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Observations from Day 13 of Patriots Training Camp

The Patriots returned to the field for the first time since their preseason opener in shorts and shells, with the session being briefly delayed due to lightning. Trey Flowers was once again on the practice field without a jersey as he works his way back from the PUP list. Running back C.J. Marable (#37) and offensive lineman Micah Vanterpool (#72), both of whom were signed this weekend after stints in the USFL, were in attendance. Kody Russey and Pierre Strong were new absences, with Strong’s absence possibly explaining Marable’s signing. Cole Strange was on the field but did not participate. Jonathan Jones continues his absent streak, which began during the in-stadium practice. Trent Brown was a full participant after rotating heavily with Riley Reiff during the team’s last practice.

ATTENDANCE

Physically Unable to Perform

  • RG Mike Onwenu (ankle)
  • ST Cody Davis (knee)
  • DL Trey Flowers (unknown)

Non-Football Injury

  • OT Calvin Anderson (illness)

Missing/Did Not Participate

  • WR Ty Montgomery (left leg, considered day-to-day)
  • LG Cole Strange (left leg)
  • CB Jonathan Jones (unknown)
  • IOL Bill Murray (unknown)
  • RB Pierre Strong (unknown)
  • IOL Kody Russey (unknown)

Red Non-Contact Jersey (excluding QBs)

  • LB Marte Mapu (pectoral)

MALIK CUNNINGHAM GETS AN EXTENSIVE LOOK AT QUARTERBACK

Malik Cunningham’s impressive quarterbacking performance on Friday prompted speculation over whether he would get more reps under center moving forward. That was exactly the case in today’s practice, with Cunningham seemingly rotating with Mac Jones and executing different quarterback-centric run plays. JuJu Smith-Schuster called Cunningham “electric” with the ball in his hands.

It’s too soon to say definitively whether Cunnigham has or will overtake Zappe as the team’s backup signal-caller, and Zappe had a solid performance against Houston given the limited play-calling and offensive line situation. But with the league’s new emergency quarterback rule allowing teams to dress an extra passer in case one has to leave due to injury, it could make sense for Cunningham to be the gameday backup with Zappe assuming the emergency role. This would allow the Patriots to open up their playbook by using Cunningham in packages that capitalize on his dynamic athleticism.

To be very clear, Jones was still the offense’s primary passer and had a good day in a less-than-full-speed practice. He delivered impressive passes over the middle to his tight ends and, during Red Zone work, threw a pair of touchdowns to Hunter Henry, a contested score to DeVante Parker, and a completion to Kendrick Bourne on a whip route with Jack Jones in coverage. Jones’ sole lowlight on the day was an interception by Christian Gonzalez on a pass that seemed to be underthrown to end the practice.

OFFENSIVE LINE SHUFFLING

The right side of Mac Jones’ line looked different than it has in recent sessions, with Sidy Sow as the primary right tackle and Riley Reiff bumping inside to guard for the first time in camp. Reiff’s move could have been a result of Russey’s absence, as he and Atonio Mafi have been the top options at right guard. This may be a sign that Conor McDermott, who has been rotating with Reiff at right tackle for most of camp, has been demoted after a less-than-stellar performance against Houston’s backups.

Though Sow had a couple of losses in pass protection against the Texans and lapses as a run blocker, some of which could be attributed to poor execution from teammates on combo blocks, he was solid overall and didn’t allow pressure when pitted against stud pass rusher Will Anderson.

Chasen Hines also got some reps at left guard for Atonio Mafi, though Mafi received the lion’s share of reps.

LEFTOVERS

  • Tyquan Thornton, Matt Sokol, and Anthony Firkser all saw reps with Mac Jones. Thornton in particular was working with Jones in an early period where, up to this point, he’d been catching passes from Bailey Zappe and Trace McSorley.Possibly an indication a sign that his highlight grab against the Texans helped him make up some lost ground.
  • Marte Mapu had a pair of pass breakups against Bailey Zappe. The 3rd-round pick continues to flash. Shaun Wade also had a breakup.
  • Mike Gesicki was flagged for a false start
  • Next week’s joint practices with the Green Bay Packers will be the first such practices JuJu Smith-Schuster has had in his career. The receiver said he “can’t wait to go against” lockdown cornerback Jaire Alexander.
Taylor Kyles

Taylor Kyles is the lead NFL Analyst for CLNS Media covering players, schemes, and tendencies through a New England Patriots-centric lens.

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