Perry: New faces making great first impressions at Pats camp


Even though the competition level at Patriots training camp practice hasn't quite hit its peak -- something Bill Belichick reminded us on Saturday -- we've seen enough in the way of practice sessions to relay how things are trending in the early going with certain players.

Let's do a little Stock Up/Stock Down after the first full week of camp ...   

Trending in the right direction

Matt Judon, LB: Through four practices, Judon has been a consistent pain in the posterior for Patriots offensive linemen. I counted three reps that would've resulted in sacks for Belichick's newly-acquired outside linebacker. When asked about his experience in Foxboro thus far, he said, "You just gotta be in the building. You hear stuff going on on the TV and whatever and you were always on the outside looking in. Now that I’m on the inside, I understand a little bit more. Every day I’ve gained a little bit more knowledge. And as I go through the year, hopefully I know mostly everything. But, you know, we just gotta figure it out day by day."

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Davon Godchaux, DT: While Godchaux has already had his first penalty lap around the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium (he jumped offsides on a Cam Newton hard count), his contributions have been more positive than negative. In sessions focused on the passing game? For a defensive tackle? That's fairly impressive. He's already notched a couple of batted passes at the line of scrimmage, and he's helped push the pocket to create traffic for both Newton and Mac Jones to work through. 


Nelson Agholor, WR: Let's stick with the free-agent-additions theme here. Agholor had a drop deep down the field on a throw from Mac Jones on Day 3 of camp -- something that popped up on multiple occasions in minicamp when targeted deep by Jarrett Stidham -- and there was a miscommunication on a slant with Jones that led to an incompletion. But otherwise he's been very productive with the large number of targets he's seen. He's connected for touchdowns with all three Patriots quarterbacks over four days, and his two leaping scores in the back of the end zone on Day 3 (one each from Jones and Newton) were among the two best grabs of camp.

Rashod Berry, LB: Still listed as a tight end/linebacker on the Patriots roster, Berry has been strictly on the defensive side of the ball through camp thus far. And he's been noticeable. On Day 4, he tallied what would have been sacks on Jones and Brian Hoyer on two of three reps. Berry has also been up early in the kickoff period, showing that the team sees a path to him taking on a special-teams role -- something he'll have to do as a reserve player in a fairly crowded group of outside linebackers.

Raekwon McMillan, LB: Another player who certainly was not viewed as a roster lock prior to camp, McMillan has popped up in a positive way over the course of the first week. He notched the first interception of camp on Day 1, and he got his hands on a Newton pass intended for Kendrick Bourne on Day 4 in a 3-on-3 red-zone period. Plus, like Berry, he's been seen on the field early in special teams periods, showing there's a level of intrigue in his skill set coming from special-teams chief Cam Achord. If the team is looking for some versatile depth at inside linebacker, McMillan could be an option. 

Trending in the wrong direction

Cam Newton, QB: The competition between Newton and Jones is relatively even at this early stage of camp from this view. Day 1 went to Jones. Day 2 went to Newton. Days 3 and 4 were relatively even. So labeling Newton as a "stock down" player doesn't mean he's been surpassed. But he hasn't clearly flown out to a lead, either. For a player with far more NFL experience and more experience within the Patriots system, one might've expected it would take Jones a bit more time to get to where he is right now -- getting reps with the top offensive line group at times, and on Day 3 alternating reps with Newton during one practice period.


Jalen Mills, CB: Mills was beaten in coverage by Kristian Wilkerson and Kendrick Bourne on Day 4 during a competitive red-zone period at the end of practice. In pass-heavy practices, this particular free-agent acquisition has been quiet while other defensive backs -- Michael Jackson, Joejuan Williams among them -- have been around the football a bit more.

Gunner Olszewski and JJ Taylor, kick returners: Both of the team's top return options and perhaps it's top backup in that role -- have muffed kicks. Taylor has occasionally tried to catch punts with one football already in his arms, ramping up the level of difficulty with coaches keeping close watch.

Reserve offensive linemen: Jones has been harassed fairly consistently when he's playing behind backup linemen. On multiple occasions, after being pressured with backup linemen on the field, Patriots coaches will sub out multiple pass-protectors in favor of starters to give Jones a better rep on the next play. There have also been three separate instances of rolled snaps with backup centers in, and it looked like rookie Will Sherman got an earful from an assistant after being late to get onto the field for one rep on Day 4. Outside of Ted Karras (injured on Day 3) and Justin Herron, the reserves up front just haven't been real crisp for Josh McDaniels' offense.

Quinn Nordin, K: We wondered recently if Nordin might be able to supplant Nick Folk as Patriots placekicker. He has a strong leg ... but that may have been a bit premature. Folk appeared to go 5-for-5 on his kicks after practice on Day 3. Steady. Day 4 was more of an adventure when it was Nordin's turn. The undrafted rookie missed badly on one attempt, short and right, from about 43 yards away.