Patriots' offense takes baby steps to close grueling Thursday practice at training camp

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Nothing looks easy for the Patriots’ offense during padded practices at training camp right now, and there's no real getting around that fact.

The primarily outside zone-based ground game they're trying to build into their scheme can’t get on track, and there are far too many instances of Mac Jones having to pull the ball down and run around looking for receivers who aren’t open despite solid protection when he drops back to pass.

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After multiple blown-up plays in the first truly competitive 11-on-11 period, a strike to Tre Nixon over the middle gave the No. 1 offense a little momentum and got them into the red zone. But the segment ended with an incompletion to Jonnu Smith on which he and Mac Jones should’ve connected for a touchdown but weren’t quite on the same page.

Even in practice, you want to come away with points on a drive like that.

The second 11-on-11 drill didn't start much better: the first two plays were a run stuff and a throwaway from Jones. But Jones and Smith redeemed the earlier miss with a third-down conversion. Then, after two more bad plays, Jones found Nixon on a corner route for a touchdown after not seeing him open the play before.

Baby steps, folks.

At this point, the main difference between the offense and defense is that one side of the ball knows what it’s doing and the other is still figuring things out. You get one guess as to which is which.

The offense has quite intentionally continued repping concepts that it’s struggling with, specifically the outside run game and more Sean McVay-ish concepts. Not surprisingly, that's taking longer to get the hang of than everyone would like. Just think about how much it pains Bill Belichick to see one of his teams be bad at running the football right now.

Still, as rookie Tyquan Thornton (and a few others) might say, the Patriots' offense got one percent better on Thursday than they were the day before.

That might be all you can say for them, but it's not nothing.