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Training Camp Observations

I made the trip to Foxboro this morning to attend Patriots Training Camp. First day of full pads, it was good to see some real football and not glorified OTA’s. Before I get into my analysis of what I saw from the players, I have a general Training Camp observation.

Today was the most enjoyable Training Camp practice I’ve been to in probably 15 years. You might have heard but attendance is down at Pats Camp this year. I guess the team isn’t good enough for the fair weather fans anymore and that’s fine by me. This is a great development for the real fans, the actual football fans. Gone are the days of the place being filled with soccer moms and their 6 kids. The section I was sitting in was 90% 20-40 year old men who understood and cared about what they were watching. Everyone knew who the players were and the plays they were running. You heard people talking about and being excited about the defense, not just the offense. There was much less awkward cheering and clapping. You didn’t have to listen to all the moms and kids saying “where’s Tom Brady?” for 2 straight hours. It took me back to 2002, 2003, 2004. The last 10 years it was just moms and kids there to see Brady, Gronk and Edelman. It was refreshing and I look forward to going back for another practice.

Now onto my analysis of what I saw on the field:

I hate to say it but Cam Newton looked good and Mac Jones did not. Not sure if it was the first day in full pads but Mac looked rattled. He threw a bad interception to Ja’Whaun Bentley in 11-on-11 drills and had a couple other near interceptions. He just looked off. On the other hand, Cam threw the ball as well as I’ve seen him throw the ball. He was dropping dimes down the field. Cam definitely won the day.

The running game was a big part of practice, as you would expect in the first day of full pads. Sony Michel stood out amongst the backs. He ran hard, made some good reads and cuts. He looks healthy and in great shape. We’ll see if that lasts. They ran him a lot in 11-on-11 goal-line drills. He did fumble once and Belichick made him take a lap.

The offensive line looked good, David Andrews had a day. The starting offensive line was LT-Wynn, LG-Onwenu, C-Andrews, RG-Mason, RT-Brown just as I expected, looks like that will be your offensive line. The offensive line coach, Cameron Bricillo is very vocal, loudest coach out there today, followed by Josh McDaniels.

Christian Barmore had an impressive showing. He looked strong and explosive. He has a chance to be a day 1 starter on this defense. The entire defensive line was good overall. Guy and Godchaux were solid as well. Those three lined up together a lot as a three man front.

Kendrick Bourne looked great. He was going one-on-one against JC Jackson most of the day and won more times than not. He runs some impressive routes. He looks like he’s well on his way to being a starting receiver on this team.

Surprisingly, N’Keal Harry had a really good day. Made one of the best catches of the practice from Cam Newton in one-on-one drills. Looked good blocking downfield on run plays in 11-on-11 drills and it even got a little scrappy between him and Joejuan Williams at one point.

Matt Judon was my player of the day. He blew up a number of runs in the backfield in 11-on-11 drills. He reads the offense extremely well and picks up where the ball is quickly. He looked fast and explosive. He will be a much needed addition to this defense.

Both Tight Ends were targeted a lot. It is clear they are going to be a big part of the offense. Jonnu Smith made an impressive sideline, toe tap catch in 7-on-7 drills. Hunter Henry had a corner of the end zone touchdown catch from Cam in 11-on-11 goal line drills.

Gunner Olszewski didn’t participate in all receiving drills or 7-on-7 drills as he was working with the specialists. He will likely be an even better return man in 2021 but his development as a receiver might be put on hold.

We might have a real kicker competition here. Quinn Nordin looked pretty good. He was hitting some bombs during kicking team drills.

Overall, I’d give the edge to the defense today but it was close. Cam and some of the receivers had really good days but the defensive front-7 was dominant.

It’s pretty clear when watching this team practice that they have a lot more talent on the field this year than they did last year. They look faster and more explosive on both sides of the ball. It’s far from a finished product but this looks like a much improved team.

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