The New England Patriots ran their first padded practice, but it didn’t seem to elevate energy levels or execution for the offense. The defense — which had won the recent practices without pads — was back to beating up on the offense. In some cases, the defense simply capitalized upon the offense’s mistakes.
Take Mac Jones’ lone interception, for example. In an 11-on-11 drill, the quarterback seemed not to see cornerback Terrance Mitchell, who had dropped into zone coverage on the right side of the defense. Receiver Tyquan Thornton dragged over the middle into Mitchell’s zone and Jones threw the ball right to the cornerback. And perhaps that scared the downfield passing out of Jones, who spent much of the practice checking down to his slot receivers and running backs.
Here’s more from today’s session.
The top takeaway: This offense is still in its infancy
(AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
The Patriots offense isn’t fully operational. The coaches have streamlined the offense to simplify it. They have yet to really open up the playbook, however. And so perhaps that explains why the defense is winning so often. When will they lean into a unique scheme? And will it feature Mac Jones’ strengths?
Safety Jabrill Peppers (PUP) and cornerbacks Jonathan Jones (PUP) and Myles Bryant (NFI) returned to practice on Monday.
The following players were not practicing:
Undisclosed injury: DE Deatrich Wise, QB Brian Hoyer, RB Pierre Strong.
PUP: R. B. James White.
NFI: OL Chasen Hines, OL Andrew Stueber.
Notable presences: safety Patrick Chung
The little details
The weather: Cloudy but humid. It felt much hotter than the temp, which sat around the mid-70s.
The pad level: Pads.
The energy: Subdued. Like I mentioned earlier, the players and the crowd were quiet despite the Patriots introducing contact. There weren’t many big plays. Perhaps that contributed to a hushed session.
Biggest winner: LB Raekwon McMillan
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
Both the offense and the defense made some good plays. And frankly, McMillan didn’t make any big plays, but his name deserves consideration for this spot because he has been at the center of the first-team defense for the majority of training camp. And when the team went to pads, McMillan stayed there. I was guilty of hyping Josh Uche and Cameron McGrone, but McMillan has ended them off — for now.
Volatile stock: CB Malcolm Butler
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Butler has not operated in the ways that a starting cornerback typically does in practice. Typically, a top cornerback will not participate on special teams. And, of course, a starting cornerback will play with the starting defense. But Butler has mostly practiced with the second-team defense and has worked on special teams.
When he did get some play with the defensive starters in 11-on-11s, DeVante Parker and Mac Jones connected on a deep ball for about 40 yards with Butler in coverage. The cornerback couldn’t keep pace.
But it wasn’t all bad for Butler against Parker. In the red zone, Butler broke up a 5-yard fade pass from Jones to Parker. Later in the session. the cornerback nearly intercepted a pass for Tyquan Thornton — but Butler still got a PBU.
Everything else that’s important
Thornton’s deceptive speed showed up in a pursuit drill where Mitchell took a completely wrong angle and would’ve likely whiffed. It will be interesting to see if Thornton’s athleticism shows up more in the coming days in 11-on-11 drills. Linebacker Mack Wilson blew up a play-action rollout in the red zone in 11-on-11s. Jones didn’t sell the run well enough and Wilson was waiting. It would’ve been a sack, no doubt. Safeties Joshua Bledsoe and Kyle Dugger and cornerbacks Malcolm Butler and Jack Jones were on the field with the second team during the first round of 11-on-11 drills. And yet CB Joejuan Williams was with the top defense. So it’s hard to parse exactly what’s happening with the secondary. Because, of course, Jones and Butler each spent some time with the top defense. Damien Harris got the first rep of 11-on-11 rushing reps. Rhamondre Stevenson was second. Then Ty Montgomery was third. Notable: Tyquan Thornton is practicing with the first-team offense — and not the scout team. Perhaps there’s a real battle between tackles Isaiah Wynn and Trent Brown on the left side. Brown has been running laps for mental gaffes, and Wynn was more fiesty and impressive during Monday’s session. The Patriots’ defensive linemen were working on getting off the ball quickly. DTs Carl Davis and Davon Godchaux committed a false start, jumping before the ball was snapped. Christian Barmore and Godchaux looked particularly explosive off the line of scrimmage. During 1-on-1 drills between WRs and CBs: Kendrick Bourne got a pair of wins over Jalen Mills. Jakobi Meyers beat Jon Jones on an in route — Meyers juked himself out of his own shoe, losing his right cleat on a cut. Myles Bryant beat Kristian Wilkerson on a route over the middle. Marcus Jones beat Tre Nixon who couldn’t corral a deep ball. Jones later beat Nixon on an underneath route and the CB logged a PBU. Thornton beat Joejuan Williams on their first 1-on-1 rep for 40 yards. Similarly, DeVante Parker just got UP over Malcolm Butler. The pass from Zappe was a 40-yarder. Ty Montgomery dusted Jonathan Jones, who looked a little rusty in his return from PUP. Terrance Mitchell committed clear DPI on Nelson Agholor on a deep ball. During 1-on-1 drills between DL/LBs and OL: Josh Uche, who has been running with the second-team defense today, immediately lost his feet in a 1-on-1 pass-rushing rep against Trent Brown. Christian Barmore just put a whooping on an offensive lineman on his final rep of 1-on-1s. The DT just instantly swam past the OL. (I couldn’t see which OL it was.)