Welcome to the fifth day of the New England Patriots’ 2021 training camp. The team will hold its first practice of the week on Monday morning. Even though there will be no full contact yet again — the team will be in shells for the third day before moving into full gear on Tuesday — there will be plenty to analyze and to take a close look at.
With that said, here are three things we will keep an eye on.
Offensive performance versus the starting defense
The Patriots’ candidates to earn the starting quarterback job this year, Cam Newton and Mac Jones, saw considerable action against the top-tier defense on Saturday. While Jones finished strong the youngster also had a series that saw him go 0-for-4 versus the unit. Heading into Monday’s session, his performance versus the starting defense will be one to keep an eye on.
The same obviously has to be said about Newton as well. The incumbent starter had some encouraging moments versus the top-tier D, but his last series was bad: he completed only 2 of 7 attempts — partially due to some errant throws, partially due to the unit simply playing some sound football.
The Collective Bargaining Agreement signed last spring introduced a ramp-up period during the first few days of camp. As part of it, the Patriots wore helmets only the first two days before moving to shells for the next three sessions. On Tuesday, however, they will finally put on full pads for the first time.
As far as Monday’s session is concerned, we will keep an eye on the level of intensity. Will the coaches conduct full-speed drills throughout practice, or will they be in more of a walkthrough-mode with pads coming on shortly?
Quinn Nordin’s workload
Undrafted rookie kicker Quinn Nordin was one of the winners of Saturday’s practice after seeing plenty of action. While he still appears to only have an outside chance at beating out incumbent place kicker Nick Folk, the session was a step in the right direction for the youngster.
Monday could very well be more of a Folk day for the Patriots in practice again, but we will still keep an eye out for the big-legged youngster to see if he can build his momentum heading into the “real football” portion of camp.
As for Saturday’s things to watch, here are a few quick notes:
Quarterbacks keeping up the pressure: Both Cam Newton and Mac Jones had strong outings on Friday and they continued to look good one day later as well, at least partially. However, there were a bit more ups and downs compared to the Friday session. Newton in particular did not show the same consistency he had one day earlier.
A defensive bounce-back: Closely tied to the quarterbacks’ performance on Saturday was that of the starting defensive unit. Even with Stephon Gilmore still absent and part of the rehabilitation group after his season-ending partial quad tear, the unit made life hard for Newton and Jones. The top two passers on New England’s roster went just 8-for-20 against the top-level defense.
Injuries: After losing Ted Karras during Friday’s practice, the Patriots did not suffer any new injury setbacks on Saturday. Karras was absent after he got rolled up on and was last spotted gingerly walking off the field, but no new players joined him both as far as in-session injuries or other absentees were concerned. The team did get two players back who missed previous practices: linebacker/special teamer Brandon King was activated off the physically unable to perform list, while Anfernee Jennings returned following an excused absence.