Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Patriots training camp observations on Day 4: Mac Jones throws pick-6 as offense struggles during 11-on-11s

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The Patriots‘ first week of training camp is in the books. Saturday’s session did have a bit of a slower pace to it than some of the other practices over the course of the week as the team gears up for the first string of full-padded workouts next week. 

As for how this practice went, it was another win for the defense. Mac Jones and the offense did find success during the 7-on-7 drills throughout the morning, but once things got a bit more competitive in the 11-on-11s, it was downhill for the unit as a whole. In terms of attendance, it was the status quo with quarterback Brian Hoyer and pass rusher Deatrich Wise the two notable players missing along with those who are on the PUP and NFI lists.

Below, you’ll find all the highlights from this latest training camp practice just outside Gillette Stadium. 

Defense stout during 11-on-11s

The offense seemed flustered throughout practice. While there were a couple of standout plays, the day was largely won by the defense. That was particularly true during the 11-on-11 periods where Jones and rookie Bailey Zappe combined to complete nine of their 20 passes by my count. Specifically, Jones was 4-of-7 in the 11-on-11 session during which the ball was placed around midfield and 2-of-5 when the 11-on-11s moved into the red zone.

That already abysmal completion percentage for the day by both QBs is arguably even more generous than how things actually played out on the field, as both quarterbacks were forced to scramble in the pocket after their initial reads weren’t there. Had this been a regular season affair, it’s quite possible those would’ve been registered as sacks. 

The high point for the defense came in the final moments of practice and within the 11-on-11 portion that was focused in the red zone. Jones’ pass was intended for DeVante Parker in the end zone, but safety Kyle Dugger was able to jump the route, intercept the pass, and run it to the other end of the field for a pick-six. That turnover had the entire offense get down to the turf for push-ups. It was also a quick redemption for Dugger, who allowed Jones to complete a touchdown pass to Hunter Henry on the play prior. 

Terrance Mitchell, Jalen Mills, Malcolm Butler, Marcus Jones, and Jack Jones were all able to break up passes Saturday. Joejuan Williams also had a nice PBU on a Zappe throw intended for Devin Asiasi during a 7-on-7s period that featured music blaring from the speakers. 

“We just came out firing on all cylinders,” said rookie Jack Jones, who broke up a pass intended for Tyquan Thornton from Zappe during 7-on-7s. “The defense came out with juice. After the defense made a play, we just fed off of that.”

Jakobi Meyers with the highlight catch

 One of the bright points from the offense came from fourth-year receiver Jakobi Meyers. During the 11-on-11s that took place in the red zone, Jones threw a 50-50 ball in the back right corner of the end zone. Meyers was able to beat the double coverage of Mitchell and Shaun Wade and leap up to secure the catch. That grab arguably got the biggest pop by the fans in attendance.

Bailey Zappe flashes

With Hoyer (undisclosed) missing practice for a second-consecutive day, Zappe got a heavier workload behind Jones. Throughout camp, the Western Kentucky rookie has been erratic and, at times, struggled with his touch. There have been some balls on shorter routes that have zipped to their intended receivers with a little too much fire, making it difficult for the pass-catchers to make the play. All that said, Zappe has also flashed why the Patriots decided to take him in the fourth round of the draft earlier this spring. 

During 11-on-11s, Zappe was able to connect with Kristian Wilkerson on a deep ball where the third-year receiver was working against tight coverage from rookie corner Jack Jones. 

“He made a great catch,” Zappe told reporters after practice. “Really good play by him.” 

With Hoyer sidelined, Zappe has gotten a taste of what life is like as a backup in the NFL, being thrust into an added workload at a moment’s notice.

“Just taking advantage of your reps when you get them,” said Zappe. “That’s what everybody is doing here. Like I said, we’re just trying to take it day-by-day, try to get better as a team, and continue to get ready for the season.” 

On the day, Zappe was 3-for-8 passing during 11-on-11s and 4-for-9 during 7-on-7s.

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Bill Murray on position change

Bill Murray has spent his first two seasons with the Patriots as a member of the practice squad. As he looks to Year 3 with the organization, the William & Mary product is going through a position change. Coming into camp, Murray has converted from a defensive tackle to a guard. 

“I’m just here to help the team out in any way possible,” said Murray. “Coach wanted me to try out offense line, so I’m going to give it everything I got and help out the team any way I can.” 

“I’m excited,” he later added when asked what his reaction was when the coaching staff asked him to make the switch. “It’s an opportunity. All I can be is grateful for this opportunity and take it in stride.” 

When asked how the transition process has been through four non-padded practices, Murray said: “It’s a whole new position. It’s very tough. My teammates have been very helpful, the coaches have been very helpful, and every day I’m just trying my best and just getting better every day.” 

Murray said the last time he played along the offensive line was during high school. 

Ty Montgomery gets reps as a returner

As the Patriots were running through kickoff return drills during a special teams section of practice, veteran Ty Montgomery, who signed a two-year deal with the team this offseason, was seen getting some reps as a returner. Montgomery does have experience in that role, returning 57 kickoffs throughout his career, and that could be a way to secure himself a spot on the final 53-man roster. 

Trent Brown takes a lap

As the team lined up for the final 11-on-11 period of the day, Trent Brown committed a false start which forced him out of the rotation to run a lap down the field and back. So far in camp, Brown has been solidified as New England’s left tackle. 

First full-padded practice on deck

Saturday’s session was a little bit slower in terms of the pace, which may have been a conscious decision by the coaching staff. The club won’t be on the practice field on Sunday, so the next time we’ll see the Patriots will be for their first full-padded practice of camp. This is really the start of the action, as we’ll get a better sense of how the pieces on the current roster look when live contact — aka actual football — is now in the mix. 

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