Patriots

Postcard from Patriots Training Camp: Phillip Dorsett and Maurice Harris leave early

Postcard from Patriots Training Camp: Phillip Dorsett and Maurice Harris leave early

NASHVILLE — It was a piping hot morning on the outskirts of Nashville when the Patriots and Titans took the field for the first of two joint practices this week. When the sun ducked behind the clouds it was actually pretty mild but when it came out, it was oppressive. A number of Patriots players were clearly feeling the heat early in the fully-padded practice. In particular, center David Andrews who battled some dry heaves toward the end of the first hour of work.

ROLL CALL

Jamie Collins was absent from practice which was a surprise. Bill Belichick spoke to the media prior to practice so there was no chance to ask him about that. Also a bit of a surprise was seeing rookie wideout N’Keal Harry on the field and suited up. But he was only out for a moment at the start of practice before peeling off.

Isaiah Wynn continued to work his way into being a more regular participant, splitting reps with Dan Skipper at left tackle. The 6-foot-9 Skipper was dealing with the after-effects of the heat following practice sitting in the medical tent with ice on his neck.

Rookie running back Damien Harris, who missed the preseason opener against Detroit, was a full participant.

DORSETT DOWN

There are three practice fields here at the Saint Thomas Sports Park facility and the teams split their work with the entire New England offense toiling on the far right field against the Tennessee defense and the Patriots defense going with the Tians offense on the far left. Wide receiver Phillip Dorsett left practice midway through after hauling in a pass down the seam from Tom Brady.

Dorsett wasn’t limping as he left the field with trainer Jim Whalen, but he was walking slowly after crashing to the ground with the reception. Later, the Patriots saw Maurice Harris leave the field with an unknown malady. For a Patriots wideout crew that’s already without Harry, the loss of Dorsett and Harris — even for a brief time — puts extra pressure on the group.

VRABEL STILL THE SAME

During an early-practice passing period with three receivers going against four defensive backs, Patriots tight end Ben Watson came up howling about being grabbed by Titans DB Dane Cruikshank. Vrabel agreed that Watson had his shirt grabbed and spoke to his player but ordered Watson to “get his old ass back in the huddle.”

Vrabel oversaw the Titans defense for much of the practice while Bill Belichick kept watch on the Patriots defense. There was no intermingling between the two which was interesting to note.  

In a touching tribute, Belichick sent the Patriots rookies to sing “Happy Birthday” to Vrabel, who turned 44 on Wednesday.

NOTEWORTHY

• Rookie quarterback Jarrett Stidham had a couple of mishandles at quarterback on shotgun snaps and took a lap as a result. One appeared to be on him, the other was just a bizarro snap from James Ferentz.

• Prior to practice, Tom Brady limbered up with injured wideout Demaryius Thomas for a few minutes. Thomas was in shorts and a t-shirt. It was interesting to see Julian Edelman standing behind Brady holding his right hand on Brady’s right hip and left hand on Brady’s left shoulder to remind the quarterback to keep from opening up too soon on his throws.

• Titans running back Derrick Henry didn’t practice, but worked out with a trainer on the middle field and he is an enormous human. Imagine if Jabaal Sheard played running back? Same general size.

• The Titans’ exuberance was much higher than the Patriots, especially in the early portion of practice. It wasn’t that the Patriots weren’t into it, it was just that Tennessee was REALLY into it. There was nothing remotely close to scrapping in the first hour, however.

• Brady didn’t have a lot of time to throw in the semi-competitive 11 on 11 drills I watched and most of his completions were coming with rushers buzzing around him but unable to make contact. Still, his completion percentage in 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 was high as he continues to appear locked in during this camp.

• One big play for the Patriots was a deep downfield throw from Brian Hoyer to James White, who leaked out on a wheel route.

• In general, the Patriots defense had a very strong day against the Titans offense, forcing a number of throwaways by Marcus Mariota. Second-year corner J.C. Jackson in particular was solid. Jason McCourty got beaten over the top on a pair of plays, once by rookie A.J. Brown and later by Taywan Taylor.

