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New England Patriots News August 1, Training Camp Notebook

Steve Balestrieri
Steve Balestrieri on Twitter
2 months ago at 5:00 am ET
Posted Under: Patriots News

New England Patriots News August 1, Training Camp Notebook

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 8-1, it is great to be talking about the first days of training camp. And seeing fans back in the stands was great. 

The happiest of birthdays to our friend from across the pond Clare Cooper aka @Clazzyclare on Twitter. Enjoy the day!

Be sure to check out our early 53-man roster projection as we’ll be adjusting it after the first week of training camp is in the books.

Have you checked out our team news feature for all 32 teams yet? It is a great resource to keep up with what is going on all across the NFL. 

 Quick Hitters For the Pats, and the NFL: 

“Nobody Wants to Play in New England”: The Patriots’ new defensive lineman Davon Godchaux spoke with the media at camp this week and said that he came to the Patriots for one reason…Bill Belichick. 

“Of course coach Belichick,” Godchaux said. “He kind of speaks for himself, the program, historic program, one of the best, if not the best in the NFL. The same defense as down south I played in Miami. It was kind of a no-brainer.”

Godchaux said that the Patriots reached out to him a couple of times during free agency and told him that he believed he’d be a solid fit in the system, needing a big, run-stuffing two-gap defensive lineman. And the Patriots paid Godchaux well, signing him to a two-year, $16 million deal.

Godchaux won’t get a chance to show what he can do until Tuesday when the pads come on and as he said, the “real football” starts. 

Rhamondre Stevenson: The rookie running back was on the field on Friday for the first time so he’s off of PUP. The timing is good because the pads come on this week so, he’ll be able to show what he can do.

Ted Karras: On the flip side, Karras was rolled up on during a play and was forced to leave the field, with the trainers, and didn’t return. However, he was able to walk off under his own power. That will bear watching. 

Ron Rivera: The coach of the Washington football team who went through cancer treatments last year is sounding off about his team’s lack of participation in COVID-19 vaccinations. 

And while players and coaches are free to choose whether or not to get vaccinated, Rivera’s perspective, as someone whose own immune system is compromised by cancer, is worthy of note. 

“I’m truly frustrated, I’m beyond frustrated,” said Rivera. ” I’m immune-deficient, OK? So with this new variant, who knows?

“So, when I’m in a group and the group’s not vaccinated or there’s a mixture, I put the mask on, and I do that for health reasons because nobody really knows. I have to do that. And I just wish and I hope that our guys can understand that.”

Rivera was then the subject of tweets from former NFL DB T.J. Ward who attacked Rivera and his life choices as to why he had cancer. Starting off stating he should “park the Riverboat”, in a jab at Rivera’s nickname, Ward said, “Don’t blame the players for your lifelong health decisions.”

“At some point, you gotta pay for them vices. Cancer runs in my family like many American families. But also bad diets and cigarettes do as well. Except [sic] responsibility. Don’t blame and be disappointed in your 23 year olds cus they have they [sic] own bodies and opinions about there [sic] health.”

Ward later deleted the tweet and gave a half-hearted apology, but then blamed the Twitter backlash on people not being free thinkers as he was just plain awful. Blaming Rivera’s skin cancer on “bad diets and cigarettes”?  

Aaron Rodgers: The Packers QB, who just agreed to a reworked contract converting some of his owed money into roster bonuses, which saves the Packers around $10 million in salary-cap space in 2021 is among the most talented and least likable players in the NFL.

Rodgers could care less of course, because he only wants to talk about Aaron Rodgers and only cares about Aaron Rodgers. Between his wearing an “I’m offended” t-shirt to his rambling statement earlier where he said: 

“Sometimes the loudest person in the room is not the smartest person,” Rodgers said. “Sometimes the loudest person in the room is not the person who has all the facts on their side or the truth on their side. Sometimes there’s a lot of wisdom in silence. Sometimes there’s a lot of wisdom in being selective on what you say. This offseason I’ve spent a lot of time working on myself.”

As the comic Ron White said about himself but is equally applicable to Rodgers under different circumstances. He has the “right to remain silent…but not the ability.” And the legion of Brady-haters say he is arrogant? 

