After seeing three open OTAs, it’s clear that Jones is making strides. On Tuesday, he took more reps than any quarterback in attendance and looked more polished and decisive. There were some hiccups in the end with two interceptions, but Jones outplayed Cam Newton and Jarrett Stidham.
Overall, Jones completed 17/25 passes in team drills. That included two interceptions at the end of practice to Dont’a Hightower, who jumped in front of a pass to Dalton Keene, and Kyle Van Noy, who caught a ball tipped at the line of scrimmage. Jones went 9/13 in 11-on-11s and 8/12 in 7-on-7s.
The 25 passes thrown in team drills were a team high. Cam Newton went 9/17 with an interception in team drills. Jarrett Stidham went 5/7. Brian Hoyer didn’t throw any passes in competitive team drills on Tuesday.
The first 11-on-11 period was noteworthy. The staff pumped up the music to make it harder on the quarterbacks. The defense also brought blitz-after-blitz. It seemed to hurt Newton, who went 1/3 with a near interception (Jalen Mills dropped the pick), and Stidham who went 0/2 in this drill. With Jones, however, the quarterback looked more polished.
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In that drill, Jones completed his first five passes in a row – with edge rushers sprinting around him. His final two passes fell incomplete as he went 5/7 in that competitive period. Jones did a good job of making the quick read and getting rid of the ball.
Jones was flying through practice. At one point, he was 13/19 in team drills. That’s when the defense stepped up. In a three-play period, Jones was intercepted by Hightower and Van Noy, showing that the rookie is still working through some kinks.
Overall, this has been a very solid minicamp for Jones, who has looked like the best quarterback in New England.
For Newton, Tuesday was tough. He struggled to throw the ball downfield, having success with shorter throws. The veteran also struggled with his accuracy. Newton should’ve been intercepted twice, but Mills dropped one. Kyle Dugger intercepted Newton in 7-on-7s on an overthrown ball to Kendrick Bourne.
Mills was the best defensive player of the day. The versatile defensive back had three pass breakups. Mill was also talking some trash as Jones tested and failed to beat the cornerback on two deep balls in three plays.
Devin McCourty expects Stephon Gilmore to return to the Patriots
While the Patriots are at minicamp, Stephon Gilmore is reportedly holding out. On Tuesday morning, Bill Belichick said he didn’t expect the Pro Bowl cornerback to show up to the mandatory practices and wouldn’t comment any further.
At this point, it’s unknown when Gilmore will return. According to the NFL Network, the cornerback will not play this season under his current contract, which pays him a $7 million base salary. However, it sounds like at least one Patriots teammate thinks Gilmore will return to New England.
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On Tuesday, Devin McCourty said he’s been in touch with Gilmore and expects the Pro Bowler to be back with the Patriots.
“Gilly is still under contract so when he comes back in, he does what he does,” McCourty said “… You know for me I’ve been talking to him, he’s still a part of this team and when he comes in, I don’t think we have to change much like he fits in where he fits in and it doesn’t take much to see like where he fits in. I don’t think you have to like reinvent the wheel.
“… When he gets back that’ll be what it is and all of that will work itself out but still fully part of this team a lot of guys have talked to him this offseason and keep in contact with him. Obviously it’s my 12th year in the league, you see things like this happen. It kind of works itself on its own and kind of let the player worry about that.
“But I think as far as us as teammates and our defense with him in it, I’m excited for that just as much as anything – a guy that obviously his season got cut short last year, and he’s gonna be working hard to get back in and get to that level of play that he’s been at the last couple of years. I’m excited to see him do that and obviously one of the hardest working guys I’ve been around, the quiet assassin, is doing what he needs to do to be back out there playing good football.”
Dont’a Hightower says he’s committed to the Patriots
After opting out of the 2020 season, there were ‘rumors’ that Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower was going to retire. The Pro Bowler was in team meetings, but skipped optional OTAs. This week, the 31-year-old put an end to the retirement talk by showing up for mandatory minicamp.
On Tuesday, speaking for the first time since the 2019 season, Hightower said he doesn’t want anyone to question his commitment to the Patriots.
“I don’t know what y’all want for me to say, man. I’m here. I’m working. I’m in minicamp,” Hightower said. “I’m not here to write a story for you, dawg. I’m here to work, man. I’m here. I don’t know what else y’all want me to say. If I wasn’t here, then I think that would be something to talk about. But I’m here. Hopefully that knocks all those questions out.”
When he last played, Hightower earned his second Pro Bowl in 2019. He finished with 71 tackles to go with 13 quarterback hits and 5.5 sacks. He opted out after his wife had a baby boy. Hightower’s mother also has diabetes.
