The Patriots wrapped up their three-day minicamp in Foxborough on Wednesday under blue skies and near-perfect conditions. Bill Belichick was pleased with the work the team put forth over the course of the offseason program, which culminated with Wednesday's practice.
"This will be our last full team workout. Rookies will be here a little bit longer in June," Belichick said. "It's certainly been good to see everybody on the field and participating. We have a few guys in various stages of rehab and whatnot. We obviously have a long way to go but we've made a lot of progress. Trying to finish up with a good day today and get ready for training camp."
Stephon Gilmore remains away from the team and Belichick again refused to offer much detail regarding his absence. But those on the field were able to continue building on the foundation built over the past several weeks with an eye toward preparing for training camp.
"It's been a build-up. We started with a foundation and gradually built those into a group setting," Belichick said. "Whether it be punt protection, blitz pickup and things that we weren't ready to engage in a couple of weeks ago. We have a lot of things to cover but I'd say we've at least gotten a start into a majority of things like red area, two-minute so in training camp it won't be the first time we've done that stuff."
The finale likely represented the best stretch of play for Cam Newton, who appeared more assertive, decisive and unquestionably more accurate with his throws. He had two beauties on deep balls to running backs, one of which unfortunately fell incomplete.
Newton dropped a bomb over the outside shoulder of J.J. Taylor down the left sideline but the second-year running back couldn't hold on for what would have been a huge gain. Later, during a two-minute drill, Newton opened the drive with a perfect deep shot down the right sideline to James White, who made the catch to start things off with a bang.
Conversely, rookie Mac Jones appeared to struggle with his reads at times and frequently saw his passes sail well over their intended target. Some of that may be due to certain situations the coaches created for him, but he was visibly upset with himself when he closed his two-minute drive with an interception over the middle to Adrian Colbert.
The rookie has enjoyed mostly positive results through the spring, consistently getting rid of the ball quickly and accurately. But on Wednesday things seemed to be more difficult, which is all part of the process for a rookie quarterback.
Here are one man's observations from the final day of the Patriots three-day mandatory minicamp.
*Ernie Adams walked onto the fields during the opening calisthenics for the final time. Belichick closed his morning press conference with another tribute to his longtime confidant and friend and told reporters it would be Adams' final practice. Adams then fielded some questions from the media in a good-hearted exchange. (Check Patriots.com for more on Adams).
*Tashawn Bower walked off the field with nutritionist Ted Harper while the team was warming up and went to the locker room. He returned less than five minutes later and jogged into the defensive line drills.
*Trent Brown sat in between the fields stretching while the rest of his teammates went through their calisthenics. Not sure if he's nursing an injury or not but he did take part in the practice fully.
*The quarterbacks pairings were once again mixed with Cam Newton and Jarrett Stidham working on drills together while Mac Jones and Brian Hoyer did so on the other side. Jones and Hoyer began by throwing to running backs and tight ends, respectively while Newton and Stidham practiced with the wideouts in the opposite end zone. The pairs then switched ends while the targets remained in the same spots.
*Nelson Agholor has been quite active during the practices open to the media but not so on Wednesday. The wideout stood and watched most of the proceedings with his helmet in his hands and didn't take part in any 7-on-7 or full team work. He appears to be dealing with some sort of knee/leg injury.
*Brandon Bolden also appeared to be nursing a leg injury of some sort and spent time with trainers before retreating to the lower rehab fields.
*Rookie Rhamondre Stevenson had some trouble catching passes during a positional drill early in practice and did some push-ups after one ball sailed through his hands.
*While it's difficult to make evaluations based on work done in shorts and T-shirts, tight end Devin Asiasi appears more comfortable in his second year and showed some athleticism throughout the week. Asiasi caught several passes during minicamp and shows soft hands and a smoothness in his route running.
*Not sure if he's the winner of a practice player of the week competition or a Johnny Cash lookalike contest but Davon Godchaux was dressed in all black on Wednesday. His No. 92 jersey was black instead of the blue normally worn by the defense and his pants were black as well.
*Playing defensive backs at multiple positions during camps is nothing new for Belichick. In the past he's used versatile players like Eugene Wilson and Brandon Meriweather at both safety and corner throughout the spring and summer. Jalen Mills is a player who falls into that category and he's been used mostly at corner thus far.
"I think it's always good to have firsthand experience with the player to be able to be with them in meetings and walkthroughs and then practices and to see how things work with that individual player and Jalen's been great," Belichick explained. "He obviously has experience, but he's a sharp kid. He's played a lot of positions and has a pretty good overall understanding, grasp and instinctiveness about playing football, regardless of what the position is. So, the fact that he, like many others, have worked at multiple spots, just gives them a better conceptual understanding of what we're doing. So, Jalen's experience throughout the defense, playing in different spots this spring, I think helps them learn the overall concept of what we're trying to do defensively on a particular call."
With Gilmore missing from minicamp it's possible Belichick is evaluating the level of depth he has at cornerback as well should the veteran remain away from the team. Mills showed some promise in coverage at times but had some struggles on Wednesday.
*Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and outside linebackers coach Steve Belichick both donned headsets during some 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 work. The substitutes on defense stood on the far sideline alongside the defensive coaches while their offensive counterparts were aligned with McDaniels behind the huddle.
*Belichick was asked about the possibility of holding joint practices this summer and the coach said there were still some issues to be ironed out. "We're still working through some details and logistics on training camp and whatever we might do with another team," he said. "We still don't have a great direction from the league on training camp. There's some information that's still outstanding. We're not quite there yet."
*There was a lot of time spent on both red zone and third-down situations. Stidham showed great touch a on deep crossing route toward the left sideline, hitting Devin Ross in stride for a big gain. Hoyer took some of the reps in the red zone after not getting too many previously.
*The special teams focus remained on the punting game with Matthew Slater, Kristian Wilkerson, Dee Virgin and Justin Bethel serving as the gunners. Virgin has spent a lot of time working with Slater on special teams-specific roles throughout minicamp and it appears as if he's being groomed for one of those spots. Cody Davis worked as the personal protector while Jake Bailey sent some plus-50 kicks toward Gunner Olszewski and J.J. Taylor.
*While the special teams work was taking place, Jonnu Smith spent the period receiving individual instruction from tight ends coach Nick Caley. At the same time the four quarterbacks took a knee while chatting with McDaniels and new offensive assistant Bo Hardegree. Hardegree previously worked with quarterbacks in Miami.
*Stidham also took the reins for a late two-minute drill and had his moments. He threw a beautiful crosser to rookie Tre Nixon, hitting the wideout in stride for a big gain. But he also wasn't in the same page as receiver Marvin Hall and his underthrown ball was picked off by Justin Bethel. Stidham appeared to read back shoulder on the play while Hall continued downfield.
*Lots of field goal work closed the proceedings with all three getting plenty of chances. Nick Folk was a perfect 3-for-3 with kicks ranging from 43 to 50 yards while Roberto Aguayo (hit left upright) and Quinn Nordin (miss from 44) missed one each. Belichick had some of the kicks take place under "live" conditions following a competition with the clock running, requiring the field goal unit to rush onto the field as time wound down.