Live from Patriots Training Camp: Mac Jones dominates the N.Y. Giants

Mark Daniels
The Providence Journal

FOXBORO – With temperatures pushing 90 degrees you’d be hard pressed to find something hotter than the sun during the Patriots first joint practice with the New York Giants on Wednesday. Of course, that was until Mac Jones stepped under center and set the practice field ablaze.

In his last practice with Cam Newton out due to misunderstanding COVID-19 rules, the Patriots rookie quarterback put forth his best effort of the offseason. Jones was the best quarterback on the field on Wednesday, outplaying Giants starter Daniel Jones and pushing the ball up and down the field against New York’s starting defense.

Jones was marvelous on the 18th day of camp, which marked the third-straight day he took the majority of the Patriots quarterback reps. The rookie finished 35-of-40 overall, completing 88% of his passes against the Giants. Jones went 13-of-14 in 7-on-7s with his only incomplete pass deflected by Giants corner James Bradberry. The rookie then went 22-of-26 in 11-on-11s.

Seizing the moment:Cam Newton is out due to COVID-19 rules. Will it cost him the starting job with the Patriots?

Overall, Jones looked like a capable starting NFL quarterback on Wednesday with Newton set to return to practice on Thursday.

The rookie started practice on a high note in 7-on-7 drills. On the 3-yard line, he went 5/6 with five touchdown passes to Hunter Henry (two), Kristian Wilkerson (two) and James White. He finished 7-on-7 work going a perfect 8-for-8.

For the most part, Jones was masterful during full-team drills with the majority of his reps going against the Giants’ starters. His worst pass of the day came during the first 11-on-11 period. After two completions, Jones tried to squeeze a pass to Nelson Agholor, but Xavier McKinney nearly picked it off. The Giants safety had the ball in his hands, but it came out when he hit the ground. Jones made a statement after that, completing his next 10 passes in a row.

Patriots quarterback Mac Jones throws during a joint practice with the Eagles last week in Philadelphia.

Among the many nice moments for Jones, that streak included a beautiful back-shoulder pass to James White on a wheel route. After practice, the Patriots running back said he heard the word ‘ball’ and right when he turned around, there it was, calling it “a perfect pass.” This play came during a 2-minute drill with time about to expire. After the completion, Jones ran to the line and spiked the ball to stop the clock and set up a field goal.

“I kind of got jammed up on the route a little bit. I actually heard somebody scream ‘ball,’ so that was kind of [telling] me the ball was coming," White said. "It was perfect timing, but a perfect throw and a big play in the two-minute drive.”

Analysis:Patriots trade Sony Michel to the Los Angeles Rams. Here's why it made sense for the Pats

Jones’ completion streak came to an end when defensive lineman David Moa batted down a pass at the line of scrimmage.

In the next period, the Pats practiced red zone plays – about 10 yards away from the end zone. Jones went 3-for-3 with three touchdowns to White (two) and Gunner Olszewski. The rookie finished practice 6-of-8 in the final 2-minute drill.

We saw another highlight here with Jones throwing a perfect deep ball (around 50 yards) to Jakobi Meyers. Meyers, who was in double coverage with Adoree Jackson and Darnay Holmes, made a nice leaping grab to finish the play. It was a really nice throw and catch for the pair. Two plays later, Jones hit White for the touchdown and you could hear him screaming and see him pumping his fist after the score.

Point taken. 

QB competition:Will the Patriots start Mac Jones or Cam Newton? Here's Josh McDaniels' take

Jones did a good job spreading out the ball as well. White (six catches), Kendrick Bourne (six catches), Meyers (six catches) and Wilkerson (five catches) led the Patriots in receptions.

“I think Mac is doing a good job," Bourne said. "Taking leadership, controlling everybody, having everybody in the right place and stuff like that – making the team be a real team. So doing a real great job of it.”