Jarrett Stidham: The Patriots’ backup quarterback is expected to be out until at least mid-to-late October after undergoing successful back surgery this week. Stidham was placed on PUP at the beginning of training camp because he was reportedly in “significant pain” in his shoulder and back when throwing.  The team signed former Packers practice squad QB Jake Dolegala to replace Stidham. 

This injury doesn’t bode well for Stidham carving out any long-term role with the team. With Cam Newton and Mac Jones competing for the starting job, he was the third QB at best this summer. We’ll have to see how the team feels down the road whether he gets another shot. 

4th & 2 Podcast: If you haven’t checked out our PatsFans.com podcast, “Patriots 4th & 2” in a bit, please check it out. Our latest was our 10th-anniversary episode, where we welcomed back our former co-host Damien as well as our owner, Ian Logue, who we’ve been trying to get on the podcast for 10 years…perseverance paid off.

Russ Francis/Chuck Fairbanks: The former Patriot tight end and head coach both should be in the Patriots team Hall of Fame…this will be on our Sunday posts until it happens.

Cam Newton

Cam Newton was open about his struggles with timing, but had his best practice on Friday. (Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports)

Training Camp Begins, What’s Happening With the QBs:

The Patriots kicked off training camp under wet skies this week but it was the first time the fans got to watch a practice since 2019 when Tom Brady was still the quarterback.  

The quarterback play was first and foremost on everyone’s mind but it is really tough to get a great feel yet without the pads coming on. Both Cam Newton and Mac Jones played well and Newton’s comments after practice on Friday were telling despite what Bill Belichick has said time and again that Newton “is our quarterback.”

Newton told the media, “ever since I’ve been here, it’s been a quarterback competition,” he said. “That, in essence, is the Patriot Way,” he added. So, he isn’t taking anything for granted. 

While both have played well, there has been a noticeable difference in how fast the ball comes out. Newton has traditionally has held the ball longer and has the ability to make plays happen with his feet. However, with the Patriots offense, timing is extremely important and Jones, as he did in Alabama, gets the ball out quickly, and accurately, allowing players to get the ball in rhythm. 

NBC Sports Boston’s Tom Curran asked Newton about what, at times is taking so long to get the ball out. Newton answered the question and admitted that at times, he IS taking too long. 

“That’s what training camp’s all about,” he said. “Of course, we have this mental in our head that, in the classroom or when we’re meeting, coach asks a question — boom, that’s where we’re supposed to go with the ball. (On the field it’s like), ‘OK, now you’ve got Devin McCourty showing something. Kyle Dugger’s showing something. Then all of a sudden, Hightower jumps over here and all of a sudden, it’s like ‘What do I do? What do I do? What do I do? It’ just taking the brain a little longer at times. But hopefully, with a lot of repetitions, it’ll be good.” 

While camp started off slowly for the offense, both QBs had good days on Friday, with each making some nice throws down the field. Jones had a really nice throw right in the bucket to Nelson Agholor (more below) who dropped it, despite having a ton of separation on the play. While the competition is developing, it is a long way from finished, but both QBs seem to have a healthy respect for one another with each stating they are there to help each other and the team to win games. 

But even if Newton wins the job to start the season, one thing that has stood out with Jones thus far is that he is far ahead of where so many Patriots’ backups, including Jimmy Garoppolo, were at this stage of their career. Jones had a great throw for a touchdown in red-zone work to Kendrick Bourne. He ripped the ball out before Bourne even made his break so that the pass arrived perfectly on time. 

Nelson Agoholor, New TEs Off to a Very Good Start:

While the heavy lifting of training camp hasn’t even started yet, wide receiver Nelson Agholor has easily been the Patriots’ best wide receiver thus far (after three days) as his speed and ability to get separation has come as advertised. 

Agholor blew past a defender on the aforementioned pass from Jones, but the ball arrived directly over his head, causing him to twist at the last second and resulted in a drop. But the good news is both Newton and Jones are getting some chemistry going with Agholor who brings the element of speed that the team hasn’t had since Brandin Cooks was on the team. 

