The Patriots held their second padded practice of the summer on Thursday under rainy conditions that posed a new challenge after the first week had taken place under mostly ideal conditions.
As usual, the quarterbacks took centerstage as their progress over the opening week has already been notable.
"The thing for me and everybody else is just keep improving," said Cam Newton after practice. "A lot is going to take the first couple of days, but the realization of body demeanor, different skillsets, different sizes, different athleticism, different elusiveness, and then playing in weather today. There's so many different factors you have to weigh. Being the signal-caller you just got to be able to deliver and do your job, that process will take time."
For rookie Mac Jones it's been a crash course in being a professional football player but he's following the lead of the team's veterans and not wasting a moment during the hectic early days of camp.
"When we have our free time you've got to get better at something," said Jones. "Always try just to do something in my free time...watch film, draw, get treatment. I've noticed all the good players do that. I'm learning from some of the good players on our team. Every minute of the day counts. If you get time off, whether you're eating, eat, then go find something to get better at."
While there have certainly been some highlight moments from camp -- the defense's goal-line stand from last week, Nelson Agholor and Jonnu Smith's impressive catches or the multitude of interceptions on Wednesday -- the team is entering the grind portion, where the long days may start to catch up with them. It may not seem like fun right now, but that can come if the foundation is properly laid here in August.
"I like to compete and everybody on this team likes to compete and at the end of the day we're trying to have fun and it's fun when you play with urgency and you go fast and put the defense on their heels and people start making plays," said Jones. "That's what makes football fun but when you're kind of moping around it all starts with the quarterback, I'm starting to realize that even more how important it is in this offense and learning from Brian, Cam, and everybody, just how they do it. They have great energy. Just get the ball to the speed players and let 'em run and when they score, celebrate. That's what you're supposed to do, it's football."
Those plays are coming and have shown up over the course of camp, as Josh McDaniels looks to mold the quarterbacks into his offense and find consistency for his offense.
"It's just a collaborative effort, that's what I appreciate about Josh is he asks for my input," said Newton. "I ask certain things that I may be watching. These days everything is so structured... it can be a text message, it can be a quick 15-second phone call. He's just so open-minded about that."
For now, as the dog days of training camp approach, the short-term focus is critical. Get a little better, one day at a time.
"I think for me it's just don't have too high expectations, and just go out there and do what I'm supposed to do," said Jones. "Every day's a new day, but you have to get better."
5 Takeaways from Training Camp Practice No. 8
- The weather certainly played a role in today's practice and it was a good chance for the team to deal with some adverse conditions. There were a lot more drops than the previous sessions, something to be expected but the sure hands of Jakobi Meyers and N'Keal Harry stood out. Harry had one of the best plays of his Patriots career on Thursday, an impressive catch and run that had him flexing along the sideline.
- It was a better day for Mac Jones at the quarterback spot as he continued to look more comfortable and continued to take a lot of reps. One of his best throws of the day went to Hunter Henry along the sideline, a ball that came out of the quarterback's hand well before the break. Throwing with anticipation is a skill Mac has carried with him from college to the pros.
- Cam Newton took a step back on Thursday after delivering a string of strong performances. One thing that remains with Newton though -- when he misses his windows to throw he'll always have his legs to make something out of nothing. That ability is a big part of why he's likely to open the season as the starter.
- Tre Nixon looks to be making some strides. Admittedly buried on the depth chart and getting fewer reps than most of the other receivers, Nixon's quickness is starting to stand out. He also made a couple tough catches in the rain, while choosing to opt for the bare-hands approach.
- Speaking of receivers, it's been tough to get a true read on Kendrick Bourne, but I think he's one player that will be much more of a standout when the team can scheme the ball to him and get him in space. His high energy and quickness after the catch should be nice additions to the offense this year.
Quotes of Note
Myles Bryant on Stephon Gilmore still being a helpful teammate:
"Even though Steph is a naturally quiet guy, he's always willing to share information. I thank him for that, the other guys in our room thank him for that. Just his insight, his intellect on the game and how to play the cornerback position is obviously one of the best. Just having him in the room, having the opportunity to learn from him has been great."
JoeJuan Williams on the value of having experience playing together:
"It's just been good, you build chemistry with those guys and it's good to have that because most of the guys in the DB room can play corner, safety, whatever position they need to. Again, it's all about having a variety of things you can do to impact the defense."
Brian Hoyer on practicing in the rain:
"Yeah, I think it's always good because you never know when those are going to come up, you never know what the forecast will be on gameday. It's good to test yourself with the quarterback-center exchange, it's good to figure out how you're going to throw the ball. I think the one thing at quarterback is you can't overgrip it, you can't overthrow it, those are the ones that tend to sail on you in the rain.
Check out photos of the Patriots practicing at Training Camp on a rainy morning on Thursday, Aug. 5. 2021.