The Patriots have experienced some different weather conditions during the first week-plus of camp. About the only thing the players have yet to encounter is the typical mid-summer heat. That may be on the horizon soon, but for now it would be hard to imagine worse circumstances to practice in than the heavy rains and cool temperatures in Foxborough on Thursday.
"Whatever it is, it is. I can't control that," Bill Belichick said before practice. "Looks like the field will be wet. If it rains, it rains. If it doesn't, it doesn't. If it's hot, it's hot. If it's not, then that's what it is. Nothing's changed. It's just good fundamentals, good ball security, being aware of the conditions that we're in can be significant, a little more focus on looking the ball in and so forth.
"Ultimately the game is played against a competitor, so we're not out there playing the weather. The offense is competing against the defense, and the defense is competing against the offense. All we do is worry about keeping our hands dry then it's probably not going to be a lot of good results. If that's what it is, then however that applies to an individual's particular fundamental and technique, if there has to be a little bit of a combination made there then hopefully they'll learn how to make that relatively minor adjustment. The most important thing for us is to execute the assignments and then the proper techniques and fundamentals that go with those assignments."
Overall the conditions didn't seem to affect the practice too much, but there were occasions when the moisture led to some problems. That was mostly the case with the quarterbacks, who had some passes get away from them during the workout.
That was the case on a few Mac Jones throws that sailed high and off the hands of his intended targets. He also threw a low ball to Hunter Henry down the right sideline on a pass that appeared to come out of his hand funny and may have been related to the moisture.
Cam Newton also had some erratic throws, although most of his were simply off target and not necessarily high. His problems came when the passes arrived late and were defended and seemingly had little to do with the conditions. Obviously tough to tell for sure how much the rain bothered the quarterbacks but there's no question there were accuracy issues for both.
"I think every day is the same," Jones said after practice " Go out there and be loud and confident. Take the coaching and learn from it. I can learn from other people too Brian, Cam and everybody. See what they're doing and learn from it."
Beyond the soggy conditions here are one man's impressions of Day 8 of training camp.
*More than a week into camp and the list of players who have yet to participate in practice remains lengthy. PUP still has six players – Jarrett Stidham, Stephon Gilmore, Dalton Keene, Chase Winovich, Terez Hall and Byron Cowart – while Cameron McGrone and Joshuah Bledsoe remain on NFI. Devin Asiasi also has yet to practice as he remains on the COVID reserve list. Additionally, several players missed their first workouts of camp on Thursday. Cody Davis, Nick Folk, Devin Ross, D'Angelo Ross and Christian Barmore all were absent while Ted Karras (fifth straight), Raekwon McMillan (second) and Akeem Spence (second) remain out. Davis appeared to be shaken up while trying to defend a deep ball to Gunner Olszewski on Wednesday.
On the positive side, Karras and Winovich were seen running on the lower rehab fields so they could be getting close to returning.
*Patrick Chung was latest Patriots alum to make an appearance at training camp. He walked onto the fields with Jerod Mayo and Steve Belichick prior to practice.
*Some of the players may have been surprised by the intense rain as Cam Newton needed a member of the equipment staff to retreat to the locker room before practice began to grab a pouch to help keep the quarterback's hands dry.
*Earlier in camp I've noted the presence of Dee Virgin working with special teams stalwarts Matthew Slater and Justin Bethel as a possible indicator that the coaches see potential in the corner and are looking to find roles for him. The same could be true for wide receiver Kristian Wilkerson, who also has done his share of special teams time with the veterans. Wilkerson is 6-1 and 201 pounds so he's a bit bigger than the typical Patriots receiver, and he's been productive at times this summer catching the ball. He did have a bad drop on Thursday on a crossing route but later bounced back with a catch deep down the right sideline. If he is to earn a roster spot it would be as a fourth or fifth receiver, however, and in that case he would need to fill roles on special teams. Something to keep an eye on down the road.