Even more importantly, with all of the issues the Patriots had with wide receivers being slow or even unable to grasp the system and the complicated route tree, it is encouraging to see Agholor being right where he’s supposed to be thus far…

Kendrick Bourne may not have the top-end speed of Agholor but has very quick feet, and much like Julian Edelman has done in the past, he’s making that work for him in the passing game, as he gets out of his routes really quickly. 

Jonnu Smith said earlier last week that it was going to be a rebirth of the “Boston TE Party”, and he and Hunter Henry are already beginning to make their presence felt on the field. 

“Boston TE Party, man. Boston TE Party, let’s bring it back,” Smith said, “We’re going to do great things together,” he added. Smith had his best day of camp on Friday, as the team already began lining him up in multiple spots over the formation trying to create mismatches. He responded with several catches. 

Henry, who had a pair of red-zone touchdowns on Friday, (how long have we waited to hear that?) said on Wednesday, that he and Smith are different players than the great Patriots tight ends that came before them but were ready to make their own mark. 

“This offense is built for tight ends,” he said. “Obviously, they’ve had a lot of success with two tight ends. We’re clearly different players than the guys in the past. Those guys were great football players, obviously, and have a tremendous legacy here. We’re not trying to be those guys, we’re going to be ourselves and just looking forward to the challenge ahead. But this offense has a tradition with two tight ends.”

That’s another good sign for the offense. 

Kyle Dugger is primed for a big Year 2 jump in 2021. USA Today photo

Dugger Primed For a Big 2021 After “Below Average” Rookie Season:

Second-year safety Kyle Dugger feels like he has a lot more to offer in his second season with the Patriots. After what we saw in 2020, that is a very good sign. As a rookie last year, Dugger found his groove in the second half of the season and had fans and media both impressed how quickly he caught on.

But Dugger wasn’t having any of that. 

“Below average,” Dugger said when asked about his rookie year. “That’s really all I can say. It was fun to get the experience and be out there, but it wasn’t a great year.”

Now after a year in the system, and with a much firmer grasp of the defense, he says he’s in a much better place when getting ready for the 2021 season. He’s taking over Pat Chung’s #23 and said he studied game film of Rodney Harrison to prepare himself for his expected Year 2 jump in play. 

“Night and day,” Dugger said. “Just looking at the first couple days of (last season’s) camp, it’s a big difference. I’m like a completely different player, and that’s great to see, and I can feel that, as well. So I’d definitely say so.”

Dugger added that the big change was his comfort level in his role. “Just being comfortable,” Dugger said. “Really just how comfortable I was out there, and everything I’m doing for the team now, having that trust, that feeling of being able to play fast. So that’s really the only thing.”

_______________

“Yesterday, as I said the other day, is really a continuation of the spring practice routine, mini-camps, OTAs, things like that. We’re working in the red area, which we will continue to do here today and for a couple days. It’s really about each individual just trying to get into football and the best football situation they can get into whether that’s players, coaches and everybody else that has a football-related job, and the sports staff, scouting staff and so forth. The pace and the urgency and the way things happen at this time of year is obviously different than it is in the offseason. Our pace and our production needs to reflect that, so it’s really just everybody is doing that. It’s not just this particular day about evaluating how the team’s going to shape up, and who’s going to start on the offensive line and all that. It’s really about being ready to go as a football team. When the competition starts and padded practices, preseason games, joint practices and things like that so, still kind of in a build up mode as the league has set it up, so just trying to make the most of it.”

Bill Belichick’s comments about the first couple of days of training camp.

_______________

“So, how was your week?”

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on Stitcher and Streamyard as Russ Goldman, Derek Havens, and myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.

Featured file photo of Patriots’ offensive linemen’s helmets lined up after a training camp practice: (Steve Balestrieri PatsFans.com)

 


Posted Under: Patriots News
Tags: 53 Man Roster Projection Bill Belichick Cam Newton Hunter Henry Jonnu Smith Kendrick Bourne Kyle Dugger Mac Jones Nelson Agholor New England Patriots NFL


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