The tempo seemed a bit more deliberate on Day 2 of mandatory minicamp in Foxborough as the Patriots remained on the field for nearly two and a half hours on Wednesday. One thing that consistently stood out during the two days is Mac Jones’ willingness to push the ball downfield.
After connecting on three long throws on Tuesday, Jones was once again sharp on deep balls operating in both 7-on-7s and full team action. As was the case on the first day, Tre Nixon made the most of his opportunities and was on the receiving end of a pair of those long balls from Jones.
The latter was the most impressive play of the two days and came late during a 7-on-7 period. Nixon ran slightly past Jonathan Jones and was streaking toward the end zone when Jones’ pass came down over his shoulder. Nixon was tangled up with Jonathan Jones and was only able to use one hand as the ball came down, but that didn’t stop the first-year wideout from making the catch for a touchdown of about 60 yards.
Mac Jones and the rest of the offense ran toward Nixon to celebrate the play, and the quarterback’s enthusiasm has been tough to miss this spring. He had similar reactions following solid connections with Jonnu Smith (on a deep over route) and Nelson Agholor (deep go route on the left sideline) as well as an earlier post corner to Nixon.
Jones’ deep game has been sharp – the throw to Agholor was absolutely perfect just over his outside shoulder as the receiver neared the sideline. Overall the offense continues to have some periods of uneven play, and Jones has had a few balls get away from him in both practices, but the downfield stuff has been markedly better than anything we saw last spring and summer.
Nixon is fighting to join what has become a crowded receiver group with the additions of DeVante Parker and rookie Tyquan Thornton, but he’s making a case for himself. Kendrick Bourne returned to practice after missing Tuesday’s work but Nixon remained with the top group in the slot as Jakobi Meyers continues to be limited. Meyers is in uniform but hasn’t gotten any reps against the defense.
In the meantime, Nixon has been impressive. He’s shown good speed in getting behind the defense – he victimized Jonathan Jones on a couple of occasions – while also being available for the trademark underneath throws that Mac Jones excels at. It’s just minicamp with no contact and press coverage to fight through, but he’s shown significant improvement from a year ago.
Beyond the long-distance connections, here are one man’s thoughts on Wednesday’s minicamp practice on the lower field in Foxborough.
*Mac Jones continues to wear a black sleeve on his right calf but added a full brace on his left knee on Wednesday. He didn’t seem to be limited in his movements in any way and even spent some time getting extra running in during one of the special teams segments in the middle of practice.
*The Patriots welcomed the Myra Kraft Community MVPs and their families for practice. They watched not too far from Jon Bon Jovi, who was on hand alongside Robert and Jonathan Kraft. The team blared JBJ’s trademark “Living on a Prayer” during their calisthenics.
*A couple of changes to Tuesday’s attendance list as Bourne returned while defensive lineman Carl Davis was not spotted. Otherwise it was the same group that was missing for the first practice – Nick Folk, Quinn Nordin, Chasen Hines, Andrew Stueber and Byron Cowart. In addition, rookie Marcus Jones gave a red, non-contact jersey for the second straight day. He is coming off offseason surgery to both shoulders.
*While NFL Network reported that Tristan Vizcaino was on hand for a tryout, there was an additional kicker in uniform. Both made 2 of 3 field goals ranging from 43-48 yards late in practice. Both pushed their 48-yarders wide to the left on their third attempts.
*Bill Belichick spent almost the entire practice chatting with Utah State defensive coordinator Ephraim Banda, who was a guest at practice. The two chatted on the sideline for an extended period.
*The positional drills had some different looks than in years past. The defensive backs worked on their drops and then cut sharply inside a tackling dummy before catching tennis balls tossed by cornerbacks coach Mike Pellegrino. The defensive linemen worked on hand placement, working in pairs as they shuffled laterally outside a large orange medicine ball that rolled between them.
*Ty Montgomery has spent most of the spring working as a receiver but during minicamp it’s been more running back. He went through positional drills with the runners on Wednesday and came out of the backfield to grab a few screens during practice.
*The first hour of the workout was more or less a walkthrough. The pace was noticeably slower than Tuesday as Belichick and the coaching staff likely continue to install the system on both sides of the ball.
*The special teams periods consisted of punt work as well as kick returns. Malcolm Perry, Nixon, Bourne and Jack Jones handled the punts, and Jake Bailey gave them some different looks. Jones had trouble racing up to field a shorter one and crumbled to the ground as he tried to fair catch it. Jones appeared to be shaken up on the play and spent some time with trainer Jim Whalen but did not miss any action. Montgomery and Thornton took reps as gunners along with Matthew Slater-Justin Bethel and Kristian Wilkerson-Jonathan Jones.
*Rookie Pierre Strong and Montgomery handled kick returns. It was Strong’s most active practice thus far and he looked quite smooth with the ball in his hands, showing a fluid track-like running style. He moves effortlessly.
*The first 7-on-7 period featured some of Mac Jones’ best work. His first two deep balls to Nixon and Smith were identical plays to the ones they completed on Tuesday. He closed the period with the dime to Agholor along the sideline as the offense enjoyed some spirited success.
*The offensive line remained the same as Tuesday with Isaiah Wynn at right tackle and Trent Brown on the left side. Later in practice David Andrews was replaced by James Ferentz at center while Yodny Cadresse took over for Brown at left tackle.
*Both Matt Patricia and Joe Judge continue to work with walkie talkies as they communicate the plays to Jones and the offense.
*The team finished practice with some 7-on-7s that were run at an almost walkthrough pace, extending the workout beyond the typical two-hour mark. Mac Jones seemed a little unsatisfied with the work at times, particularly when he and Nixon couldn’t connect on a simple out route. He later had a throw sail high off Bourne’s hands that was picked off by Malcolm Butler.
*The players ran some sprints on the field before heading to the locker room at the end of practice.
*Agholor, Andrews, Wynn, Matthew Judon, Jack Jones and Josh Bledsoe spoke to the media after practice.
*The Patriots are scheduled to wrap up their three-day minicamp with practice in Foxborough at 11:45 am Once again the workout is open to the media but closed to the public.