FOXBOROUGH, Massachusetts – Quick thoughts / notes about the New England Patriots and NFL:
1. Mac’s work ethic: Rookies are meant to be seen more than heard by the Patriots, but that can be tricky when it’s a first-round quarterback like Mac Jones.
During the first four days of training camp, Jones manages this delicate balance and earns the respect of his teammates.
“It’s not easy to play quarterback in the NFL, it’s not easy to play here. He works his butt off and cares a lot. I get text messages from him at 6am,” said Brian Hoyer. Veteran quarterback for the Patriots.
Jones, who only finished No. 2 behind Cam Newton in the first few legs, has shown great promise when it comes to processing information and releasing the ball in a timely manner.
He’s also experienced predictable growing pains, and it was common to see him go through unsuccessful games with teammates on the field after they unfolded – like what he did on Friday after a missed long connection with wide receiver Nelson Agholor or on an incomplete passport to JJ Taylor’s running back on Thursday that could have been an easier pitch-and-catch.
Jones is especially tough on himself at times, and Newton said he’s still learning how to best approach him in situations like this. In the Patriots’ second training session, Newton saddled up next to him for a conversation after a difficult period.
“I told Mac this, he doesn’t know me yet, and I don’t know him yet for convenience,” Newton said. “A few months with Mac, he’s a person you will get to know over time [fire up], or he can be the type that you leave alone and let him come back to himself. Everyone is just trying to learn from each other and be the best teammates we can. “
With that in mind, teammates have noticed Jones’ accountability on the field and how much he invested in it in the locker room.
“He’s a great guy off the field so it’s easy to play on the field with him,” said wide receiver Jakobi Meyers. “Guys who want to get better, it makes it really easy to play football with them.”
2. Gilmore’s Status: Cornerback Stephon Gilmore’s request that his contract be processed by the team remains in the same place as at the start of the training camp – no solution. Returning from surgery on his partially torn quad, Gilmore has been working on the lower practice field with rehabilitative players, and at one point last week he went upstairs with others to see the final section of regular training. The momentum is so great that Gilmore can slow down his possible return to practice, if he so wishes, until the business side is resolved. In his absence, Jalen Mills, a big money free agent, has taken over the cornerback rep to JC Jackson.
3. Harris as RB1: Coach Bill Belichick said last week that running back Damien Harris “has been here since the day after the season ended,” a level of commitment that made a positive impression on him. The coach doesn’t often talk about expectations with roles, but with Harris he admitted, “He has the opportunity to fight for a top spot and he accepted it. … I was impressed with the dedication he showed.” Harris’ main competition is the 2018 first-round pick, Sony Michel, who was absent during voluntary spring training, and the fourth-round pick, Rhamondre Stevenson, who joined the mix after being removed from the active / non-soccer injury list on Friday became. Taylor, Brandon Bolden and Tyler Gaffney complete the depth map.
4. Stidham’s reputation: Belichick broke from his usual stance of not addressing injuries and schedules when he shared that quarterback Jarrett Stidham is “going to be missing a little time,” resulting in the team’s abandonment of Jake Dolegala. After undergoing back surgery on Wednesday, Stidham will now be on the reserve / unfit list to start the season and he would be eligible to return until the end of October. The scenario could be a win-win for Stidham and the team: he’s doing his best physically, isn’t part of the original squad and could add depth later in the season depending on how things go with Newton and Jones.
5. Judon’s Sprint: When the Patriots players retreat to the conditioning hill at the end of practice, outside linebacker Matt Judon has run with the wide receivers, with his No. 9 blue jersey standing out from all white jerseys. Judon’s immersion in the patriotic culture is still in its infancy – he wasn’t there for most of spring – but he talked about it, already having a connection with linebackers Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, Ja’Whaun. build Bentley, Raekwon McMillan, Josh Uche and others. Summing up his transition from the Baltimore Ravens, he said, “Well, I’m not in hostile territory.”
6. Blues of the red zone: The Patriots had 26 touchdowns in 48 trips within the opponent’s 20-yard line last season, a 54.2% success rate that placed them 24th in the NFL. Not ideal, and maybe that’s a driving factor in why the first four days of training camp in 2021 were spent almost entirely in the red. But as Belichick pointed out, the Patriots always put great emphasis on this area at the beginning of the training camp – a reminder of its importance for the success of any team.
7. McCourty’s future: Long-time Patriots captain Devin McCourty turns 34 on August 13, entering his 12th season with the team and is in the final year of his contract. So could this be his final NFL season? McCourty said last week he hadn’t had time to think along those lines, but admitted that he’s started the past few years with a mentality that any season could be his last. “I’ll say I feel great when I go into the season. I had a good workout in the off-season,” McCourty said, before joking that the training camp was with kids ages 4, 3 and a month old too Home would be a relief. In that case, McCourty might want to play until he’s 40.
8. Mac’s courtesy: It was a small gesture, but one that could hardly be overlooked. Newton had just started his post-workout press conference on Friday, which was drawing a large crowd of reporters when Jones joined his. At this point, Jones could have stepped to one of the open microphones and started his press conference, but he decided to wait for Newton’s 15-minute session to end, presumably out of respect for Newton and (possibly) the media.
9. tick on Tuesday: The Patriots had their first four training camps, although in his opinion Belichick essentially said the camp will begin on Tuesday. Then the team can wear full pads for the first time and the pace increases. So pure ratings are being put on hold, which explains his answer to the question of how Jones does it to store information in the playbook. “We’ll see,” said Belichick. “We haven’t really gotten around to it in training camp. That will come. So I don’t know. We’ll find out.”
10. Did you know: The 2003 and 2004 Patriots were the last teams to be re-run as Super Bowl champions, and the current 16 consecutive seasons without re-winners is the longest in history.