The full-contact work for the Patriots lasted just one day as the team was back in shorts, T-shorts and shells on Wednesday. In addition to the decrease in intensity that comes without pads, there also seemed to be a noticeable drop in tempo.
Most of the full team work came under controlled conditions with most of the passes from Cam Newton and Mac Jones winding up in the hands of their receivers despite the presence of coverage on many occasions.
That changed a bit during 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 periods during the later portion of practice when the defense seemed to step up its intensity level a bit and really gave the quarterbacks trouble. Newton tossed a pair of interceptions while trying to force throws to tightly covered receivers during these segments, and the defense was a problem for the rest of the day.
The first came when he tried to hit Hunter Henry down the seam, only to watch Adrian Colbert undercut the route and make the pick. Later, on the first play of a hurry-up 7-on-7 stretch, he tried to hit Jakobi Meyers on an out route but J.C. Jackson got in front of the receiver and made the easy interception.
Things didn't much better for the other quarterbacks. Brian Hoyer was picked by Jonathan Jones when he stepped in, and Mac Jones also was victimized when he took over. Jones got a bit unlucky on his two picks, which both came off deflections, but each time his throws were high over the middle, which is a cardinal sin for a quarterback.
The first came when he was under duress and tried to hit Jonnu Smith. The tight end had a chance to make the grab but the deflection went right to Devin McCourty. Shortly after, he overshot rookie Tre Nixon and the deflection went to D'Angelo Ross. In between he was lucky when Myles Bryant couldn't hold onto what looked like another interception on a pass down the seam.
Jones wasn't without his strong moments, however. He hooked up with Meyers for a nice pickup off an in-cut where he hit his target in stride. Later he went deep to Gunner Olszewski for a big gain when he found the wideout open near the sideline coming across the field.
Jones was definitely the more accurate passer on Wednesday, but offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels explained how all of the quarterbacks need to be better.
"We have to play better," McDaniels said after practice. Whichever guy is under center, that's his job."
McDaniels had some comments about both Newton and Jones during his meeting with the media. When asked what gives him confidence that Newton will improve over 2020, he had a simple response: "I see it."
With regard to Jones, McDaniels joked: "He's good at getting yelled at. But they all are right now."
That was certainly the case on Wednesday when the OC seemed frustrated with his entire group.
Bill Belichick said before practice that the team would be back in pads on Thursday, so expect the intensity level to rise accordingly.
Here are one man's impressions of Day 7 of training camp.
*There was some good news on the injury front despite the fact that no one came off any lists. Henry Anderson returned to practice after missing Tuesday's workout with an upper body injury. He was a full participant and took reps along the defensive line. Otherwise, Jarrett Stidham, Stephon Gilmore, Dalton Keene, Chase Winovich, Terez Hall and Byron Cowart are still on PUP, Cameron McGrone and Joshuah Bledsoe remain on NFI and Devin Asiasi is still on the COVID-19 reserve list. In addition, Ted Karras missed his fourth straight practice with a knee/leg injury while linebacker Raekwon McMillan and defensive lineman Akeem Spence missed for the first time. McMillan left on Tuesday with trainers with an apparent foot/ankle injury.
*Former Patriots general manager Scott Pioli was on hand for practice. He walked out with Belichick's assistant Berj Najarian as the two enjoyed a chat. Also, Vanderbilt baseball coach and huge Patriots fan Tim Corbin was a guest at practice.
*Kick returns were the focus of the special teams work with J.J. Taylor and Marvin Hall take some reps as the returners. While that was going on, Nelson Agholor worked with the quarterbacks on the opposite field. Agholor ran several routes during that timeframe, catching most of those passes from Newton.
*The early 11-on-11 work featured a lot of running with several ball carriers taking reps. Sony Michel, Damien Harris, Brandon Bolden, Tyler Gaffney and rookie Rhamondre Stevenson all carried the ball.
*Speaking of Stevenson, the rookie announced his presence with authority on Tuesday with a thundering run on his first chance to show his physicality while wearing pads. He broke through a nice hole off right tackle before running through Bryant, who came up from safety to try to make the stop. Stevenson barely broke stride and took off down the sideline for a sizable gain, drawing planet of reaction from his teammates. On Wednesday, he looked comfortable coming out of the backfield as a receiver, although he did have one high pass near the sideline sail through his hands late in practice.
*The officials were once again on the fields and threw plenty of flags throughout. James White made a nice move before racing toward the back pylon but was unable to make a connection with Newton on the play. However, the nearest official tossed a flag, indicating Joejuan Williams was guilty of a hold. It was one of several infractions against the secondary on the day.
*Kendrick Bourne was unable to grab a high throw from Newton and appeared to jam his finger during 7-on-7 work. Bourne was animated following the play and holding his hand, but he did not miss any reps and caught a few more passes during the morning.
*Jonathan Jones enjoyed a strong day in coverage. In addition to his pick of Hoyer, he nearly came up with another one on the following play when he blanketed Olszewski across the middle. His coverage was perfect as he mirrored the route before dropping the would-be pick.
*Cody Davis appeared to tweak his left leg/knee while trying to help in coverage of Olszewski on the deep catch. Davis spent some time with the training staff, who appeared to be testing the knee.
*Practice closed with some work on blocking field goals on the far side of the left field. Although the blocking a rushing units were intact, the a rusher came free on each rep to block the kicks. Rather than having Nick Folk or rookie Quinn Nordin booting the ball, player operations and engagement coordinator Chris Mattes handled the kicking chores.
*After not doing any post-practice running for the past two days the players returned to the hills for some conditioning work before heading to the locker room after the workout.
*There was no player availability on Wednesday as the defensive assistant coaches spoke prior to practice and the offensive assistants checked in afterward.
*Practice continues in Foxborough on Thursday with a 9:15 a.m. start time. Gates will open to the public at 8:30 a.m. and no autographs will be allowed. As always, please check with patriots.com for the latest schedule updates.