A small brawl kickstarted practice on Wednesday

The practice was competitive and tempers ran hot early on during 1-on-1 drills. At one point, a fight broke out between the Patriots offensive line and the Giants defensive line. It looked like Giants defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence started to throw punches at Patriots guard Michael Onwenu after the two locked up during a drill.

That created a mêlée with players diving on one another. You could see Isaiah Wynn at the bottom of the pile and teammates also had to restrain Korey Cunningham as well. Practice went on smooth after that as both the Pats o-line and Giants d-line had to run a lap after the skirmish.

“I just saw a pile of bodies," said White. "I wasn’t really sure what was going on, but definitely got to control your tempers, for sure. But, definitely got to protect your teammates, as well.”

Patriots-Eagles takeaways:Has Cam Newton secured the starting quarterback job?

The Patriots defense didn’t struggle nearly as much against Giants quarterback Daniel Jones. The third-year pro went 13-of-21, completing 62% of his passes in full-team drills.

Jones would’ve been sacked multiple times on the day, including once by Kyle Van Noy during the final 2-minute drill. He had passes batted down by J.C. Jackson and Dee Virgin during 11-on-11s. Kyle Dugger intercepted Jones during 7-on-7 drills.

New Patriots tight end Kahale Warring made his debut and had one of the best catches during 2-on-2 drills with a nice diving reception.

New England seems to have found a keeper in offensive lineman Michael Onwenu.

Patriots players react to the Sony Michel trade

The Patriots sorted out their running back depth on Wednesday when they traded Sony Michel to the Los Angeles Rams. Then during practice, we got a glimpse of what that trade might mean for the running backs still in New England.

As expected, Damien Harris continued to take the lead. The third-year pro led the Patriots in rushing and it looks like he could have a breakout year in 2021. After Harris, it was noteworthy that rookie running Rhamondre Stevenson was next in line, followed by J.J. Taylor.

The reps gave us a small sample size of how the Patriots view this current depth chart, which also features James White and Brandon Bolden.

After practice, multiple players talked about Michel

“Definitely tough. That’s my guy,” said White. “Being with him since his rookie year, kind of helping him become the player he is today and he’s gotten better and better each year. It’s tough to see him go, for sure. He’s a hard worker, tough guy. Definitely puts the team first. Definitely going to miss him, but best of luck to him.”

“I was fortunate enough to be a teammate of him in college,” said David Andrews. “… I knew what kind of person he was, obviously, you know, was super-excited when we drafted him, got to be his teammate another three years, or three and a half, or four, whatever. So, Sony’s a great player, man. I’m super happy for him. It’s just part of this business.”

Patriots running back #26 Sony Michel gets a block from #47 Jakob Johnson as he gains yards on a first quarter run. 
[The Providence Journal/Bob Breidenbach]

Patriots injury notes - Agholor and Wynn leave practice

The Patriots finished Wednesday’s practice with multiple players on the mend.

Both Isaiah Wynn and Nelson Agholor left practice early. Considering it was very hot outside, it wouldn’t be a surprise if it was heat related, but that’s something to monitor this week. With Wynn out, Yodny Cajuste was inserted at left tackle. Cajuste has some momentum after a solid week in Philadelphia and looks like one of the Patriots top backup tackles.

Dont’a Hightower had to be stretched out at the tail end of practice. The trainer was focused on the linebacker’s hamstring.

Rookie making waves:Mac Jones has earned his teammates respect. Will he win the Patriots QB job?

Overall, the Patriots were missing 12 players at practice. Cam Newton, Josh Uche, Tre Nixon, N’Keal Harry, Matt LaCosse and Justin Bethel were absent. Bethel’s wife is pregnant so that could explain his absence. The Pats were also without Stephon Gilmore (PUP), Jarrett Stidham (PUP), Terez Hall (PUP), Byron Cowart (PUP), Joshuah Bledsoe (NFI) and Cameron McGrone (NFI).

Brandon Bolden returned to practice, but was in a red non-contact jersey. The same went for Hunter Henry and Myles Bryant. Henry was a limited participant. He took part in 7-on-7 drills, but not full-team work.