PATS REPORTER

Perry: Cam and Mac air it out Friday with mostly positive results

PATS REPORTER

Day 1 was a win for Mac Jones. Day 2 went to Cam Newton. Day 3?

Here's what we saw ...

Time to air it out

After two full days of red-zone work, the Patriots approached Friday's practice with a little more of an all-around feel.

The offense worked both in the middle of the field -- offering the quarterbacks some opportunities to throw deep -- and closer to the goal line. Defensively, pressure was one of the themes of the day, and the team's nickel and "big nickel" (three safeties, two corners) packages got a workout.

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The competitive periods of practice today were almost entirely 11-on-11 periods. There was one 3-on-3 half-field period down by the goal line that also featured some contested opportunities for receivers working through tight windows.

When it came to the quarterback pecking order, Newton remained the first up consistently, with Mac Jones following behind. But there was a bit of a shift in terms of the distribution of the reps that's worth noting.

The first 11-on-11 period of the practice featured Newton and Jones both taking several consecutive reps, as usual. Then Newton got two, and Jones got two. Then the pair alternated reps for four snaps, with the top offensive line sticking around for both. Because the top group of linemen got quality reps with both quarterbacks in that scenario -- the receivers, backs and tight ends were mixed for both passers -- this felt like the first instance of the duo sharing what might be considered "first-team" reps.

 

We'll see if that remains a staple of Patriots practices moving forward.

The numbers

Below is the quick-and-dirty look at the numbers for Friday's Quarterback Report, because we know you love 'em.

Newton finished the day 13-for-19 in the 11-on-11 periods, with one rep wiped away due to an offensive pass interference penalty committed by Nelson Agholor.

Jones finished 8-for-16 in 11-on-11s. Two of Jones' passes were dropped, though, and he appeared to have three reps that would've resulted in sacks had the situation been live.

Brian Hoyer, meanwhile, went 12-for-17 in 11-on-11s.

Snap judgements

Newton submits best day: Completing nearly 70 percent of his passes, not turning the ball over, and not really ever putting it in harm's way, Friday was definitively Newton's best day of training camp practice thus far. Could have been his best training camp practice since arriving to the Patriots. The moments of hesitation and indecision that have dogged Newton through the first two days of camp were fewer and farther between on Friday, too.

There remain moments where the football gets away from Newton, seemingly. He had one go sideways on a deep ball early where neither Nelson Agholor nor Jakobi Meyers seemed to know who the intended receiver was because the throw landed far enough away from both. He had another that was well wide of Jonnu Smith in the red zone, though Newton seemed to gesture after the fact as though a route was run incorrectly.

Otherwise? Pretty clean day.

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He hit Smith and N'Keal Harry on a pair of in-rhythm quick strikes early in the practice. Later he hit Jakobi Meyers, Brandon Bolden and Smith again on consecutive throws, all within the structure of the offense.

No pump-fakes. No lengthy stays behind the line of scrimmage resulting in a scramble drill. Drop. Throw. Connect.

Later in the day, Newton hit Agholor on an intentionally high (and hard) pass along the back end line that Agholor plucked from the sky. Newton also led Gunner Olszewski perfectly for a touchdown with Jonathan Jones trailing in coverage.

Newton admitted after practice that he still questions what it is he's supposed to do at times depending on the look presented by the defense, leading to some lengthy stays behind the line of scrimmage with the ball in his hands. But he minimized those moments of hesitation on Day 3, and the result was a relatively efficient practice.

 

Now ... Did Newton win the day?

If you want to focus on the numbers above to make your judgement, remember to factor in the drops. Had Jones' two drops been completions, his completion percentage Friday (66.7) and Newton's (68.4) would've been remarkably similar. And Jones' highlight throws lead me to give him the ever-so-slight nod for Friday.

Jones comes out firing: There was some question as to how Jones would bounce back after exhibiting some clear frustration at the end of Thursday's practice. If how he started Friday's workout was any indication, he didn't let his emotions from Day 2 bleed over into Day 3.

Jones started the day with an easy completion to Brandon Bolden and then followed that up with two of the better throws of the day. The first was a slant to Nelson Agholor that was placed right on the receiver's facemask at the goal line as soon as Agholor came out of his break. The next needed a much softer touch as Jones layered in an accurate pass to Kendrick Bourne in the back corner of the end zone for an easy score.

Soon thereafter, from the middle of the field, Jones stepped up in the pocket and uncorked a deep ball that hit Agholor's hands that fell incomplete. Should've been caught.

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To start his next series of reps, with the top offensive line group up, Jones stepped up again to avoid pressure and hit Olszewski in stride on a deep in route for a touchdown from about 30 yards away. Considering the congestion in the pocket, the depth of the target and the accuracy it required, it might've been the best throw of the day.

Jones continues to get the ball out of his hand with enough zip, accuracy and on time ... generally. Two of the three "sacks" taken by Jones were in the red zone and they occurred in a span of just three plays. Deatrich Wise appeared to be the first to Jones on one rep. Two plays later, it was Josh Uche. The third came thanks to Matt Judon.

After Judon and the defensive front swallowed up Jones, preventing an attempt, three reserve offensive linemen were substituted out in favor of three of the team's top players up front. That gave Jones the top offensive line group for his final four reps of practice.

It was the second consecutive day of practice in which starting-caliber offensive linemen were subbed in to protect Jones after a backup allowed pressure on the rookie. Makes sense for the Patriots coaching staff to want to see Jones properly protected against the best competition the defense has to offer. All about quality reps.

 

Jones also had a couple of head-scratching tosses earlier in the practice -- one an overthrow to Jakobi Mayers when Jones was bumped in the pocket, and a miscommunication with Agholor on a slant near the goal line when Agholor stopped running -- so it wasn't an immaculate performance. Jones also threw a near-pick to Kyle Dugger in the front corner of the end zone when targeting Matt LaCosse. That might've been the most dangerous throw of the afternoon for either quarterback.

Good. Bad. Ugly. All there.

But on Friday, with some room to air it out, Jones' good was very good.