PATS REPORTER

Perry: Cam Newton-N'Keal Harry connection shows signs of life

PATS REPORTER

FOXBORO — Cam Newton wouldn't stop. He hollered at his defensive teammates after a touchdown pass to Rex Burkhead. He threw another to N'Keal Harry soon thereafter and didn't let up. When he hit on a second score to Harry later in the practice, he got even louder. 

Newton had heard it from the Patriots defense earlier in the practice when he was "sacked." He heard it when Chase Winovich knocked the ball loose and scooped it up for a defensive touchdown. Newton was tired of it. So when he got his chance to revel, he did just that. 

One of the many changes to Patriots training camp is the sheer amount that reporters can hear. Typically there are thousands of fans circling the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium, and there exists a buzz that makes it impossible to hear most of what's said on the field.

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This year, with fans forced to stay home, the Patriots play in silence. Which means reporters hear quite a bit. Per the team's practice reporting policy, onlookers are asked not to quote, paraphrase or report the comments made by coaches or players.

But what can be shared is that the volume on the field was turned up throughout the team's latest workout. 

"You look at it like this, everybody gets a unique experience when there’s no fans around in training camp, you get to hear stuff that is going on between the lines," defensive lineman Lawrence Guy said. "When you have fans, sometimes you can’t hear because it gets loud, you have the cheering. But when you eliminate that, you actually see the guts of what’s going on inside. 

 

'You’ll hear a lot of competitiveness, you’re going to hear a lot of talking, correcting. You’re also going to hear a lot of people correcting as they go, ‘Hey, you should do this or maybe do that.’ Iron sharpens iron, and now that you can hear that aspect of it, it gives you a different perspective of what is truly going on on the field, not this, ‘Oh we’re cheering for this or that.’ You get down to what’s really going on."

Let's get down to what was really going on -- what might've led to cheers on one side or the other -- during a competitive fully-padded practice Monday.

WHAT THEY WORE

Full pads. It was the first time the Patriots were fully decked-out and ready for contact since Thursday.

WHO WAS OUT

Stephon Gilmore missed yet another practice, his fourth-consecutive missed session. Yodny Cajuste, Jake Burt, Jeff Thomas and Beau Allen all missed the day of on-the-field work. Adrian Phillips and Kyle Dugger both missed the start of practice but showed up later and were essentially non-participants. Linebackers Terez Hall and Cassh Maluia both suffered injuries during the workout and were forced from the field. 

Sony Michel and Lamar Miller remain on the physically unable to perform list and have not yet practiced in camp.

WHO WAS IN

Nick Folk made his triumphant return to the Patriots, and his re-signing with the team was announced during practice. The Patriots also had rookie defensive lineman Michael Barnett (6-foot-4, 304 pounds) -- signed this week -- out on the field for the first time as well. 

Running back James White, running back JJ Taylor and corner Michael Jackson all returned to practice after missing Sunday's work. 

WHAT THEY DID

After getting loose, the Patriots held their annual slip-and-slide fumble-recovery drill. The entire team headed to a back corner of the field to watch rookies (and new coaches) get sprayed by a hose while they tried to scoop up loose footballs. In years past, manning the hose has been Tom Brady's job. On Monday, it was longtime captain Matthew Slater. 

After some pass-game drills, receivers and corners got after it in a 1-on-1 period. Big-bodied offensive and defensive linemen also went to work in 1-on-1s. That led to a 7-on-7 period before the entire offense and defense came together.

In between periods of 11-on-11 work -- which was focused on game-like situations, with changing situations on the clock, down and distance -- were punt and field-goal periods. The practice finished with some end-of-game (or end-of-half) work that featured no-huddle offense and quick exchanges between the offensive and field-goal units.

QUARTERBACK REP REPORT

After two practices of sitting out team periods, Jarrett Stidham saw a bit more work Monday. Clearly, though, he was still limited. He took nine total snaps in 11-on-11 work and sat out of the lone 7-on-7 period of the day. That left a whopping 40 snaps for Cam Newton as he continues to get caught up to speed on the Patriots offense.

 

QUARTERBACK HIGHLIGHTS

* Cam Newton's end-of-the-day numbers weren't tremendous, but he made some impressive throws throughout the course of the morning. In 7-on-7 work, he carried out an unscripted scramble drill that resulted in a well-placed on-the-run throw to Damiere Byrd. That's not the type of play we're accustomed to seeing in New England, and it served as an example of how the offense could change, beyond designed runs becoming more heavily incorporated.

Newton's back-shoulder pass to N'Keal Harry in the end zone was probably his best throw of the day. He placed it perfectly near the front corner of the end zone, away from JC Jackson and only where Harry could get it. Newton hit Harry on a slant later in the practice for another touchdown with Jackson close by.

* Speaking of chatty football players, Brian Hoyer hit Julian Edelman on a perfectly-timed and accurate-as-it-gets in-cut on a play-action throw early in the practice. That led to Edelman jawing at new safety Cody Davis, who was in position to give Edelman a good shot had the play been live. Edelman has, of course, made a living on those types of plays -- at times absorbing shots and continuing on his way.

