After Wednesday’s practice was the hottest of the summer so far, the New England Patriots returned to work today in more friendly conditions: temperatures were a bit cooler while clouds made it a more enjoyable experience for the thousands again in the stands. The session itself saw more sloppiness on the offensive side of the ball, but the unit bounced back late behind the standout performances of two rookie wide receivers.
New England’s offense opened the session with an 11-on-0 drill, practicing up-tempo work with Tom Brady under center. Isaiah Wynn and Dan Skipper rotated in and out of the lineup at left tackle, while undrafted rookie Jakobi Meyers also saw starter-level reps. Skipper and Meyers also ran with the starters during the first competitive 11-on-11 period of the day.
Meyers’ impressive first training camp continued today not just because of his usage: the undrafted rookie made some of the best plays of the day. First, he caught a pass over a tightly covering Jason McCourty before making what is arguably the best play of camp so far: he went up between Patrick Chung and Keion Crossen, tipped the ball to himself, and caught it for a touchdown. It’s early, yes, but at this rate it is hard to see Meyers not being the frontrunner for the final wide receiver spot.
After a sloppy day on Wednesday, N’Keal Harry bounced back in style today. The first-round rookie looked comfortable catching the football — he made a diving reception during 11-on-11s and later beat Joejuan Williams for a 50-yard gain — and also was physical against press-man coverage in his 1-on-1 work. Harry showed a lot of mental toughness after dropping four would-be receptions yesterday.
Speaking of bouncing back: Braxton Berrios also had a good day after a forgettable Wednesday. The second-year man won two of his three 1-on-1 reps — including one during which he beat the otherwise stout Jonathan Jones — and also saw considerable top-unit reps again during team drills.
At one point, the entire offense had to run back-to-back penalty laps. The first came because of consecutive false starts by Shaq Mason and James Ferentz, the second because of a fumbled hand-off between Tom Brady and Sony Michel. All in all, the unit again was sloppy for most of the session before bouncing back late.
The Patriots’ defensive backs won about half of their 1-on-1s against the team’s wide receivers, with J.C. Jackson, Keion Crossen, Duke Dawson and D’Angelo Ross registering pass breakups. Ross, in fact, had two of them — both against camp standout Maurice Harris — while only surrendering one catch. The undrafted rookie continues to make plays.
With Patrick Chung still wearing the red non-contact jersey, former second-round draft pick Obi Melifonwu continues to see considerable reps at safety alongside Devin McCourty.
Michael Bennett again stood out during 1-on-1 drills. He was able to get past Shaq Mason on one drill and moved Joe Thuney back on another.
New England’s goal-line defense came away victoriously on five consecutive rushing attempts from the 1-yard line. Seeing the unit dominate in this part of the field is nothing new, it also happened during Sunday’s practice.
New England rotated its punts returners today, with Brandon Bolden, Phillip Dorsett, Jonathan Jones and Matt LaCosse all lining up deep at one point. The first three also practiced kickoff returns — as did Braxton Berrios, Damoun Patterson and, for the first time, Stephon Gilmore. The All-Pro cornerback later also played quarterback during a light-hearted stretch to close practice.