The Patriots defense and pass rush struggled without Hightower in 2020. His presence back at practice this week has been a welcomed sight. On Tuesday, Hightower dropped back and intercepted Mac Jones. He said it’s been nice to be back with his teammates and he feels like he stayed in shape.
“It’s been good, man,” Hightower said. “I’ve obviously been working at home. Whether or not being here or whatever, but it feels good to be on the field but it’s more about being in the locker room, being around these guys. I was in the house for a whole year, man. I love my wife, and I love my son, but I’m pretty sure that she was ready for me to get back out here too. Talking football into her ear and her head. I’m glad to be back, glad to be around all the guys. Just glad to be back in the facility.”
Jonnu Smith and Shaq Mason don’t participate on Day 2
On Day 2 of Patriots minicamp, the Pats had a similar attendance list with Stephon Gilmore, Chase Winovich, Rashod Berry, Terez Hall and Byron Cowart absent. The team had a few players present, but not participating with Jonnu Smith, Shaq Mason, Devin Smith and Cameron McGrone.
It looked like Jonnu Smith tweaked his hamstring on Monday, so it wasn’t a surprise to see the tight end just watching. It was, however, a surprise to see Mason not practicing. The right guard has been participating all spring. On Tuesday, Mason’s absence led to Ted Karras stepping in at right guard.
Dalton Keene wasn’t a full participant, but finished on the field with his teammates.
On the injury front, it looked like N’Keal Harry tweaked his right calf at the end of practice. He didn’t leave the field, but could be seen grabbing the back of his leg. We’ll monitor the wide receiver on Wednesday.
Bill Belichick expects Stephon Gilmore’s hold out to last through minicamp
It doesn’t sound like a resolution between the Patriots and Stephon Gilmore will happen any time soon.
The Patriots No. 1 cornerback wasn’t at the start of minicamp on Monday. According to multiple reports, Gilmore is currently holding out for more money. He’s in the final year of his contract, which pays him a base salary of $7 million.
On Tuesday, Bill Belichick was asked about Gilmore and if his absence was excused. The Patriots coach deflected, but said he doesn’t expect the Pro Bowler to be present at minicamp, which runs through Wednesday. If his holdout does last this week, the Patriots can fine Gilmore $93,085 for the three missed days.
“I don’t expect him to be here,” Belichick said of Gilmore. “We’ll just focus on the guys that are here.”
Gilmore, 30, played in 11 games last year before his season ended due to a quad injury. The cornerback still earned Pro Bowl honors. In 2019, Gilmore was named the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year.
It’ll be worth monitoring how this situation plays out. Will Gilmore’s hold out last until training camp? Will he report to training camp? Will the Patriots give in and pay the cornerback more? Will the Pats look to trade Gilmore? Only time will tell.
Jonnu Smith not expected to practice due to hamstring injury
In other Patriots attendance news, tight end Jonnu Smith is expected to miss Tuesday’s practice after suffering a hamstring injury on Monday. Smith pulled up after a drill and could be seen grabbing at the back of his left leg. The veteran met with Patriots trainer Jim Whalen and didn’t finish Monday’s session, which was his first as a Patriot after skipping OTAs.
Smith was scheduled to talk with the media on Tuesday, but he’s been removed from the media schedule. Belichick said the team will monitor Smith this morning.
“We’ll see how it goes,” Belichick said. “Like a lot of guys, we’ll take a look at them before practice, see how they’re doing. Probably six-to-10 guys that fall in that category and take it day-by-day.”
What you need to know about Patriots practice
The Patriots first day of minicamp didn’t lack any drama.
On Monday, Stephon Gilmore was absent. The Pro Bowl cornerback is currently holding out for more money. Gilmore is set to earn a $7 million base salary this season and is willing to miss time to make a point. It’ll be interesting to see if the cornerback stays the course and misses all three days this week.
We also saw Cam Newton return to the practice field on Monday after missing most of last week with a hand injury. The veteran quarterback continues to take all the first reps in the Patriots offense. That doesn’t mean the position lacks competition. Mac Jones had his best day of practice (in front of the media) on Monday. Jarrett Stidham has also put together a nice spring.
What you need to know about Patriots practice
Day 2 of minicamp should bring more competition to the quarterback position. At the end of practice, Newton is expected to talk with the media for the first time this offseason. We’ll have you updated right here.
What: Day 2 of Patriots minicamp
Where: Gillette Stadium practice fields
When: Tuesday from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.