*Despite the messy conditions, wide receivers Kendrick Bourne, N'Keal Harry and Tre Nixon worked without gloves. It's rare to see any receivers without gloves so it's possible those players didn't have their bad weather mitts available and went old school as a result.
*There was a period of half-line running drills with plays run quickly alternating from left to right. The offense seemed to get the better of things with some nice holes opened, although at times the running backs were guilty of cutting back against the grain where there were no defenders available to fill the space. The drill was run with good tempo and seemed to generated enthusiasm on both sides.
*The conditions played a role in the drill as Mac Jones and Marcus Martin couldn't connect on a snap and both were sent for a lap.
*A period of 1-on-1s followed with receivers and defensive backs as well as offensive and defensive linemen going at it. Trent Brown was dominant on his reps, particularly an early one where he got the better of Matt Judon. Mike Onwenu was equally impressive in stonewalling Deatrich Wise. Wise rebounded by getting the edge against Korey Cunningham while Davin Godchaux, Montravius Adams and Carl Davis all showed good power. Godchaux pushed center David Andrews well into the backfield on his bull rush.
*The passing game saw Newton and Brian Hoyer doing the throwing. Newton showed nice touch down the seam to Bourne, and nearly had another solid hookup with Hunter Henry but the tight end's diving grab near the sideline was ruled out of bounds by the nearby official.
*The 11-on-11 work saw some down-and-distance situations and an emphasis on the running game once again. Mac Jones did unleash a perfect deep ball to James White, who made a nice catch over his outside shoulder for a big gain. Newton had a chance for a similar completion to Bourne, who got behind Virgin on the play, but his throw was slightly long and fell incomplete.
*After Jones' reps Belichick had a lengthy talk with the rookie off to the side while the rest of the offense continued to work. Belichick gave Jones a pat on the backside before leaving to work with the defense.
*Dont'a Hightower made a nice drop in coverage and knocked away a Brian Hoyer pass intended for Olszewski across the middle.
*More 1-on-1 work followed with the lines once again going against each on one field while the other saw two groups working near the end zone. The receivers tried to fight their way past defensive backs into the end zone while tight ends and running backs did the same against safeties and linebackers. There was some good contact during that portion of the drill, and linebacker Ja'Whaun Bentley was able to knock the ball loose from tight end David Wells. Bourne showed great quickness on his reps, easily moving in the end zone each time.
*As that period came to an end, those players worked on recovering fumbles in the open field, sliding on the run to corral the loose balls in the soggy conditions.
*Lots of laps run in the rain on Thursday, mostly for false start/offside penalties on the linemen. Josh Uche, Will Sherman, R.J. Prince, Trent Brown, Godchaux and Rashod Berry were among those seen hitting the trail.
*The final 11-on-11 segment featured more situational work and lots of reps for Jones. He connected with Henry down the seam for a nice gain, although his throw may have been a tad late. The play of the day came a bit later when he found Harry in stride crossing the middle and the wideout showed some burst as he turned it up the right sideline before being tracked down inside the 5 for a huge gain.
*Newton didn't fare as well, throwing late on his first throw to Nelson Agholor and allowing J.C. Jackson to easily knock it away. Most of his completions came on dumpoffs to J.J. Taylor and James White, and his accuracy on some of those was sketchy as well. Jonnu Smith did look explosive catching a tight end screen to start Newton's series to close practice.
*With Folk out of the lineup Quinn Nordin handled the field goals to end practice. Nordin struggled earlier with his accuracy and that inconsistency carried over. He appeared to miss at least a few of his eight attempts, although it was hard to tell for sure from our vantage point. It would have helped if the officials that were situated under the goal posts provided a signal to indicate for sure.
*The quarterbacks spoke after practice including Jones, Newton and Hoyer. Also, Myles Bryant and Joejuan Williams addressed the media as well.
*The Patriots will move inside Gillette Stadium Friday evening for a 6 p.m. practice open to season-ticket members and Foxborough residents.