At 34 years old, he's as fiery as ever. Maybe ornery is an apt descriptor, too. Hoyer hit Gunner Olszewski on a crossing route later in the practice that was also right on the money. A sideline pass to Mohamed Sanu was also one of Hoyer's best completions of the day. Seeing plenty of reps with Stidham out, Hoyer has continued to flash his accuracy in the short area and his command at the line of scrimmage.

QUARTERBACK LOWLIGHTS

* Newton had two back-to-back misses on his first two throws of the 11-on-11 period. One sailed way wide of Sanu on an over route. His next pass, deep down the field for Byrd, was picked off by rookie Myles Bryant. Newton turned the ball over again later in the session when Chase Winovich punched one loose and scooped it up for a defensive score. That led to a Newton lap as punishment, as is customary for any player who fumbles or commits a penalty.

* Hoyer had a pass batted at the line of scrimmage by one of the paddles being held by a Patriots staffer. He also sailed a throw wide of Devin Asiasi at one point, but the throw might've looked more off-the-mark than it actually was. Joejuan Williams had a handful of Asiasi's jersey, preventing the rookie tight end from attacking the football. 

WHO POPPED?

N'Keal Harry: Though last year's first-round pick had a rough go of it when he got back on the field over the weekend, he was one of the team's best players in its most recent workout. He made a really difficult back-shoulder catch in the 1-on-1 period with second-year corner Joejuan Williams all over him, finishing the catch as he twisted to the ground. That was a preview of his touchdown grab later in the morning, when Newton found him in the end zone on a similar route.

 

Harry's frame and strong hands are clear when he's on the field and moving at top speed. He caught another touchdown on a slant with JC Jackson close in coverage, and he simply shrugged off Myles Bryant during a 1-on-1 rep where he looked like a varsity captain tossing aside a freshman. Harry missed three practices last week and had a lackluster day that ended early on Sunday. But he was ready to go when the team went to work in full pads Monday.

Chase Winovich: The Patriots need a Kyle Van Noy replacement, and it could end up being Winovich. The second-year man out of Michigan will need to prove to the coaching staff that he's capable of playing on first and second down after serving as a specialty sub-rusher in his rookie season last year. But during Monday's practice, he was one of the team's most active defenders regardless of situation.

He had two sacks -- though one may have come when there were too many defensive backs on the field, forcing Newton to hold onto the ball -- and forced a Newton fumble that he then scooped up and took back for a touchdown. Winovich also flashed his quickness and flexibility by bending around Korey Cunningham for a clear win in the 1-on-1 pass-protection period.

Derek Rivers: After missing several days of practice, Derek Rivers picked up a sack and then followed that up by blowing up a screen pass. Good day for 2017 draft picks -- only four that year -- as Deatrich Wise, who's handling his bigger frame well this summer, submitted a sack of his own late in the workout during a hurry-up period. 

Kickers: Both Justin Rohrwasser and Nick Foles went 3-for-3 from between 40 and 50 yards away. not a bad performance from Folk, who just signed and whose kicks appear to climb quickly. He consistently played a high draw on his kicks Monday. Rohrwasser's solid day represented a good bounce-back for him after an adventurous last few kicking performances in front of reporters.

Rookie tight ends: Both Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene had four catches in competitive periods, flashing sure hands throughout. Asiasi made one nice grab in the 7-on-7 period, reeling in a Newton pass that was thrown slightly behind his frame. Asiasi has moved effortlessly through the intermediate level of the defense and has the ability to adjust to passes that are slightly off the mark. He also showed his power as a blocker at one point, decleating fellow rookie Cassh Maluia and forcing Maluia to miss the remainder of the practice.

Maluia has had several positive moments throughout camp, including intercepting Cam Newton at one point, and losing him for any stretch of time would be a blow to an inside linebacker group that lost its biggest piece when Dont'a Hightower opted out before the season. 

 

Michael Jackson:

WHO DROPPED?

Gunner Olszewski: One of the most dynamic receivers for the Patriots in training camp this year, he had a hard time with ball-security on Monday. He fumbled as a ball-carrier and had one pass knocked out of his hands for an incompletion (and near-fumble) when linebacker Scoota Harris punched at Olszewski's hands. It wasn't all bad for Olszewski -- who Julian Edelman calls "Gun Show" -- but he'll want to ensure he holds tight to any footballs that come his way as camp progresses.

Nick Thurman: After a season with the Patriots practice squad, Thurman has a chance to crack a roster that could use a big body on the defensive line. He ended up taking two laps during the 1-on-1 period, though, indicating that he committed a couple of penalties. 

Patriots defensive coaches: There appeared to be some miscommunication between coaches and players during a defensive substitution down in the red zone midway through the practice. A penalty in that area of the field could be a back-breaker when the games matter. Whether it's August or December, Bill Belichick is going to want to avoid those kinds of hiccups whenever possible.

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