After signing with the Patriots as free agents this offseason, Matt Judon and Jonnu Smith have been two of the most impressive players on the field this summer. Judon has slid right into the linebacker group and has shown up on practically every preseason snap he's played with a high level of effort and a demonstrated ability to make plays.
"I'm just getting a lot more comfortable with every rep I take and every meeting," said Judon after Tuesday's session. "We dive into a lot of stuff in the meetings. You gotta come out here and make mistakes to learn."
The mistakes have been hard to spot, as Judon has mixed in well with veterans like Kyle Van Noy and Dont'a Hightower, while also bringing along younger players like Josh Uche, and recently, Chase Winovich.
"As a defense, I think we're playing a lot faster than when we first got out there," said Judon, as they prepare for another set of joint practices on Wednesday and Thursday with the Giants. "I'm just happy that I'm making plays and I'm just excited to be in this defense."
But perhaps most notable is the passion that Judon plays and practices.
"I just like to have fun with the game," said Judon. "If you don't, the days can get long, it can get boring, it becomes a 'I have to' mentality instead of 'I get to.'
"Steve Smith used to say we play a kid's game for a king's ransom, I get to do that every day."
On the offensive side of the ball, Smith has given the Patriots the look of a number one tight end, something they've lacked for two seasons. Most notable is his run after catch ability, where it seems like it will be a bread-and-butter play to get Smith the ball underneath in space and let him go to work.
"I knew that they would utilize me to the best of my abilities and just create ways for me to get the ball," said Smith of the Patriots' plans for him. "Just doing what I can do for the team, taking advantage of my opportunities and making plays. I'm excited."
After missing out on joint practices and the game last week due to a minor ankle sprain, Smith looks like he didn't miss a beat, looking like his usual self in the two practices that started the week. With the Giants coming to town it's another great opportunity for Smith to continue on his track.
"It was great getting back in the swing of things, those couple days that I had to recover was big for me," said Smith, "Out here feeling good, feeling healthy.
"Mentally, I just stayed locked in as much as I could. It's another great opportunity to make up for those reps with New York coming into town. I'm looking forward to the opportunity.... These joint practices get extremely competitive, that's what we need. It's going to be good for us."
Five takeaways from camp practice
- Mac Jones got his second-straight practice of full starter reps and it was a similar performance to Monday's, with some outstanding throws and some notable misfires. The best of the day came on a deep ball to Jakobi Meyers that the receiver perfectly tracked the long throw. Jones also threw multiple interceptions, including one to J.C. Jackson that came on the same slant that Jones had capped off Monday's session with when he threw a strike to Gunner Olszewski. On Tuesday, Jackson undercut the route and made the kind of pick he's become known for. Devin McCourty also had a deflected interception during the session. Jones is now getting valuable experience at a rapid pace with Cam Newton out.
- The team will have to make five cuts to get down to the 81-player threshold (Jakob Johnson still has an exemption) and Marcus Martin was one of the notable absences from practice. Martin got a lot of high-level reps early in camp and looked to be making a push for an interior backup job. His early dismissal would be a bit of a surprise but we're coming up on the time of year with the hardest decisions. PM Update - Martin was moved to Injured Reserve on Tuesday.
- With Hunter Henry still limited (he switched to a red jersey on Tuesday) and Matt LaCosse out, the Pats continue to have just two tight ends on the field. It would be ideal to get Henry back to full strength this week to get him some game reps against the Giants. After some early intrigue, the possibilities for the offense with multiple tight ends remain more of a mystery here as we wind down preseason. PM Update - The Patriots claimed tight end Kahale Warring off waivers from the Texans.
- The hardest spots forming the 53-man roster for me at along the defensive line and at running back. Henry Anderson, Akeem Spence, Montravius Adams and Carl Davis have all gotten plenty of reps and shown flashes of how they can contribute. Mixing them with Guy, Wise, Godchaux and Barmore is the task, but it sure is nice to have options and depth that didn't exist last season.
- Olsewski is showing growing chemistry with Mac Jones, as Jones has looked his way in a number of key spots in recent practices, not to mention some of his best throws against the Eagles in the game. Jakobi Meyers remains the most consistent option, but it's hard to ignore how often Jones is looking toward Gunner lately and with N'Keal Harry out, he's getting extended reps at receiver.
Quotes of Note
Trent Brown on what he likes about the Patriots organization:
"In this business, in life period, you've got to respect and really honor straight shooters. You know what I mean? Come to work every day and just work. Nobody lets personal issues roll over into work. I respect the honesty. There's no ego. There's no one person bigger than the team. That's the most important (thing) here. Anybody can get it. Team meetings, you're messing up, you're messing up. Nobody is exempt from getting a nice tongue-lashing. That's what I respect about it. It reminds me of my upbringing. I love structure. I like the structure and I love the honesty."
Matthew Slater on Mac Jones:
"Well, I think he's a great young man. Character really counts when you talk about what we do off the football field, the way we carry ourselves ,the way we approach our profession, the way we do things in the community. That translates to the football field and I think Mac is a fine young man. His family should be proud of the way that they raised him and the way he carries himself. The way that he commands the respect of even guys like myself — older guys that have been here for a while. And he's earned that respect by the way that he's gone about his craft. So he's been a joy to work with."
J.C. Jackson on Stephon Gilmore:
"He's been around. He's helping us in meetings and stuff like that. He's always there. You got any questions about football, he's a great teammate. He gonna be there whenever you need him."