The Patriots were back on the lower practice field on Monday afternoon, putting the finishing touches on their final preparations before heading out to Green Bay for a set of joint practices with the Packers that are slated to begin on Wednesday. This marked the 14th and final practice of training camp and the last time reporters will get a chance to take in a Patriots practice here in Foxborough, with just the two sessions with the Packers and two with the Titans scheduled to close things out for the summer.
The team was back in full pads for the first time since last Thursday and went for nearly two hours in ideal late-summer conditions, a far cry from the humidity and wet weather that had become a factor as recently as Sunday.
For their part, the offense wrapped things up with a flourish, putting together one of their best practice performances of the summer, filled with all kinds of 11-on-11 work, both in the middle of the field and in the red zone. While the defense had plenty of days to highlight from the previous 13 practices, the 14th and final one belonged to the offense.
Rhamondre Stevenson continues to be a major part of the offense and rarely goes an 11-on-11 period with multiple touches. Today was no different, as Stevenson saw plenty of inside handoffs and caught plenty of passes out of the backfield. Stevenson's most impressive moment came during the final two-minute drill. With 45 seconds on the clock, the Patriots offense was looking to score. After a near interception by Marcus Jones, Mac Jones found Pop Douglas on two different plays to get the offense moving near midfield. Then, Stevenson meshed across two receivers, losing his coverage and opening up all kinds of space that he quickly took as Mac Jones hit him with the on-time pass. Stevenson accelerated and wove through the open field for what would've been an impressive touchdown and an ideal finale.
It was one of Mac's best days with these kinds of passes, getting the ball out quickly to hot routes and letting his receivers do the hard work. However, Mac also showed some great touch on Monday, finding Kendrick Bourne for an exciting one-handed grab up the seam early in red zone work and then later lofting a perfectly placed slot fade to Juju Smith-Schuster along the sideline that dropped right in the bucket. These were some of Mac's best throws of the entire summer and a good sign of his progress.
Bourne has also stacked a couple days of strong practices this week, showing up consistently during Sunday and Monday's work, as the veteran receiver appears to be finding a stride within the Bill O'Brien offense.
It wasn't all perfect, however, as Marcus Jones just missed an interception not once but twice during the final two-minute drill, and more than a couple plays would've been blown up early by the consistent pressure the defense has brought all summer long. Josh Uche and Davon Godchaux both had would-be sacks during team periods.
The most unfortunate news of the day however came during tackling drills early on when Mike Gesicki collided hard with Jahlani Tavai and appeared to land awkwardly on his arm as he hit the ground. Gesicki left practice and did not return. It could be an unfortunate blow to one of the most productive players of recent training camp practices. We'll see what Gesicki's status is once we get to practices in Green Bay, but it seems possible the big tight end could be on ice at least until the regular season opener with just under four weeks to go.
Here's everything else that stood out from the last practice we'll see behind Gillette Stadium until next year.
-- Attendance remained the same as Sunday, with Kody Russey, Ronnie Perkins, Bill Murray, Cole Strange and Ty Montgomery joining those on the PUP/NFI lists, Cody Davis, Michael Onwenu and Calvin Anderson. Strange was once again watching practice with his helmet and a shell on, while Onwenu came down to the field near the end of practice in street clothes. It seems like Strange could be close to a return but Onwenu's status remains a mystery.
-- Anfernee Jennings also needed some medical attention after going down near the end of practice. He walked off under his own power. Jennings is coming off a strong performance against the Texans and with limited OLB depth, losing him for any length of time would be a significant blow.
-- In positive news, Trent Brown took part in padded 11-on-11 drills for the first time this summer. He's trending toward being fully available for the season opener and let's hope it stays that way. We continue to await the returns of Strange, Owenu and Anderson, who could dramatically give the offensive line the boost of talent and depth that they need.
-- It was Chad Ryland's day to kick field goals and I had him going 5-of-6 with just one tailing off and missing wide left at the final moment. With the media watching from field level it was hard to tell how far out the kicks were, though they've been consistently working from about 44-48 yards out and these all looked from similar range.
-- The punt team's focus for the day was heavily involved in the deep part of the field, with two different periods starting off with the punter kicking from inside his own end zone before slowly moving out. Baringer had a couple of boomers but also a shank, as he's struggling to put together a perfect day or game to this point. Corliss Waitman's performance was similarly inconsistent. It's hard to tell who has the edge in the punter battle, but Baringer does seem to have the bigger leg overall.
-- Josh Bledsoe and Shaun Wade played a ton the other night as it seems like now is the time for the two third-year players to make their roster push. Both had good days on Tuesday, building off their solid performances against the Texans. Bledsoe had a would-be sack of Bailey Zappe, while Wade was in the backfield so quickly on one rep that he picked off one of Zappe's intended screen passes.
-- Bill Belichick took a moment to talk to the top offense before the final two-minute drill and it seemed to help the offense to one of their best periods of the summer. It wasn't all perfect, with the two passes Marcus Jones nearly picked, but Pop Douglas, Bourne and Stevenson all made their plays as well. It seems like things might be slowing down a bit for Mac, as his recognition of blitzes seems to becoming more clear and he's been decisively getting the ball out.
-- Center Jake Andrews had to take a lap for a false start in 11s but Matthew Judon avoided taking one during another rep where the offense was pointing fingers at the red-sleeved one accusing him of jumping offsides. It was a competitive day with a lot of chatter back and forth. Seems like both sides of the ball are ready to hit someone new.
-- Yes, Malik Cunningham continues to get his share of quarterback reps as it seems like the undrafted rookie is making sure that the coaching staff is paying attention to what he brings to the table. Cunningham remains in a white jersey and still sees his reps as a receiver. It will be interesting to see how he's used with the prying eyes of the Packers watching later this week in Green Bay.
-- Belichick wrapped practice with a rookie punt-catching contest for reduced meeting time and while Sidy Sow couldn't hold on to his attempt, both Atonio Mafi and Keion White caught theirs, earning some extra time off as the dog days of training camp wind down and the competitive joint practices kick in.
-- The Patriots are scheduled to travel to Green Bay on Tuesday with no media access and will then hold joint practices Wednesday and Thursday, with a tentative starting time of 10:30am CST. Patriots.com's content team will be in attendance to cover both days of practice at the historic facility.