Malcolm Butler recalls Edelman's trash talk at practice>>>>>

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Patriots QB Cam Newton given this jersey number with his new team

Patriots QB Cam Newton given this jersey number with his new team

The New England Patriots made the signing of quarterback Cam Newton official on Wednesday, and while it might be weird for some NFL fans to see the former MVP in a red, white and blue jersey this coming season, there is one part of his gameday look that will remain the same.

Newton will again wear the No. 1 jersey, according to the team's official roster page. This is the same number he wore during the first nine seasons of his career with the Carolina Panthers. 

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You might be surprised to learn that Newton will be just the fourth player in Patriots history to wear the No. 1 jersey and the first to do it since 1987, per Pro Football Reference's data. The other three players to wear No. 1 for the Patriots are former kickers Tony Franklin, Eric Schubert and John Smith. And, of course, the Pat Patriot mascot also wears No. 1.

Whether Newton ends up being the Patriots' No. 1 quarterback for Week 1 of the 2020 regular season remains to be seen. He's the favorite to win the starting job following Tom Brady's departure in March, but 2019 fourth-round draft pick Jarrett Stidham and veteran Brian Hoyer also are on the depth chart and should provide competition for Newton. 

Next Pats Podcast: How can Pats maximize Harry's talent? | Listen & subscribe | Watch on YouTube

Next Pats Podcast: How can Patriots utilize N'Keal Harry more in 2020?

Next Pats Podcast: How can Patriots utilize N'Keal Harry more in 2020?

N'Keal Harry had his rookie season derailed by injuries, but that has done little to lessen expectations ahead of his second NFL campaign.

The New England Patriots wide receiver has obvious talent. The team selected him in the first round (32nd overall) of the 2018 draft after a successful college career at Arizona State, and when Harry did get onto the field with the Patriots, he showed flashes of his impressive skills.

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One of the challenges for Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels this coming season is finding ways to get Harry more involved in the offense and maximizing his abilities. 

How can the Patriots accomplish that goal? Pro Football Focus' Steve Palazzolo joined the latest episode of the Next Pats Podcast to break down his expectations for Harry and ways the Patriots can use him.

"I think he'll get better as the years go on. I think what has to happen is people need to change their expectations sometimes for receivers, especially first-round wide receivers," Palazzolo told our Patriots insider Phil Perry. "We're talking about a position where there's three starters, and not every receiver is going to be Julio Jones, and not every starter is going to be as good as Julian Edelman -- a guy you can depend on to get open in crunch time and third down.

"When we evaluated Harry coming out (of college), his skill set reminded us a lot of Demaryius Thomas, who, when you look at his best work, he was catching the ball and running well after the catch, as well as making contested catches. Harry did struggle separating, which is kind of an important point for receivers. He struggled getting open. I think if the expectations are, right or wrong, here's a guy we can scheme some stuff up for -- that back-shoulder touchdown he had from Tom Brady, that's the type of stuff, the vertical route tree, contested catches, using his big body. That's the type of stuff you can expect from him, but you probably don't want to feed him 150 targets and say go be the No. 1 wide receiver. I think Harry is more of a complimentary piece."

Next Pats Podcast: How can Pats maximize Harry's talent? | Listen & subscribe | Watch on YouTube

One way to put pressure on defenses and use Harry's strength and athleticism is giving him the ball on running plays. We've seen plenty of wideouts run gadget plays to take advantage of mismatches, and Harry could be used in a similar role for New England.

"If the Patriots do get creative with N'Keal Harry to get the ball in his hands, you could hand it off to him, you could put him out there, he'll have a cornerback matched up with him. And then the defense will have to figure out its run fits -- how do I get enough guys in the box to stop this guy?" Palazzolo said. "So whether it's the jet sweep game, whether it's just legitimately putting him in the backfield as a running back, I think there is a world where N'Keal Harry could be maximized and give you that advantage over defenses."

For the entire Harry conversation between Perry and Palazzolo, check out the Next Pats Podcast on the NBC Sports Boston Podcast Network or watch on YouTube below: