FOXBORO — Steady rain and cool temperatures welcomed the team onto the field for the ninth practice of camp. The Patriots started early in anticipation of inclement weather and some of the session was played in a steady rain. Or that may have been the football gods weeping at what was a bleak performance by the Patriots offense.
With officials on the field for the first time during camp, there was extensive 11-on-11 work and the defense got the better of the offense throughout.
Cam Newton is still taking the heavy reps with the Patriots starters while Jarrett Stidham was next up followed by Brian Hoyer. None of them looked good and the defense reveled with every win.
One of the only times the offense was able to finish a drive was a Newton to N’Keal Harry connection at the back of the end zone as Harry ran the back line toward the pylon. But he stepped out of bounds and the catch was waved off by the refs. That kind of day.
Other news of note, Joe Thuney mucked up his left wing somehow. He left during the tail-end of practice.
WHAT THEY WORE
Full pads after Wednesday was a shells day. This was the sixth of the 10 days in which the team was in their full regalia.
WHO WAS OUT
Devin McCourty was down for the second straight day. He was joined by rookie linebacker Josh Uche, who was down for the first time. Cassh Maluia also was down for the first time as were three who still haven’t practiced: Lamar Miller, Will Hastings and Beau Allen.
WHO WAS IN
With only four missing from Wednesday’s practice there were no new returners. But it’s good that some of Wednesday’s returners — Adrian Phillips and Sony Michel for instance — made it through and returned Thursday to take part again.
WHAT THEY DID
Players filtered onto the practice fields beginning about 9 a.m. and practice began with a little “get loose” period followed by dynamic stretching.
Interesting to note that, as the four quarterbacks took snaps in a line, Julian Edelman went wherever Cam Newton was and took a short lob from Newton after the snap. Little things like that both building a feel and chemistry show the direction of things.
After positional drills, there were some 1-on-1s on red-zone routes. Stephon Gilmore stifled Edelman on one route. Later, when J.C. Jackson got real grabby on a route with Edelman late in the drill, Edelman stopped the route and Jackson picked it off. That led to an helmet bang off the ground. N’Keal Harry had a rep with his nemesis Michael Jackson and — while engaging Jackson with his left hand, batted a rifled pass from Newton into the air with his right hand and corralled the throw.
The first 7-on-7 kicked off at 9:45. Newton was not sharp. Stidham hit a pair of throws and Hoyer had an ugly throw to Rex Burkhead fall incomplete.
At 9:55, the 11-on-11 work began. Damien Harris started it with a quick burst through a wide hole. Adam Butler made a nice stop on Harris during the period and Terrence Brooks came up with a pick when Newton got jammed in the pocket by an onrushing Deatrich Wise.
Sony Michel mixed in with the offense in his second day back on the field. Stidham came on at 10:03 and had a pass broken up by Brooks before throwing behind Harry. He also tried to go deep to Harry on a second-and-1 and the throw was broken up by D’Angelo Ross.
Things got a little chippy at the end of that drill when a throw from Stidham to Rex Burkhead went incomplete at the goal line, leading to Joejuan Williams woofing at Burkhead. Burkhead rose and gave him a shove and Williams kept talking.
Later, Williams took exception to being blocked by Isaiah Wynn on a wide run and again was at it with the talking. Wynn instructed him to not speak as much.
After each series, there would either be a punt of kickoff.
The starting offense came back on at 10:10 and Newton hit a couple of throws to Edelman, James White and Mohamed Sanu (who remains kind of meh) before a sack (couldn’t tell who) was recorded and the rains came.
A third-and-goal on the 3 was set up for Newton who — after rolling out — found Harry running along the back line of the end zone. Harry made the catch but stepped on the end line wiping out the score. The defense thought that was terrific.
Both kickers attempted PATs with Nick Folk drilling his and Justin Rohrwasser hitting the left upright. Rohrwasser would later run out of time on a field goal attempt from 39 at the end of a Brian Hoyer session. He kicked it anyway and missed left.
Rookie second-rounder Kyle Dugger, who ran mostly with the 2s on Thursday, does seem comfortable all over the defense. Both his and Williams' versatility are going to be tapped.
The series that was most indicative of the tough day the offense had was the starting offense against the second defense. It started with a bad throw by Newton then — after not finding anyone — he threw late to a diving Edelman incomplete. A pressure by Nick Thurman forced another Newton scramble. Then Thuney got hurt (rookie Michael Onwenu replaced him). On the next play, Deatrich Wise batted down a third down pass and Harry capped the period screaming and pointing at the defensive sideline.
When the starting offense and defense went at it late in practice on a two-minute drill, a wheel route to James White was batted down. Next followed a sack then a bad throw to White.
Cam Newton was 12 for 27 by my count. Jarrett Stdiham, who is performing without much limitation now, was 7-of-14 and Brian Hoyer went 6-for-12 and had a few poorly-placed balls.
Nick Folk: Signed Monday, the veteran kicker has been rock solid whether on field goals, PATs or even when kicking on the separate field away from 11-on-11 action. He’s steady as hell and his presence behind rookie fifth-rounder Justin Rohrwasser — or alongside him — has not impeded Rohrwasser, who’s also had a decent week. The Bears are planning to keep two kickers as a COVID precaution; the Patriots could do the same. Certainly a possibility.
Tashawn Bowers/Nick Thurman: A couple of practice squad defensive linemen had a nice stretch where they stifled some interior running plays.
Deatrich Wise: Continuing a good camp, Wise’s power and explosiveness seem to have increased, which helps immeasurably with the size and reach he’s always had. He bullrushed Dalton Keene back into Cam Newton’s lap and may have gotten a paw on the throw that Terrence Brooks picked off.
Terrence Brooks: With Devin McCourty down, Brooks is getting a lot of run with the 1s. He had an active day which included the aforementioned pick.
Anfernee Jennings: After missing some work at the start of camp, Jennings had what may have been his best day on Thursday. Playing at the second level, he was a factor on a few run-stuffs and looked comfortable dropping when plays called for it.
Damien Harris: Harris started the 11-on-11 reps by tearing through a gaping hole on a simple dive play and going untouched for what likely would have been a touchdown. Even with Sony Michel back out on the practice field, Harris took almost all the first-team reps.
N’Keal Harry: The second-year wideout stepped on the back line of the end zone during a third-down play in the red zone, nullifying one of the few wins the offense had during this practice. That’s one of those “attention to detail” plays the coaching staff will be pointing out, presumably. After a couple of good days earlier in the week, he was quiet Thursday.
Dalton Keene: The rookie tight end got a lot of run with fellow rookie Devin Asiasi still limited. Keene got plowed backwards by Deatrich Wise when trying to pass block. The pressure led to a Terrence Brooks pick.
Cam Newton: Not a lot of people running open for Newton but he wasn’t that precise either. Or rapid with his decision-making. The decision-making is a part of the process, to be sure, but the separation part isn’t going to magically resolve itself. It was like that last year and not much was done to change it this year.