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Surprise Standouts During the Patriots First Two Days of Padded Practices

Steve Balestrieri
Steve Balestrieri on Twitter
August 19, 2020 at 7:29 am ET

🕑 Read Time: 4 minutes

The pads finally came on during the Patriots training camp and not a moment too soon. The opening game is less than a month away and with no preseason games to tune up and evaluate the roster, padded practices now become the only discriminator for Bill Belichick and the coaching staff to make their decisions. 

As always with training camp, it is a double-edged sword to read too much into what is being reported at practice. It isn’t a true game situation, but that is all the fans and media have to work off of. And this year, due to the pandemic, it is all the coaches have as well. However, there are other factors involved.

The passing concepts in training camp are basic, which tends to favor the defense as they will recognize what the offense is doing and it makes their coverage a bit easier. And with no true full-contact other than between the offensive and defensive lines, it makes it harder to get a full read on things. 

So, with that caveat in mind, things have been getting back to a more normal football situation down at Gillette. The practices have more of a regular-season feel to them without 10,000+ fans in attendance. And with the announcement that no fans will be allowed in Gillette through the month of September, that isn’t changing soon.

And like every other season, there are surprises at the outset of camp. 

Of course with the QB situation, everyone wants to know about Cam Newton. And as we’ve been writing since he signed, his grasp of the offense, as well as his health will be the deciding factors on if he’s the Day 1 starter. 

And so far, that has been the story in the very early going. Newton has been taking a bit too long on processing things, as should be expected, before getting rid of the ball. That will all come with time. But health-wise, he seems just fine, he’s putting some impressive zip on the ball which is a great sign, especially with his previously injured shoulder. 

As for Jarrett Stidham, (OH MY GAWD! He threw three picks, the guy is a loosah!), it is time to step back and exhale folks. Stidham is showing that he’s willing to force the ball into tight spaces in practice in an attempt to make plays in practice. And that isn’t something that is rare…one Jimmy Garappolo used to do the same thing. R-E-L-A-X. 

And on at least one of the picks, according to our friend Evan Lazar, his wide receiver (Byrd) seemed like he rounded off a comeback route, which Michael Jackson read perfectly beat him to the ball (no pun intended). 

Stidham showed a finer grasp of the offense as we predicted and also threw the nicest pass of the day on Tuesday, a perfectly placed deep out to speedster Damiere Byrd, who beat Jason McCourty on the play.

Along the offensive line, it seems that Jermaine Eluemunor is getting the first reps at right tackle, settling in…for now at Marcus Cannon’s right tackle position. The 6’4, 325-pound guard, now tackle presents an intriguing skill set for the coaching staff. With him and Shaq Mason paired on the right side, the team will have two road grading run blockers. And with an increased focus on the running game, this could give the team a nice edge on the ground. 

With Eluemunor however, moving from guard to tackle, he’ll have to show the footwork and quickness to stop the pass rushers, especially the speed rushers. It will bear watching as the days’ tick by as the season nears. 

After not taking a snap at all either in practice or a game during his rookie season, Yodny Cajuste is being treated like a rookie (which in essence he is), so far this summer. He’s being brought along slowly and the OL coaches are constantly in his ear after every snap. That isn’t an indictment of Cajuste at all. He hasn’t played any football in over 18 months and they’re bringing him up to speed gradually. But we’re only talking about Day 2 with pads, so things could change.

Wide Receiver Devin Ross seems to be making the most of his opportunities. He has been making plays and has shown the speed to get by the defenders and stretch the field, something this offense sorely needs.  The diminutive 5’9,189-pound Ross was on the Patriots practice squad a year ago, and with the UDFA Jeff Thomas absent, Ross so far is turning some heads.  

Mohamad Sanu is healthy and in great shape and has put on an absolute clinic on precise route running for the younger receivers which is encouraging to see. Sanu isn’t a burner by any stretch, but did slip by the defenders and caught another perfectly thrown Stidham ball over his outside shoulder. 

N’Keal Harry is noticeably lighter and worked all offseason on his footwork, trying to get a bit quicker off the line. One area of his game that is improved is his hand usage. 

The running game has gotten a lot of work early with Rex Burkhead and Damien Harris getting a lion’s share of the reps. Both have looked good in the early going. With Sony Michel and Lamar Miller on PUP, Harris is making the most of his opportunities, something we were looking for this summer. 

He can run, pass block, and catch. He made a nice one-handed grab of a pass that showed his soft hands, something he was very good at in Alabama. Now with his red-shirt rookie season behind him, he looks like he may be ready to make a big step up. 

Jakob Johnson at fullback and Devin Asiasi were also singled out as shining in the running game for their blocking. Asiasi also caught a wide-open TD pass from Newton when the defense bit hard on play-action on the goalline and the pair hooked up. 

Defensively, the run defense missed big Beau Allen but Lawrence Guy has been his solid self in the early going. Stephon Gilmore has been outstanding, which is no surprise. 

One interesting development is that the coaches are throwing rookies Kyle Dugger and Josh Uche right into the mix, moving the rookie LB from Michigan on the edge and inside and taking advantage of his uber-athleticism. 

Lazar commented on our 4th & 2 videocast that Dugger has been all over the field and is making plays. He undercut a deep pass from Stidham and picked it off. 

Jake Bailey was booming punts, working on his +50 punts. And he seems in mid-season form 

Stay tuned…

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Belichick’s Comments Fuel Dual QB Platooning Scenario

About Steve Balestrieri

A former US Army Special Forces NCO and Officer, Steve has been following the Patriots since their days at Fenway Park. Steve has worked in the film industry and wrote as an Military Editor at, as a reporter for the Millbury Daily Voice, Millbury-Sutton Chronicle, and the Grafton News. He's also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

Tags: Bill Belichick Cam Newton Devin Ross Jarrett Stidham Jermaine Eluemunor Josh Uche Kyle Dugger N'Keal Harry New England Patriots NFL Patriots 2020 training camp

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