The Patriots began the second week of training camp by practicing in full pads for the first time this summer, signaling that real football has arrived at Gillette Stadium for the 2022 season.
After four straight days of heavy passing work in the red zone to start camp, the Patriots moved into the middle of the field and ramped up the contact with a run-heavy first practice in full pads.
With the emphasis on the play in the trenches, Senior Football Advisor and offensive line coach Matt Patricia discussed the progress the offense is making in the early stages of Training Camp.
"The first day in pads is always great. I know the energy will be great out there, and the competition will be high," Patricia told reporters early Monday morning.
"The good thing is that, as an offensive staff, we try to split a lot of the meetings," Patricia said of the system in place for the coordinator-less offense. "We look at it as a shared responsibility right now. We have an established culture here that we all understand that input comes across the board. When a hard decision needs to be made, we are lucky enough that our head coach here is involved in all aspects of the game."
New England is in the midst of installing some new elements to their offensive system, it appears. As a result, it was a disjointed first day in pads for Mac Jones and company.
Asked about the changes the Patriots are making to their offense this season, Patricia said, "I think a lot of offenses have certain variations. Any time there's a transition if you're talking volume and things like that, some of it may change."
"Philosophically, we are just going to go out and evaluate the players to see what we have that we want to be able to utilize. We'll always adapt to what we have as a team and what we think is best for the players on the field," Patricia continued.
Although Patricia appears to be in the mix to take on play-calling duties, he's also working closely with the offensive line along with assistant offensive line coach Billy Yates.
Along with potential schematic changes, the Patriots offensive line is moving several pieces around, and the new five-man unit is still a work in progress.
One of the biggest changes up front is that returning starting tackles, Trent Brown and Isaiah Wynn, appear to be flipping sides as Brown works at left tackle and Wynn on the right side. That, and rookie Cole Strange and second-year guard Mike Onwenu on the interior, means that it could take some time for this group to gel.
"Trying to get everyone in a position that we think can help the team the most," was the thought process behind flipping Brown and Wynn, according to Patricia. "Trying to make sure we package the right guys on the field that we can, especially with the offensive line. That's one position where five guys are trying to see the game through the same set of eyes."
As a whole, the offensive line and running game looked rusty. But even while switching sides, Wynn looks more prepared for the season this summer than he did at this time last year.
The Pats had two successful runs during team periods on Monday, and both runs came behind Wynn, including what would've been a long gain for Damien Harris through the right side.
"I'm trying to get better on the daily," Wynn said after practice. "I'm just working on getting better. Wherever they are going to put me, I'm going to be. Whatever position you are at, you are trying to get better."
During the first live one-on-ones of camp, Wynn held his own against pass-rushers Josh Uche and Anfernee Jennings. Other strong reps came from Brown, who planted Uche into the ground on a speed rush, and Onweu won his first rep decisively against Lawrence Guy.
In all, there were 31 repetitions for the offensive line and pass-rushers in full contact one-on-ones, with rookie Cole Strange having a "welcome to the NFL moment" against second-year pass-rusher Christian Barmore. Head coach Bill Belichick coached up Strange after several reps on Monday morning.
To be fair to the rookie, Barmore was a handful for every Patriots blocker in the first padded practice, capping a dominant one-on-one period by introducing undrafted rookie Kody Russey to the pros as well. Other standouts on the defensive side of the ball in one-on-ones were Davon Godchaux (win versus David Andrews) and Henry Anderson, while undrafted rookie LaBryan Ray got into the backfield a few times during team periods.
With several new pieces and a transitioning coaching staff, it's not a surprise that the Patriots offense is exhibiting growing pains in the early stages of training camp.
The overall direction the Patriots appear to be going in looks sound, but patience will be key through the first few weeks of the summer as the changes take hold.