FOXBORO — More melees. More stoppages. More ejections.
The Patriots’ second and final joint practice with the Panthers was the most contentious in recent team history, as two fights and several scrums broke out in the first hour. Practice-squad wide receiver Kristian Wilkerson was carted off, and defensive lineman Deatrich Wise got ejected with two Panthers. After that, play settled down and evened out.
The Pats offense, hot off its best practice off the summer, was thrust into neutral versus an energized Carolina defense. The Patriots defense failed to tally one sack of Panthers quarterbacks Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold and wrestled to a draw in team periods. But there were a few constants across Days 1 and 2 of practice.
Namely, Jalen Mills shutting down Carolina receivers, Nelson Agholor making highlight catches and Bill Belichick staying heavily involved with the offense.
Here are the Herald’s complete practice observations:
Absent: TE Hunter Henry, OL Isaiah Wynn, OL Justin Herron, OL Yasir Durant, OL Bill Murray
Non-contact jersey: None
NFI: OL Andrew Stueber
Notes: Henry and Durant missed their first training camp practices after leaving early on Tuesday. Henry was spotted Tuesday night wearing a compression sleeve on his left leg. Wynn and Murray have been missing all week.
Play of the Day
Marcus Jones’ 1-man tip drill
What’s better than an interception? A pass deflection and an interception on the same play.
Barreling toward the right sideline in an early 11-on-11 period, Jones jumped a short Sam Darnold throw intended for backup tight end Stephen Sullivan. First, he batted the pass up as Sullivan stepped out, then snatched the ball and toe-tapped inbounds for a pick. His No. 1 highlight of training camp.
Player of the Day
WR Nelson Agholor
From splitting a downfield double team to posting a team-high four catches in team periods, Agholor did everything Tuesday. His best catch, against the aforementioned double team, came behind Panthers cornerback Jaycee Horn and safety Myles Hartsfield in the back of the end zone. Agholor had run a slot fade from 15 yards away and tumbled backwards with possession to complete a perfect passing connection.
Note: The passing stats below were tallied during competitive, full-speed periods of 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 only. The stats in parentheses represent each quarterback’s passing totals for training camp.
Mac Jones: 16/23 (182/247, 8 INTs, 5 drops)
Brian Hoyer: N/A (41/69, 2 INTs)
Bailey Zappe: 12/25 INT (89/132, 3 INTs, 2 drops)
CB Jalen Mills
Mills finished joint practices with more pass breakups (5) than catches allowed during team periods. He blanketed Panthers wideout D.J. Moore, a perennial 1,000-yard receiver, in 1-on-1s, then later on back-to-back downfield throws in 11-on-11s. He picked the first one, a on-target pass from Sam Darnold, then punted it in celebration.
Mills has looked like a legitimate shutdown corner in camp.
CB Myles Bryant
No one started practice faster and better than Bryant, who earned a pick in 2-on-2s and later punched the ball out to stop a completion. Later, Bryant ran with the starting defense against Carolina’s first-team offense during a 2-minute drill.
QB Bailey Zappe
Rough, rough practice for Zappe. He threw a bad interception over the short middle during his 2-minute drill and had another dropped in the end zone.
WR Josh Hammond
The only receiver who hasn’t flashed in practice or the preseason opener, Hammond dropped a pass late in practice and caught just half his targets.
- In his first team period snaps after the melees, Mac Jones threw touchdowns to Jonnu Smith and Nelson Agholor in 11-on-11s, the latter a back-corner dime. Overall, Jones went 11-of-17 in those periods and 5-of-7 in 7-on-7s.
- His best throw found Agholor, who made an excellent late adjustment in tight space at the end of his slot fade in the end one versus Jaycee Horn and Myles Hartfield.
- Agholor also effectively Kendrick Bourne as the team’s No. 3 receiver. Bourne didn’t catch a pass from Mac Jones during team periods.
- Jones’ 2-minute drill broke down as follows: Agholor shallow cross completion, Agholor comeback completion, Jakobi Meyers crosser completion, throwaway, DeVante Parker out-route completion, incomplete rollout pass to Parker, sack, DeVante Parker touchdown, incomplete rollout pass to Ty Montgomery.
- Jones also had five no-chance plays during team drills that finished without a throw. Overall, a decent practice that represented a slight step back from Tuesday.
- Now, the bad: run-blocking. The Patriots’ allowed several run stuffs, and their backup offensive line couldn’t move Carolina an inch. Of course, they were down four linemen, including starting right tackle Isaiah Wynn.
- Rhamondre Stevenson continues to see the lion’s share of pass-catching back snaps in mid-practice team periods and cede 2-minute reps to Ty Montgomery. Interesting divide.
- As for the tight ends, Jonnu Smith won most of his 1-on-1 reps and had two catches on three targets in team drills. Devin Asiasi dropped one of his two passes. Asiasi showed much better in 1-on-1s.
- The highlight of 1-on-1s belonged to Montgomery, who secured a 1-handed catch on a pass from Mac Jones as he closed on the back right corner of the end zone.
- Top targets in team drills: Nelson Agholor 4/5, Lil’Jordan Humphrey 2/5, Kendrick Bourne 3/4, DeVante Parker 2/4, Josh Hammond 2/4, Jakobi Meyers 3/3, Rhamondre Stevenson
- 1-on-1 wide receiver winners: Jakobi Meyers, Jonnu Smith
- 1-on-1 wide receiver losers: Matt Sokol, Lil’Jordan Humphrey
- Drops: Devin Asiasi, Josh Hammond
- Starting and second-string personnel during team periods: defensive linemen Davon Godchaux, Christian Barmore, Lawrence Guy, Henry Anderson, Carl Davis and Daniel Ekuale; linebackers Matt Judon, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Raekwon McMillan, Mack Wilson, Jahlani Tavai, Josh Uche and Anfernee Jennings and defensive backs Devin McCourty, Kyle Dugger, Adrian Phillips, Joshuah Bledsoe, Jalen Mills, Jonathan Jones, Terrance Mitchell, Marcus Jones, Jack Jones, Shaun Wade and Myles Bryant.
- Interceptions: Jalen Mills
- Pass breakups: Jonathan Jones, Marcus Jones, Brenden Schooler, Devin Hafford
- Would-be sacks: LaBryan Ray
- Run stuffs: Team 2, Matt Judon
- 1-on-1 coverage winners: Jalen Mills, Myles Bryant
- 1-on-1 coverage losers: Jonathan Jones
- 1-on-1 pass rush winners: Deatrich Wise
- 1-on-1 pass rush losers: Christian Barmore, Josh Uche
- The Patriots’ pass rush was toothless compared to Tuesday’s relentless pressure display, registering zero sacks registered until undrafted rookie LaBryan Ray nabbed one during a 2-minute drill against Carolina’s third-string offense.
- That said, the Pats’ starting defense held its own during an 11-on-11 red zone period, where it allowed fewer than half of the Panthers’ dozen snaps to result in good gains or touchdowns.
- Later, Mills picked off Sam Darnold to start their first 2-minute drill and forced an incompletion on the next snap. But Darnold completed five straight passes to close it out, including a 15-yard laser on the move that beat Shaun Wade’s airtight coverage in the back corner of the end zone, where he had pinned backup receiver Derek Wright.
- Baker Mayfield had issues connecting deep downfield, specifically when he targeted fourth-round rookie Jack Jones, but also exploited a few openings in zone coverage over the middle.
- Shaun Wade and Terrance Mitchell rotated with the top cornerbacks, who are still Jalen Mills and Jonathan Jones outside with Marcus Jones and Myles Bryant in the slot.
- Bryant took over slot duties during 2-minute drills for the second straight practice after Jones had assumed slot duties in prior 11-on-11 practices.
- During 7-on-7s, Jonathan Jones surrendered a high-pointed touchdown to D.J. Moore, a case of perfect offense being great defense. Though Jones’ issues on the perimeter as a 5-foot-9 corner persist.
- In those same 7-on-7s, Mack Wilson flew around like no other inside linebacker on the roster and would have lit up multiple Panthers had tackling been allowed.
- Panthers offensive tackles snuffed out Josh Uche’s speed and spin moves in 1-on-1 pass rush. Christian Barmore also tried to rip around a few Carolina O-linemen to no avail.
- Even as a run-first player, defensive tackle Lawrence Guy continued what has been a disappointing pass-rushing camp for him.
- Second-round linebackers Cameron McGrone and Ronnie Perkins repped almost exclusively with the third-string defense.
- Kick returners: Kyle Dugger, Tre Nixon, Ty Montgomery, Pierre Strong
- Punt returners: Myles Bryant, Marcus Jones, Jabrill Peppers
- Starting kickoff team: Jake Bailey, Matthew Slater, Cody Davis, Justin Bethel, Jonathan Jones, Brenden Schooler, Jahlani Tavai, Mack Wilson, Adrian Phillips, Raekwon McMillan, Ty Montgomery.
- Starting kick return unit: Matthew Slater, Cody Davis, Kristian Wilkerson, Harvey Langi, Jonnu Smith, Josh Uche, Ronnie Perkins, Cameron McGrone, Joshuah Bledsoe and Kevin Harris.
Odds and ends
- Former Raiders general manager Mike Mayock and FOX Sports analyst Daryl “Moose” Johnston attended for the second straight day.
- Practice ran longer than two and a half hours, making it the longest of training camp.
- Wednesday marked the last training camp practice in Foxboro, with the team headed out to Las Vegas for more joint sessions next week before their regular-season finale.