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Training camp blogservations 8/25: Tempers and temperatures heating up

The action is starting to pick up during training camp.


The days and practices are starting to blend together and that's likely the perfect scenario for Bill Belichick as he prepares his team for the regular season. Tuesday marked the 12th day of work we've been able to witness, and second straight day in pads.

There were periods where the intensity seemed to rise significantly during the two-hour workout. The growing familiarity – and the rising temperatures – likely had something to do with that. After feeling each other out and focusing on learning for week, the players are now in a situation where they're expected to understand things at a higher level, and that's led to some loud moments on the field.

The defense has generally controlled the action thus far this summer, and on Tuesday they weren't shy about letting everyone know about it. A play ended with Cam Newton forced to leave the pocket amidst several defenders and several screams were heard from the sidelines telling us "that was a sack."

Later when a two-minute drive stalled before it ever really got started, the screams directed the offense to "get off the field."

It's competitive moments like that are what camp is all about, and Belichick likely enjoyed seeing the emotion coming from both sides, even if the performances aren't always at a level where he would like.

In terms of physicality, Tuesday's practice was the second straight where the pads were popping. Offensive and defensive linemen went at it for an extended period, and the one-on-ones between receivers and defensive backs featured a lot of clutching and grabbing as well.

The matchup that has stood out the most involved N'Keal Harry and J.C. Jackson. Both are extremely physical players for their positions, and the two have locked horns about a dozen times over the past two days. Each side enjoyed some success, and in terms of styles each suits the other perfectly.

Harry likes to use his considerable frame to carve out space, particularly on back shoulder throws to the outside. Jackson loves to get his hands on the receiver and uses his strength effectively to try to disrupt routes. Most of the passes involving the pair have wound up with both players on the ground, some with Harry in possession of the ball and others not. It's been fun to watch.

Harry also has had his share of run-ins with another cornerback, Michael Jackson. This Jackson also likes to use his size (6-1, 210) to get physical with receivers, and during some blocking drills and later in 11-on-11 work the two seemed to get under each other's skin.

The tension started on Monday and carried into Tuesday's practice. The blocking work had a back taking a pitch with a blocker against a single defender. The runner would then cut inside or outside the block depending on which option was best.

When Harry met Jackson (not Sally), the two seemed less interested in where the back was going as they were in continuing to hit one another. One rep ended with the two on the ground scuffling a bit, although it certainly wouldn't qualify as a fight or anything really out of the ordinary.

Michael Jackson was acquired from Detroit just before the start of camp, and despite the late start has impressed at times. His coverage has been solid, and his reputation as a quality special teams player could help him carve a role in an otherwise deep and talented secondary.

Beyond the contact, here are some observations from Tuesday's practice.

*Stephon Gilmore returned after missing the last four practices. A Boston Herald report indicated the missed time was due to a personal issue, and Belichick said Monday during his weekly appearance on Sportsradio WEEI that Gilmore the absences were excused. He did not show much rust in his return, locking up with most of the receivers he met during the morning.

*Early in practice Kyle Dugger, Terez Hall and Jakobi Meyers went to the lower field for some conditioning work.

*The OL/DL drills saw some strong work by the blockers. Joe Thuney, Jermaine Eluemunor and David Andrews were impressive in their reps. Andrews' strength really shows in that environment as he anchors well and prevents the pass rusher from consistently gaining much penetration. Lawrence Guy and Rashod Berry were among the defenders enjoying success. Berry, who remains listed as a tight end as well as a defensive end on the roster, really got the better of fellow rookie Justin Herron on two occasions. Several defensive players ran laps during the drill, which usually means they jumped offside. At the end of the period, all of the blue shirts went for a lap.

*At the same time as the big guys were going at it the receivers and defensive backs got some work. It seemed there was a focus on getting running backs down the field against linebackers, and with much success. James White was 5 yards behind Ja'Whaun Bentley on one easy connection. Later when the 11-on-11 work was in focus, J.J. Taylor got behind his man and hauled in a long pass from Newton for about a 30-yard gain.

*The 7-on-7s again saw Newton take the bulk of the reps. Harry made an impressive grab over Jason McCourty, high-pointing the pass before coming down and holding on despite some contact. Harry is starting to make plays more regularly the last couple of days.

*When the first full team period began about halfway through practice, there was some simulated crowd noise coming from the speakers. At first it sounded like the offense was operating on an airport runway, but the noise didn't seem to bother the players much.

*One thing that has been rather consistent when the 11-on-11 work takes place is the pass rush. The defense has been able to get bodies around the passer fairly quickly, and therefore the timing on many plays has been disrupted. Derek Rivers was quite noticeable in this department on Tuesday. He did a nice job setting the edge on a couple of running plays, breaking in for a would-be tackle for loss once and applying heavy pressure on a couple of passes. Rivers has been the victim of some tough luck in his young career with a pair of torn ACLs in three season, but he could have a chance to claim a significant role on the edge if he can stay healthy.

*Watching Newton throughout practice can be an interesting experience. The quarterback enjoys playing and his mannerisms are fun to track. While working near the goal line at one point and was able to run into the end zone and celebrated his touchdown with a patented basketball Euro-step toward the goal post and finger roll over the cross bar.

*For the second straight day both kickers got some work late in practice. Nick Folk led off and went 3-for-3 on kicks ranging from 28-50 yards. Justin Rohrwasser then hit from 28 and 50 but pushed his 43-yarder form the left hash wide right. Folk got another attempt, this one from 53 yards out, a connected to cap off the final two-minute drive.

*Speaking of the last drive, it did not go well for the offense. Newton had a couple of short completions but was unable to sustain any momentum. He tried to hit Gunner Olszewski across the middle but the receiver was blanketed. James White's attempted slant was also snuffed out. The latter play came on what would have been fourth down, leading the defense to direct the offense off the field. Another set of downs didn't work out much better. Newton hit Ryan Izzo to start things, but a short throw to Mohamed Sanu led to a spike with :36 left. Then Newton scrambled before finding White for another short gain, leading to another spike with just :21 to go. A failed screen had the clock running and Newton barely spiked it with just one tick remaining, leading to Folk's bomb to close it out.

*Terrence Brooks, Chase Winovich and Damien Harris were among those chatting with the media via video conference after practice.

*The Patriots will be back to work on Wednesday morning with practice set for 10 a.m. in Foxborough.

Check out photos of the Patriots during Training Camp at Gillette Stadium on Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020.

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