Patriots quarterback Mac Jones, center, passes the ball as quarterbacks Brian Hoyer (5) and Cam Newton (1) look on during OTAs in Foxboro, Mass., on Thursday, May 27, 2021. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
On Wednesday, the Patriots opened one of the team’s most anticipated camps in the past twenty years. With all eyes on Cam Newton and Mac Jones, the two Quarterbacks had up and down perfromances in week 1. Newton has shown significant improvement in his arm strength and velocity, something fans critically doubted in 2020. Although Newton’s shoulder injury could have played a large role in his passing issues, it is more likely that Newton’s processing of the offense had more of an influence. Newton still managed to demonstrate a strong deep ball despite his troublesome Patriot season.
However, Newton did have consistency issues when it came to accuracy. After a slow start to Wednesday’s practice, Newton put together efficient performances on Thursday and Friday. Mac Jones has shared similar inconsistencies as well as Newton. The rookie quarterback won day one of training camp, but lost some steam throughout the week. No matter how the day is going for Mac Jones, he consistency displays some of the best throws in camp.
Bill Belichick may have said that “Cam Newton is our staring Quarterback” earlier in the week, but he certainly is running a competition thick into the water. Newton and Jones have been heavily featured in first team reps versus the starting defense. A starting defense that has been very effective in speeding up a Quarterback’s clock. Here are the biggest winners of week one.
WR Nelson Agholor
After New England spent more money on Agholor than Will Fuller and Curtis Samuel in free agency, expectations are very high for Nelson Agholor. Not seen as a number 1 wide receiver in the NFL to many, Agholor is sure is being paid as one. That being said, Agholor has by far been the best receiver day in and day out. Friday featured a five catch day with a spectacular touchdown catch, beating cornerback J.C. Jackson.
LB Matthew Judon
Another new Patriot is already turning heads in Foxboro, not just because of his cryptic Tweet. Judon constantly applied pressure all over the field, a major aspect of his game that Belichick will utilize. Judon has already emerged as a leader in this veteran heavy linebacker group. He’s even taking Josh Uche under his wing, “Uche is going to be great.” Additionally calling Uche a “sponge”.
RB Damien Harris
Even though a camp in no pads won’t show much in the backfield, it was an opportunity for Harris to demonstrate his pass catching abilities. Harris made a pair of catches this weekend after the back managed to only tally five catches in 2020. Bill Belichick gave Harris a rare amount of praise this week, saying, “[Damien] has been here since the day after the season was over…He has an opportunity to compete for a lead spot and has embraced that…I’ve been impressed by the commitment he has shown.”
The Patriots rarely feature one primary back, but it sounds like Harris is pushing the team to make him the bell-cow he has trained to be.
S Adrian Phillips
Phillips was previously listed as a training camp battle to look at for. Phillips has had to make a significant jump in coverage; now having to cover both Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry. Phillips broke up multiple passes and even intercepted a ball intended for his old Chargers teammate.
“Glad we have him,” said Belichick. “Adrian is a good football player. It was great to sign him last year. He played well for us. I think he learned a lot about our system…He seems comfortable with everything we’ve asked him to do…He’s done a great job with communication. He’s got good football instincts.” Phillips has already become a classic Patriot.
The newcomers have made their presence known. The second/third year breakouts are proving why people are so high on them. The rookies have stayed somewhat quiet, but there are more weeks full of winners to come.