After a day off on Saturday the Patriots were back at it in sunny Foxborough Sunday morning. Wearing helmets, shells and shorts, the players went through the paces for about two hours with an emphasis on instruction seemingly evident throughout the day once again.
Sunday featured mostly Cam Newton directing the offense with some Brian Hoyer sprinkled in late, particularly when he led off a pair of two-minute drills to close things out. Newton looks more comfortable every day and his energy and enthusiasm remain impossible to ignore.
The performance on Sunday was promising, although certainly not under the most intense conditions. While directing things in both 7-on-7 and full team periods, Newton got rid of the ball more decisively that we've consistently seen in previous practices.
The timing also seemed to improve, most notably on some swing passes in the flat involving Damien Harris, Rex Burkhead and Julian Edelman. Newton and Edelman have spent a lot of time together over the past week and a half and perhaps that effort is starting to show on the practice field.
"We're just trying to get to know each other ... trying to build a rapport," Edelman said after practice of the work with Newton. The wideout also said he's spent extra time with Hoyer and Stidham, but on Sunday it seemed to be mostly Newton.
Newton capped his two-minute drive with a touchdown pass to Mohamed Sanu in the end zone. It was a strong throw on a slant into solid coverage, but Sanu showed strong hands on the play and made the grab. It wasn't all perfect for Newton as some of his throws seemed to sail on him, particular on an out route toward Edelman early in practice. He also overshot Damiere Byrd in the end zone, but overall it was a solid day for the former MVP.
The interaction between Newton and his teammates has been tough to miss. Whether it's fist bumps in the huddle before a period or more individual conversations like the one between the quarterback and center David Andrews on Sunday, Newton's efforts to ingratiate himself has been evident.
Beyond that, here are some observations from Sunday's two-hour workout.
*Adrian Phillips was dressed for practice but went down to the lower field for some conditioning work. He returned about 30 minutes later and watched the rest of the safeties as they worked in drills. Phillips' work in coverage has been impressive thus far this summer and he is a leading candidate to replace Patrick Chung next to Devin McCourty in the starting lineup.
*Another safety, Kyle Dugger, was seen riding a stationary bike during practice and didn't take part in any team drills.
*Fellow rookies Josh Uche and Anfernee Jennings lined up together at linebacker during drills and both were asked to call the defensive signals at times.
*Newcomer Paul Quessenberry was on the field wearing the No. 48 after being signed over the weekend. Quessenberry was a defensive end at Navy but is listed as a tight end. He spent a lot of time working with fullback Jakob Johnson on Sunday.
*Byrd's speed has been apparent throughout camp as the wideout has consistently gotten behind the coverage when asked to get deep. That speed also seems to be helping him back off the coverage a bit as he also frees himself effectively on deep comeback routes near the sidelines. It's been common to watch Byrd run directly at a corner, only to stop quickly and come back toward the football for a pretty easy connection. He seems to run those routes quite often and with plenty of success.
*Devin Asiasi has shown some ability as a receiver but also has fought off some inconsistency during camp. Sunday was one of those days. He caught a short pass in 7-on-7s but soon fumbled, causing him to run a lap. He later ran another lap during 11-on-11 work and had a bad drop in between. Asiasi moves pretty well and gets down the seam, and some of his mistakes no doubt are a result of inexperience. He did grab a couple of passes from Hoyer to kick off the late two-minute drill.
*Justin Rohrwasser did some kicking on Sunday, which is notable because it hasn't happened often when the media has been watching. He did some work with just Joe Cardona and Jake Bailey on the opposite field before booting some field goals under full team conditions. He seemed to struggle a bit with some of his kicks not generating much height. He did make 2 of 4 field goals with the attempts ranging from 38-46 yards, and at least one of the misses likely would have been good if not attempted toward the skinny goal posts. The rookie has spent a lot of time riding the bike at practice so it's possible he's been dealing with a physical problem and that's the reason he hasn't had a huge workload thus far. It also might explain various reports indicating Nick Folk could be re-signing in New England soon.
*N'Keal Harry missed some practice time last week but was back on the field Sunday. The second-year wideout still appears to have trouble getting open consistently, and a handful of passes thrown his way wound up incomplete. He tried to get deep with Justin Bethel in coverage but the corner was with him stride-for-stride and prevented the connection. Late in practice after a two-minute drill he appeared to be struggling physically and went to one knee on the opposite sideline behind a light pole while practice continued. A member of the training staff came over and the two walked back to where the rest of the offense was at that point and practice soon ended.
*In addition to Edelman several players spoke to the media via video conference. That group included Jonathan Jones, Byron Cowart, Andrews, Korey Cunningham and Jason McCourty.
*The Patriots are scheduled to practice once again on Monday and what figures to be the team's fourth practice in full pads.