The rookie from Duke has been a pleasant surprise for the Patriots this season, and his teammates have taken notice.
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FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS — Quick thoughts/notes about the New England Patriots and the National Football League:
1. Mac’s work ethic: With the Patriots, rookies are meant to be seen more than heard, but that may be difficult when it’s a first-round quarterback like Mac Jones.
Jones has struck that fine balance and earned the respect of his teammates during the first four days of training camp.
“It’s not easy to be a quarterback in the NFL, and it’s much harder here. He puts forth a lot of effort and is really concerned. At 6 a.m., I receive text messages from him “Brian Hoyer, a seasoned quarterback with the Patriots, stated.
Jones, who has spent the first few sessions solely taking No. 2 repetitions behind Cam Newton, has showed promise in terms of processing information and delivering the ball on time.
He’s also had his share of growing pains, as evidenced by him discussing failed plays with teammates on the field after they happen, as he did Friday after a missed long connection to wide receiver Nelson Agholor, or on Thursday after an incomplete pass in the flat to running back J.J. Taylor that could have been a simpler pitch-and-catch.
Throughout the opening stretch of sessions, Mac Jones has taken only No. 2 repetitions behind Cam Newton. Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire photo
Jones can be very harsh on himself, and Newton said he’s still figuring out how to approach him in such circumstances. After a tough stretch in the Patriots’ second practice, Newton sat down next to him for a talk.
“I told Mac this because he doesn’t know me yet and I don’t know him either,” Newton said. “After a few months with Mac, you’ll see that he’s a guy you’ll come to know over time. He might be a person you need to [light up], or he could be a guy you should leave alone and let him return to himself. Everyone is just trying to get to know one another and be the greatest teammates we can be.”
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Jones’ teammates have taken note of his responsibility on the field and the amount of time he spends with them in the locker room.
Wide receiver Jakobi Meyers stated, “He’s a wonderful person off the field, so it’s easy to play with him on the field.” “It makes it very simple to play football with guys who want to become better.”
2. Gilmore’s current position is cornerback. Stephon Gilmore’s demand for the club to address his contract remains unresolved, just as it did at the outset of training camp. Gilmore, who is recovering from surgery on a partly torn quad, has been working with rehabilitating players on the lower practice field, and he went up with others last week to witness the last stretch of the normal session. The dynamic is such that Gilmore may, if he so chooses, postpone his possible return to practice until the business aspect is settled. Jalen Mills, a big-money free-agent acquisition, has been taking cornerback reps opposite J.C. Jackson in his absence.
3. Damien Harris as RB1: Coach Bill Belichick noted last week that running back Damien Harris had “been here since the day after the season ended,” a level of commitment that impressed him. “He has a chance to fight for a lead position and has embraced that,” the coach said of Harris. “I’ve been pleased by the dedication he has showed.” Harris’ main rival is 2018 first-round pick Sony Michel, who was absent from optional spring practices, and fourth-round selection Rhamondre Stevenson, who was activated from the active/non-football injury list on Friday. The depth chart is completed by James White, Taylor, Brandon Bolden, and Tyler Gaffney.
This season, Damien Harris has a chance to take over as New England’s starting running back. USA TODAY Sports/Rich Barnes
4. Jarrett Stidham’s status: Belichick deviated from his customary policy of not commenting on injuries or timetables when he said quarterback Jarrett Stidham “will miss a little time,” prompting the club to claim Jake Dolegala on waivers. After having back surgery on Wednesday, Stidham will begin the season on the reserve/physically unable to perform list, with the possibility of returning in late October. The situation may be a win-win for Stidham and the team: he gets his physical act together, doesn’t count against the initial roster, and could offer depth later in the season, depending on how Newton and Jones’ situations play out.
5. Outside linebacker Matt Judon has been sprinting with the wide receivers as the Patriots players return to the conditioning hill at the conclusion of practice, his blue No. 9 jersey sticking out among the white jerseys. Judon’s integration into the Patriots’ culture is still in its early stages, since he wasn’t there for the bulk of the spring, but he said that he has already formed bonds with teammates Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Raekwon McMillan, Josh Uche, and others. “Now, I’m not in enemy territory,” he remarked of his move from the Baltimore Ravens.
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6. Red zone blues: The Patriots scored 26 touchdowns in 48 trips inside the opponents’ 20-yard line last season, ranking them 24th in the NFL with a 54.2 percent success rate. Not great, and one might argue that this is one of the reasons why the first four days of 2021 training camp were nearly entirely spent in the red zone. However, as Belichick pointed out, the Patriots place a strong focus on that area early in training camp, highlighting how critical it is to any team’s success.
7. McCourty’s future: Longtime Patriots captain Devin McCourty turns 34 on Aug. 13, is in the last year of his contract, and is entering his 12th season with the club. Could this be his last season in the NFL? Last week, McCourty claimed he hadn’t had time to consider such things, but he admitted that he had approached the previous two seasons with the mindset that any season might be his last. “I’ll say that I’m in excellent shape heading into the season. I had a terrific offseason workout regimen “With kids ages 4, 3, and one month at home, McCourty joked that training camp would be a relief. McCourty may want to play till he’s 40 in that scenario.
8. Mac’s courtesy: It was a little gesture, but it was difficult to overlook. When Jones arrived for his post-practice press conference on Friday, Newton had just begun his, which attracted a huge throng of reporters. Jones could have taken one of the available microphones at that moment and begun his news conference, but he chose to wait for Newton’s 15-minute session to conclude, probably out of respect for Newton and (perhaps) the media.
9. Tuesday’s checkmark: The Patriots have completed their first four sessions of training camp, despite the fact that Belichick has said that camp officially starts on Tuesday. That’s when the squad gets to wear full pads for the first time, and the pace picks up. So any pure assessments are on hold, which explains his response to a question about Jones’ ability to remember playbook knowledge. “We’ll see,” stated Belichick. “In training camp, we haven’t really gotten to it yet. That will happen. So I’m not sure. We’ll have to wait and see.”
10. Did You Know? The Patriots of 2003 and 2004 were the last club to win the Super Bowl two years in a row, and the current streak of 16 seasons without a repeat winner is the longest in NFL history.
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