FOXBOROUGH — Football is officially back at Gillette Stadium.
Monday was the first full-padded practice of the summer for the Patriots, which also meant Cam Newton’s first as a member of the Patriots.
The session lasted roughly an hour and a half, and there was a heavy focus on the running game. Everyone will want to know how the quarterbacks looked, and honestly there wasn’t much to take away given the lack of actual passing reps.
In terms of attendance, undrafted rookie wide receiver Jeff Thomas, defensive tackle Beau Allen, rookie linebacker Anfernee Jennings and running backs Sony Michel and Lamar Miller (both on PUP), were not spotted.
There were two new tight ends — Alex Ellis and Paul Butler — both of which worked out for the team on Sunday.
Here are some observations from the session.
— There wasn’t much learned from the quarterback competition as there was a clear rotation between Cam Newton, Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer. Each QB led at least one rep at one point or another and everyone worked with a number of different players. The competitive drills also featured an emphasis on the running game, so there wasn’t all that much to take away. Even when quarterbacks were given the chance to throw, it didn't seem all that competitive at times from the defense. More will likely be learned later in the week when the players are given more passing opportunities.
— In terms of Newton, it was clear from the start he will bring a tremendous amount of energy to the team this season. He was loud and excited from the second he stepped onto the field. This carried over into the positional drills and team drills. Stidham connected on a pass to Damiere Byrd and Newton was the loudest player on the field.
— Again, it’s really hard to take much away from what we saw, but it’s safe to say Newton is still in the acclimation process with the system and certainly has a long way to go. That isn’t a knock on him by any means, it’s just he officially joined the team last month. As for Stidham, he looked good in the limited throwing opportunities that he got. Again, it’s one practice where there weren’t many opportunities for the QBs, so it’s not worth making any real definitive conclusions. There were no real surprises with Hoyer and then undrafted rookie Brian Lewerke saw very limited reps.
— The play of the day was a Hoyer 40-plus yard connection to Devin Ross, who beat Joejuan Williams in 11-on-11 work. Ross, who is very fast, had a solid day.
— It was interesting to see Josh McDaniels not always working with the quarterbacks, as he no longer is listed as the quarterbacks coach and is just the offensive coordinator. For example, at the beginning of practice McDaniels spent some time with the offensive linemen with Jedd Fisch being with the quarterbacks. In the past, McDaniels only would be with the QBs and not bounce around.
— With the increased work on the run game and Michel and Miller not on the field, this allowed for Rex Burkhead and Damien Harris to shine. Undrafted rookie J.J. Taylor also saw some increased reps, but he muffed a punt and dropped a pass.
— Two other players who stood out in terms of taking advantage of a good amount of reps were Josh Uche and Jermaine Eluemunor. While many pointed to Yodny Cajuste as being the player most likely to replace Marcus Cannon who opted out, Eluemunor should also be in that discussion. Uche wasn’t used that much at Michigan, but based on what we saw Monday, that could change in his rookie year with the Patriots.
— Over the last several years, Tom Brady would break off to the side with several of his pass-catchers, which was termed the “circle of trust.” The same thing occurred again Monday, but this time it was with all of the quarterbacks. Pass-catchers included in that group were Mohamed Sanu, James White, N’Keal Harry, Julian Edelman and rookie Devin Asiasi. The rookie out of UCLA has a chance to make a big impact as a rookie, as does fourth-rounder Dalton Keene, who got a good number of reps in the session.
— Live action between the offense and defense with the run game was spirited at times with players on both sides of the ball jawing back and forth with one another. This certainly is a good sign with it being the first padded session and it should only continue in the coming days.
— Players who saw time returning punts were Taylor, Gunner Olszewski and Isaiah Zuber.
— Rookie kicker Justin Rohrwasser, who was the first player on the field, was 3-for-5 on field goal attempts, which were of the 40-plus yard variety. While he made three kicks, it certainly wasn’t smooth by any means as one of them bounced off the upright. He missed one wide left and another wide right.
— Owner Robert Kraft came out to watch a good amount of the practice from the middle of the two fields.