The Patriots were back at it on Thursday under much more favorable conditions than Wednesday's workout. The scorching 90-degree temperatures and high humidity subsided a bit, but otherwise things on the field looked much the same as a day earlier.
The team continued in the Phase 2 portion of training camp, meaning for the second straight day they donned just helmets and shorts with no pads or shells. Most of the activity involved positional drills and individual work but also featured some time for the offense and defense.
Practice time increased from 90 minutes to an hour and 45 minutes, but otherwise the OTA feel that was present on Wednesday remained.
While there still remains very little to actually evaluate at this stage of camp, here are some observations from the Patriots second practice open to Patriots.com.
*J.J. Taylor, an undrafted rookie running back out of Arizona, was the first player on the field. Taylor is undersized at 5-6, 185 but has exceptionally quick feet and the look of a possible third-down back. He is one of the players who really is affected by the loss of the preseason, as he figured to get see plenty of action and his explosiveness no doubt would have caught some attention.
*Speaking of running backs, Sony Michel remains on the active/physically unable to perform list while recovering from offseason ankle surgery. He was present but not in uniform.
*Once again all four quarterbacks, Cam Newton, Brian Hoyer, Jarrett Stidham and Brian Lewerke, took plenty of snaps, mostly while handing off while working on the running game. Newton has some interesting maneuvers as part of his warmup routine. He moves forward deliberately while gyrating his upper body, similar to some video shown of Dallas' Dak Prescott last season.
*Hoyer, Newton and Stidham also worked on some quick throws down the seam to tight ends off play action. Rookie third-round picks Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene looked smooth during the drill, as did Ryan Izzo and undradfted rookie Jake Burt.
*The early special teams work was spent on kick returns with Taylor, Isaiah Zuber, Kyle Dugger and Damiere Byrd taking turns handling the kicks. Special teams coordinator Cam Achord also worked with Matthew Slater and Joe Cardona for several minutes, rolling a big orange ball in their direction while the players simulated coverage and shed the would-be blocks while continuing forward. Cardona lost his footing on one rep and appeared to enjoy a laugh at his own expense.
*The safeties, led by new position coach Brian Belichick, spent a lot of time working the deep middle of their zones. At one point Lewerke served up deep balls so the defensive backs could race back and high-point would-be interceptions. Adrian Phillips looked quite fluid in his drops during the drill.
*It's always interesting to watch where Bill Belichick spends his time during a particular practice and on Thursday he was seen observing the offensive line for a period early on. The loss of right tackle Marcus Cannon, who chose to opt out of the 2020 season, created a hole up front and identifying who will fill it will be one of the most interesting storylines of training camp. Not much to see in that regard so far as several players have worked at the spot thus far including Korey Cunningham, Jermaine Eluemunor and Yodny Cajuste.
*Roughly midway through the practice the specialists went to the lower practice field for some individual work. Justin Rohrwasser, Jake Bailey and Cardona left together and spent most of the remainder of the workout out of our line of slight. Interestingly we have yet to catch a glimpse of Rohrwasser kicking the ball. He will be the Patriots first rookie kicker since Stephen Gostkowski in 2006.
*At several points over the last two days we've seen veteran players willing to offer some support to their younger less experienced teammates. On Thursday Jason McCourty was seen talking to Myles Bryant, a 5-9, 185-pound undrafted corner out of Washington.
*There was some emphasis on the passing game as the workout continued. The quarterbacks set some foundation for some 7-on-7 work in the future as they took reps simultaneously while targeting five receivers running separate routes. Newton connected with Gunner Olszewski on a deep corner while Stidham found Asiasi on a couple occasions as well.
*Toward the end of practice the offense worked on the two-minute drill with Newton, Stidham and Hoyer all leading their groups down the field. Newton and Asiasi hooked up on a couple of occasions, one on a beautiful seam route on which the timing appeared to be perfect. Of course, with no defense the execution on these plays should be pretty high.
*Interestingly, the practice did not end with the customary conditioning runs on the back hills. Instead, the team serenaded the McCourtys twins with a rendition of Happy Birthday. Devin and Jason turned 33 on Thursday.
*On Wednesday I noted that Stidham and Jakobi Meyers walked onto the practice field together and speculated the two appeared to form a bond during last summer's camp and preseason. Thursday saw Stidham leaving the field with N'Keal Harry. Perhaps Harry can form a similar connection with Stidham in the weeks … and years … to come.
*The Patriots will be back on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium on Friday for another non-padded practice. Once again the festivities will be closed to the public and the media.