Through the first week of training camp the offense could best be described as a work in progress. But as Mac Jones and his teammates continue working to find some consistency, that doesn't mean there haven't been any areas to be excited about.
Nelson Agholor would qualify as one player who fits into that category. After an inconsistent first season in Foxborough, Agholor looks much more comfortable on the field, even as the offense is transitioning to a different scheme.
"We're still working to get better and working hard," Agholor said after practice. "As players we just have to go out there and make plays. I think I got comfortable with the system and it has put me in a position to play a little faster. My job is to run the routes that are called to the best of my ability."
Jones and Agholor have enjoyed some solid moments during camp and certainly on Tuesday. The two connected on a couple of deeps balls, one early in one-on-one drills and the other in a 7-on-7 period. Perhaps the most impressive, though, came late in practice during 11-on-11 red zone action to close things out.
Jones and the offense had struggled for most of the first seven plays, but on the final snap he fired a perfect pass into traffic to Agholor as he flew across the back line of the end zone for the touchdown. That play elicited a huge celebration among Agholor and his receiver teammates.
"That play was all about Mac," Agholor said. "Mac did a good job of giving me an opportunity to make the play. It was a great throw by him over two guys' heads and all I had to do was catch it."
Agholor also turned in a ridiculous one-handed catch in a one-on-one rep against Joejuan Williams. Williams had great coverage on the play and appeared poised to prevent the completion, but Agholor reached with one hand, snared the pass and then paused for a second before racing to the end zone and finishing the touchdown with a leaping finger roll. It may have been just a one-on-one rep, but it was among the best plays of camp thus far.
While the final play of the red zone work allowed the offense to feel good about itself, it came at the end of an uneven stretch. Jones opened the period with a short dump-off to Damien Harris, then was forced to scramble before throwing incomplete to Harris. Another short incompletion to Harris followed, and Jones again pulled the ball down and tried to scramble up the middle.
So, in four red zone snaps Jones was forced improvise three times and dumped one off on the fourth. A Ty Montgomery run netted nothing on the fifth snap, before finally Jones hit Tre Nixon on a quick out that may have resulted in a touchdown before the beautiful throw to Agholor that closed it.
"There will be better days ahead, we're at the start of this thing. We got to get it going," Jones said. "We have to keep stacking these days together and get a little time here and see where we're at." Jones also called "losing" to the defense each day a "shot in the heart."
Bailey Zappe then took the reins to end the practice and enjoyed some success. He found Devin Asiasi for positive yards to start, then hit Nixon and Kevin Harris on quick throws to the outside that likely would have resulted in touchdowns. Even his final snap, which resulted in a throwaway, came with the rookie calmly escaping the pocket before realizing he had no option as he tossed it safely out of bounds.
Beyond Agholor's impressive start to camp, here are one man's observations from Day 6 of Training Camp.
*No changes to the attendance on Tuesday as James White (PUP), Chasen Hines (NFI), Andrew Stueber (NFI) and Bran Hoyer remain out. Deatrich Wise again was late appearing on the field but eventually was seen in full uniform during the bulk of practice.
*The Patriots also featured two new players on defense as safeties Brad Hawkins and Jalen Elliott wore Nos. 35 and 36, respectively. Hawkins played collegiately at Michigan but went undrafted before signing with Atlanta and being released in July. Elliott played at Notre Dame and went undrafted in 2020 before spending the last two seasons in Detroit, mostly on the Lions practice squad. Hawkins delivered a nice hit in the running game, knocking Kevin Harris sideways while generating some excitement from his teammates.
*Tyquan Thornton continues to make daily progress in camp. While most of his production has come in one-on-one drills, his ball skills are consistently evident. On Tuesday he made a terrific over-the-shoulder catch while dealing with solid coverage from Jalen Mills. Thornton veered toward the sideline despite the fact that the ball was headed more toward the inside as he tracked it over his shoulder. At the last second he snared the ball over his opposite shoulder and he tracked it from the other side, making the catch look easy.
*One other thing to keep in mind with Thornton is his consistent work as a gunner with Matthew Slater and Justin Bethel. One of the knocks on Thornton coming out of Baylor was his inability to deal with press coverage at the line, so the special teams work figures to help him greatly in that regard. Obviously as the potential fifth receiver, he also would need to fill roles in the kicking game in order to justify his game day roster spot.
*The special teams periods focused on the punt team with Thornton and fellow wideout Lil'Jordan Humphrey taking some reps as gunners. Myles Bryant, Marcus Jones, J.J. Taylor and Hawkins handled the punts while Jabrill Peppers also joined the group but didn't take any reps.
*There was an interesting wrinkle along the offensive line as Arlington Hambright rotated in a right guard with Mike Onwenu. Typically Onwenu opened each period and left after about five snaps, allowing Hambright to join the group that included Trent Brown, Cole Strange, David Andrews and Isaiah Wynn. James Ferentz also spelled Andrews periodically throughout the day as the captain continues to work his way back to a full workload following offseason shoulder surgery.
*The offensive linemen fared better in their one-on-one work on Tuesday with Trent Brown dominating his opponents routinely while Cole Strange improved from his first go round, handling Daniel Ekuale effectively. Josh Uche got the better of Isaiah Wynn, though, using his speed to cause problems off the edge. Perhaps Uche is ticketed for a sub rusher role in 2022, and if he can consistently get the edge as he has in drills he could be quite effective.
*Robert Kraft was on the practice field early and spent time chatting with Jake Bailey, who recently signed a contract extension to remain in New England.
*The biggest cheer of the day from the crowd came on a play that ultimately didn't really finish the way the coaches would have liked. During an 11-on-11 rep, Ja'Whaun Bentley raced around the left side and would have easily gotten to Jones in a live situation. But as Bentley pulled up to avoid contact, Jones ran around the right side and found daylight on the sideline as the crowd cheered his every stride.
*Zappe continues to impress with his arm, showing excellent zip on his throws to the sidelines. He also found Nixon on a nice seam route behind the defense during 11-on-11 work.
*Nick Folk wrapped up practice by hitting all six of field goals with Bailey holding and Joe Cardona handling the snapping. Tristan Vizcaino worked with Mack Wilson and Mac Jones at the other end while simulating his kicks.
*Agholor, Mac Jones, Henry Anderson, Devin Asiasi, Jonathan Jones, Peppers, Adrian Phillips, Jahlani Tavai and Cardona took some time to speak with the media after practice.