidham, on his first rep of the session, ripped a slant to Hall who had clear sailing. That caused Newton to go berserk, pinwheeling his arms and hugging Stidham.
One thing about Stidham that bears watching when training camp starts? He is making himself relevant every single day even with limited reps.
Other notes from Wednesday ...
- Jonnu Smith, hobbled a bit on Monday, was on the field assisting coaches in drills but not taking part otherwise.
- N’Keal Harry showed no ill effects after doing some limping earlier in the week.
- Shaq Mason was back after being held out Tuesday.
- Nelson Agholor didn’t do much during the second part of practice.
- There were five players that weren’t spotted at any of the camp practices – Stephon Gilmore, Chase Winovich, Terez Hall, Byron Coward and Rashod Berry.
- For the second straight day, Jones had a pass slapped at the line.
- Josh Uche is fast as hell.