After taking the weekend off the Patriots went back to work on Monday and the defense picked right up from where it left off last week. While the offense continues to search for consistency during its early transition to an altered system, there have been no such struggles on the other side.
Monday saw an aggressive and spirited group of blue shirts dictating the tempo and play from the start. After stifling the offense during the first series of 11-on-11, the defense turned it up a notch later and threw a variety of blitzes at the offense.
Rookie Marcus Jones came free off a slot blitz to stop one play, and on the next snap coaches Jerod Mayo and Steve Belichick sent a zero coverage blitz and stormed Jones. Without much time to find an option, Jones fired hurriedly toward DeVante Parker on a slant to the left. The pass was too far out in front and Malcolm Butler almost picked it off.
There were some signs of better offensive execution, particularly during 7-on-7s and early in the second full team period when Jones was getting the ball out quickly and decisively. He worked the ball around to a number of different targets using short throws to keep the pace moving. Things seemed to be at their best when Jones was in the shotgun with four and five wide, likely picking out his target presnap and finding some pace.
But too often there were breakdowns up front that prevented any sort of rhythm and allowed the defense to control the action, as has been the case most days during camp.
The offense was evidently tired of the current malaise its working through as the players gathered after practice and while captain David Andrews addressed the issue.
"We have to go in an get it corrected," Andrews said afterward. "We just have to try to move forward. It's all just part of the process. He have to learn from it. We're all striving to get better each day."
One bright spot on offense, though, was the play of Tyquan Thornton. The rookie seems to improve each practice and on Monday he impressed with his ability to get open and create separation. He did so consistently during the one-on-one drills, and then again later when it was 11-on-11.
His most impressive stretch came late when he matched up with fellow rookie Jack Jones and got free for consecutive catches on out patterns of about 12 yards. He backed Jones off effectively with his speed before cutting sharply toward the sideline to grab passes from Brian Hoyer.
On the next play he streaked past Jones and was open in the end zone but the pass was a bit long and Thornton and Jones got tangled up and went down near the backline. Good stuff from the second-round pick.
Beyond the suffocating defense, here are one man's observations from Day 10 of training camp.
*The Patriots continue to get good news when it comes to injuries as Matthew Judon and Jahlani Tavai returned to practice. Judon missed the last two practices for undisclosed reasons while Tavai went down with an apparent lower right leg injury during last Thursday's workout. He missed Friday's in-stadium session but was present with a sleeve on his calf. He was back in uniform on Monday.
In addition, rookie offensive lineman Chasen Hines made his debut after opening camp on the non-football injury list. That leaves just fellow rookie Andrew Stueber (NFI) and veteran James White (PUP, hip) out of uniform.
*Justin Herron lined up at right tackle with a group including Trent Brown, Mike Onwenu, David Andrews and Cole Strange to open practice. Isaiah Wynn, who normally mans that spot, was dressed and watching nearby as the offense went through its early paces. After the team stretch, Wynn made his way down to the lower rehab field alongside Keene for some conditioning work.
*The start of practice featured a lot of individual work with receivers and defensive backs going at it while the offensive and defensive linemen worked on the other field. Offensively, Tyquan Thornton and Nelson Agholor stood out with their ability to get open consistently while Marcus Jones did a nice job in coverage. The final play of the period came when Mac Jones tried to connect with DeVante Parker on a deep ball but wound up being intercepted by Joejuan Williams when the pair didn't appear to be on the same page. The offense dropped for some pushups after the play.
*On the other field Hines was thrown right into the fire and did a nice job picking up Mack Wilson during a rep featuring two-men blocking schemes. Later in a one-on-one rep, Christian Barmore quickly got the edge on Cole Strange and had the rookie chasing. Onwenu and Yodny Cajuste turned in solid work during the period.
*The first team period featured much more of the same for the offense. Stuffed runs, indecisive reads from Jones and a failure to make any significant plays. In 10 snaps with Jones at the helm, the offense managed a couple of short completions that would have resulted in minimal gains under game conditions. On one, Mack Wilson immediately dropped Agholor over the middle and another saw Agholor catch a short flip in the flat with several defenders hemming him in near the sideline. The running game continues to struggle as well as Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson failed to make it through the first waves on any of their carries.
*Trent Brown was guilty of a false start on the first snap and was sent for a lap while Cajuste took his spot until he returned.
*The defense featured Jonathan Jones at cornerback along with Jalen Mills. Jones spends most of his time working in the slot but was outside for much of Monday's practice. Perhaps with rookie Marcus Jones showing promise on the inside the coaches are looking to see if Jonathan Jones can offer some snaps on the outside as an added level of depth.
*The tempo increased shortly thereafter when Jones led a hurry-up drill in 7-on-7 work. Using quick counts and short passes, Jones quickly found Jonnu Smith, Jakobi Meyers and Agholor to move downfield to about the 30. From there he went deep and found Parker in between Jonathan Jones and Myles Bryant for the touchdown. Parker did a great job of high-pointing the pass and leaping between the defenders to make the catch in the end zone.
*Nick Folk made 3-of-4 field goals toward the end of practice before a fifth attempt was blocked by rookie Sam Roberts. It appeared as if the block was orchestrated as the blocking wasn't at full speed on the rep.
*Jones was able to generate some momentum at the end of practice when he connected with Hunter Henry and Agholor on consecutive plays in the hurry-up. Henry caught a 20-yarder on a drag toward the left sideline while Agholor followed with a nice leaping grab over the middle for about 15 more.
*Andrews, Judon, Josh Uche, Shaun Wade, Pierre Strong, Jack Jones and Folk spent some time talking to the media after practice.
*The Patriots are set for another afternoon practice on Tuesday with practice beginning at 4 p.m. and gates opening at 3 p.m. Wednesday will be closed to the public and the media as the team finishes its preparation for Thursday's preseason opener against the Giants at Gillette Stadium. As always, please check with Patriots.com for the latest updates to the Patriots training camp schedule.