Some news and notes for this morning:
Pads Come on, Players Get Banged Up
The New England Patriots donned pads on Monday, with players seeing some reps with their first taste of full contact during training camp on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium.
With contact also typically comes the risk of injury, and it looked like that ended up being the case after the team suffered a couple of injuries during the session.
The most notable one was offensive lineman Cole Strange, who appeared to suffer a knee injury while he was battling against Lawrence Guy during one portion of practice.
Strange left the field and spent some time with medical personnel, but didn’t return. However, the good news was he didn’t go to the locker room and instead spent the rest of the practice as a spectator on the sidelines, so it appears he may have avoided anything significant.
Strange wasn’t the only lineman who got nicked up, with Chasen Hines also being taken out of the lineup. Hines had been among several players who had finally seemed to be heading in the right direction during camp after battling injuries in his rookie season, so his status – especially given their need for depth up front – bears watching.
Trent Brown, who had been off to a good start, also reportedly spent time working on a separate field during the practice. Up to this point he’s been the one pleasant surprise after showing up at a lighter weight than he had been previously and looking sharp at left tackle. That had definitely been good news, as the right side appears to still have some significant question marks.
Joining Hines and Strange as players who got banged up were also Bill Murray, who Belichick had just recently praised as he’s continued making his transition from defense to offensive guard, along with Scotty Washington and newly acquired wideout Jalen Hurd.
Meanwhile, Rhamondre Stevenson didn’t practice on Monday and instead spent time down on the lower rehab field. Reports seem to indicate the team was giving him another day of rest, which goes to show how careful they’re being with a player who is such a key part of their offense.
Defense Continues Giving Offense Problems
In what’s essentially a good news, bad news type of situation, the Patriots defense has continued to be outstanding early on and they’ve done a good job of making life tough on the offense.
That’s obviously not been great news for Mac Jones and company, who shifted gears on Monday after spending the first few practices focused on red zone work.
Jones was sharp on Monday, working mostly on their intermediate game as the defense continued playing their receivers tight while forcing Jones to diagnose what was happening and instead find the open man.
Newcomer JuJu Smith-Schuster had a big day, catching four of Jones’ 8 completions (Jones was 8-of-10 overall) and has shown a lot of the playmaking ability many hoped he would after they signed him. He and Jones have been on the same page during the early portion of camp, which is definitely a good sign heading into the season.
Fellow wideout Kendrick Bourne finally hauled in a grab from Bailey Zappe at one point during the session, but he still remains fairly quiet as he’s reportedly had a tough time getting open against a talented group of players in their secondary.
Bourne was recently praised by Bill Belichick for what he called a “really good offseason” but so far, Bourne has yet to break out or have a big moment. That’s a little concerning, especially for a player who was considered to be one of their best wideouts heading into 2023.
The question could simply be if it’s just the quality of competition or if there’s another factor. After putting on 15 pounds this offseason and pushing his weight to 205lbs, Bourne said on Sunday, “I probably feel the best I’ve ever felt,” so it’s tough to say what it is that’s affected his play.
Another factor could simply be that New England’s secondary is one of the most talented we’ve seen in quite a while which, given the fact that none of their wideouts are necessarily considered to be number one targets, could be making things a little challenging.
But regardless, New England’s offense overall saw Jones do a good job of moving the football and keeping things in rhythm. They keep taking small steps forward, which is about all you can ask for at this stage of camp.
Elliot Reports Are Interesting
The Patriots reportedly had free agent running back Ezekiel Elliott in for a visit over the weekend, with the club still exploring their options at running back.
Elliott left without a contract following his visit but there was a lot of buzz after the fact after he and Mac Jones were reportedly spotted out to dinner, which got everyone talking.
With the club being cautious with Stevenson and evaluations still ongoing with Kevin Harris, J.J. Taylor, and Pierre Strong Jr., they still have plenty of questions when it comes to their depth.
How Elliott would fit in would be interesting since his role here would be significantly difficult than what it was in Dallas. That’s one of the reasons why some feel like he may not want to play here, as he’s likely looking for a big payday and being a number two back is something that probably wouldn’t allow him to achieve that.
Still, the longer he’s sidelined, the tougher it may be for him to find a spot. Unless, of course, his plan is to simply sit back and wait for a team to deal with an injury where it suddenly creates enough urgency to land him a role.
According to reports, the market for Elliot appears to be limited as the Patriots are apparently the only one to have met with him.
Whether or not he finds another suitor will be interesting to watch, and the thought of him playing behind Stevenson is intriguing. As for another possible option, Patriots personnel executive Matt Groh mentioned last week that the club did have interest in free agent back Dalvin Cook, but he’s yet to be brought in for a visit.
McDermott Back at Right Tackle
After Riley Reiff initially got the majority of plays at right tackle at the start of training camp, Conor McDermott has seemingly moved ahead of him and appears to be seeing the lion’s share of the snaps.
That side of the line remains an area of concern as McDermott has played relatively well but still had some tough moments, which will continue to be something to keep an eye on in the coming weeks.
McDermott made some significant contributions in 2022, playing in 100% of the snaps over five of the final six weeks, while missing just one snap in the finale in Buffalo.
Bill Belichick did have praise for McDermott on Monday, giving the offensive lineman some positive words following a good offseason.
“Conor’s had a good spring,” said Belichick. “Again, he’s been out here every day. He’s a smart guy, he’s a solid guy. It’s good to get him when we got him last year; I thought he really helped us, and he’s been consistent for us every day.”
Posted Under: Patriots News