The New England Patriots were back on the fields behind Gillette Stadium on Friday for their third straight training camp practice. Unlike the first two, this one saw the team’s players were a bit more protection — they added shells to their outfit. What did not change, though, was that there was a lot going on.
Let’s therefore take a look at the players that caught our eye, for better or worse.
Winners: TE Hunter Henry and TE Jonnu Smith. On Thursday, Patriots safety Adrian Phillips revealed that his nickname for Hunter Henry would be “Beast.” on Friday, “Beast” certainly lived up to that moniker: Henry had an impressive practice, as did fellow tight end Jonnu Smith. Both of them made highlight-reel touchdown catches at different points in the session and looked like the players New England invested top dollar in last March.
Winners: CB Jalen Mills, CB Shaun Wade and CB Marcus Jones. The cornerback competition is shaping up to be a fun one, with three players standing out on Friday. Jalen Mills, who caught Mac Jones’ first interception of camp on a miscommunication with Jakobi Meyers, had another good day in coverage and at the moment looks like New England’s CB1 on the outside. Shaun Wade and rookie Marcus Jones, meanwhile, saw plenty of opportunities guarding the slot for the starting defense.
Winner: DB Joshuah Bledsoe. Veteran Devin McCourty seeing a lighter workload meant more starter-level action for second-year man Joshuah Bledsoe, and he once again delivered. Moving between safety and slot cornerback, the former sixth-round draft pick opened 11-on-11s with the starting defense and was again very competitive. Additionally, he saw some special teams work with the top-level punt coverage unit — an underrated yet potentially important development.
Winner: G Cole Strange. The Patriots ended practice on a light note, by running a punt competition. After the Tre Nixon vs. Marcus Jones matchup ended in a tie, it was time for the big boys. The winner of that battle? First-round rookie guard Cole Strange, who caught both of the punts coming his way.
Loser: LB DaMarcus Mitchell. Where there’s a winner to a punt-catching competition, there’s a loser. Sorry, DaMarcus.
Loser: S Kyle Dugger. The Patriots tight ends having a standout day came at the expense of Kyle Dugger, with the third-year safety was on the wrong end of multiple catches by Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith in both 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 work . His positioning was mostly OK, which forced Henry and Smith to dig deep, but at the end of the day he still came up short on a significant number of his reps against the talented duo.
While those nine players stood out above the rest, others also deserve a shout-out. Defensive backs Adrian Phillips and Justin Bethel, for example, were both able to register interceptions.
On the other end of the spectrum was the ball-handling at times. Kendrick Bourne, Kristian Wilkerson, Tre Nixon and Damien Harris all had drops at one point, while Marcus Jones muffed a punt.
The Patriots will close out their first week of camp on Saturday for another 9:30 am ET session.