PHILADELPHIA – A surprisingly short, 80-minute practice between the Eagles and Patriots featured lots of red-zone work little in the way of quarterback bread crumbs to satisfy the appetite of folks curious to know which way things are headed under center for the Patriots.
The meat of the quarterback action came about 45 minutes into practice during competitive 7-on-7s. Completion rates for both quarterbacks were high during that session but so were the checkdown decisions.
The only glaringly bad throw came from Mac Jones, who was picked on a throw from about the 15 to the back of the end zone. It was intended for Devin Asiasi running a seam-post but had no shot at getting through. That was Jones’ only incompletion during the session though there were some long reps where the Eagles had lockdown coverage for four seconds before Jones found targets coming free.
Cam Newton was on point with several throws but his best, a sidearm dart to Kristian Wilkerson at the back of the end zone after Newton came off his first read, clanked off Wilkerson’s hands and went incomplete. While Newton was working with the starters, Eagles backup defensive back K’Von Wallace started badgering Newton from the sidelines about his underneath throws. Wallace called Newton “Checkdown King” according to NJ.com reporter Mike Kaye, who later asked Wallace about the chirping.
“I had to let him know like, ‘Not only are you throwing checkdowns, you’re doing it over and over again like you’ve mastered it, like you’re the king of it,’” Wallace said. “I had to let him know, ‘You’re the king of checkdowns.’ But any way you can get in the quarterback’s head, that’s the best approach.”
One reason there may have been so many checkdowns? The Patriots are seriously shorthanded at tight end with Jonnu Smith, Hunter Henry, Matt LaCosse and Troy Fumagalli all out of practice on Tuesday. If you’re going to have a red-zone practice, you want tight ends. If you don’t have tight ends, you might have to take checkdowns.
Tuesday’s session opened with 1-on-1s with the ball at the 10, which meant a lot of short-area throws in tight windows. Jakobi Meyers continues to excel at getting loose in short space and Kendrick Bourne had a nice session as well. The most noteworthy play was an ankle-breaking route by Nelson Agholor on highly-regarded corner Darius Slay but Agholor had an egregious drop of a Cam Newton throw. Agholor followed by booting a big, yellow, plastic trash can that was on the sidelines.
Agholor’s drops have been increasing. How do I know? I just asked my buddy Phil Perry, “Who threw that ball in 1-on-1s that Agholor dropped?”
After looking at his notes, Phil said, “Mac.” Then added, “No wait. That was yesterday.”
More pages flipped.
The teams went out of 1-on-1s and into kickoff and kick coverage work. Gunner Olszewski, Brandon Bolden and J.J. Taylor were the main returners. Rookie Ronnie Perkins got dinged on the final rep of that session and eventually left practice but he returned for the end.
Some 11-on-11 work soon followed and there was a whole gang of run-game work. The best throw of the day came in that session when Mac Jones stayed poised in a busy pocket and found James White at the back of the end zone with a late-progression throw.
The practice also ended with an 11-on-11 goal line work. Jones was especially happy with a short throw to his right to Devin Asiasi that got him a touchdown and a quick celebration with Cam Newton. Newton had a tough start to that brief session when – after a long time surveying – he noticed the Eagles had let Agholor get wide open. But when Newton tried to get the ball out quickly, it was batted away.
- Cornerback Jonathan Jones was out of practice on Tuesday after getting shaken up Monday. The Patriots are in a little bit of a fix at defensive back suddenly with both Jones and the injured and/or withholding services Stephon Gilmore not playing.
- Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts has been very impressive on both days with his accuracy and velocity but the Patriots defense seemed to have a better performance against him Tuesday forcing a few scrambles.
- Kicker Quinn Nordin was 3-for-4 on field goals to end practice.