Patriots OTAs: Jarrett Stidham, defense stand out


The story of the day at the media’s second Patriots OTA viewing of the spring was, not surprisingly, Cam Newton.

But today wasn’t about Newton’s performance but rather his health status.

The returning veteran quarterback appeared to injure his right throwing hand during a drill early in practice and did not participate in the remainder of the session.

Newton was far from the only notable story at the quarterback position, though, as third-year former fourth-round pick Jarrett Stidham had a very good day throwing the football on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium, arguably the best offensive player on the field during the workout that lasted a little shy of two hours under gray skies.

With Newton sidelined, Stidham seemed to get extra reps in 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 work. As has always been his scouting report, in the basically non-competitive, non-padded environment Stidham throws a very nice ball.

While most of the day belonged to an energetic, vocal defense and the offense had way too many drops in the passing game, Stidham had the best throw of the session with a deep in-cut on the left hash to Isaiah Zuber, who also had a solid practice.

The throw was one of the few times the offense, regardless of quarterback, was able to get the ball down the field even a bit, with most completions coming on check-downs and throws inside of 10 yards.

Beyond some of Stidham’s action, the passing game never got any rhythm. Mac Jones and Brian Hoyer both struggled with their timing and accuracy – again, in a passing environment with no pads that barely competitive in nature – Jones was off the mark too often and late in his throws at times.
At one point he threw behind Hunter Henry on a short pass that hit linebacker Kyle Van Noy in the hands, though the veteran dropped the easy interception.

Overall it was a lackluster day for the new-look passing attack and Newton’s status after missing most of the workout is the key takeaway. But, Stidham was relatively impressive in his chances.

Beyond Stidham, here are one man’s other observations of the OTA session from the grassy hill beside the Gillette practice field.

--New England had a new receiver on the field wearing at No. 14 white practice jersey. It’s reportedly Marvin Hall, a veteran of four NFL seasons who spent parts of the last two years with the Lions. Playing for Cleveland and Detroit in 2020, Hall had 18 catches for 302 yards and two touchdowns. The 5-10, 190-pounder originally entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent out of Washington with the Raiders in 2016.

--Those players not seen on the field included K Nick Folk, LB Matt Judon, WR N’Keal Harry, S Adrian Phillips, CB Stephon Gilmore, RB Brandon Bolden, RB Sony Michel, CB J.C. Jackson, RB James White, DB Devin McCourty, RB Rhamondre Stevenson, LB Dont’a Hightower, LB Terez Hall, OL Isaiah Wynn, OL Trent Brown, TE Jonnu Smith, WR Devin Smith and DL Byron Cowart.

Jackson was seen on the field early but did not take part in the workout.

Harry is a new addition to the absentee list after taking part in the OTA in front of the media last week. Though it’s unfair to speculate on his status, it’s certainly not ideal for the former first-round pick to miss practice time at this early point in a critical third season.

Offensive lineman Justin Herron spent time with the training staff early in practice and then left field.

--A number of coaches and players wore Boston Bruins hats during the workout, including Bill Belichick. Belichick also wore the Bruins hat for his morning Zoom session with the media and voiced his support of Boston’s ongoing Stanley Cup playoff run.

--Jones wore a black compression sleeve on the lower part of his right leg.

--While the QB reps were tough to judge after Newton stopped working out, an early team drill had the veteran take the initial reps followed by Jones, Stidham and then Hoyer.

--Despite announcing his retirement this spring following the 2021 NFL Draft, trusted Belichick advisor Ernie Adams was once again on the practice field for the OTA session.

--With a still somewhat undefined role, Matt Patricia was on the practice field again and spending significant time with the defensive line group.

--Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was the loudest voice on the field for much of the OTA session. At times that was urging players on, while it became far more critical in certain situations. He made it quite clear he was not happy with one offensive lineman during one group drill.

--From start to finish there were simply too many drops, including from ball boys in drills working with the quarterbacks. In terms of actual players, Kendrick Bourne, Gunner Olszewski and fullback Jakob Johnson had a particularly tough day catching the football. Bourne had issues with drops at times during his career in San Francisco and clearly fought the ball a little bit on Friday.

--Jones did get some one-on-one time with McDaniels early in practice drills, throwing to ball boys under the coordinator’s watchful eye.

--There was obviously a lot of rotating along the offensive line during group and team drills. And the lineup, like many areas of the team, is affected by absent veterans (Wynn/Brown). Yodny Cajuste (LT) and Korey Cunningham (RT) got a lot of reps at tackle. Ted Karras took reps at both center and guard. Versatile second-year blocker Mike Onwenu continues to take a lot of reps at the left guard spot formerly held by Joe Thuney.

--Cajuste had a false start penalty in an early rep of 11-on-11 work, earning a penalty lap.

--“Pass protection” was an issue a number of times for the line and quarterbacks, although that’s a difficult thing to judge in a non-contact workout against a vocal, energetic defense that was flying off the ball.

--Jones had one particularly poor throw to the right sideline, the ball coming up short and late to the intended target.

--Damien Harris continues to be on the field but not take part in the workouts while wearing a sleeve on his left leg.

--It’s always fun to watch the various position-specific fundamental drills, which often change from year to year. The quarterbacks have a few new drills, one in particular catching the curious eye. In a drill likely focused on hips and footwork, the passers drop back from the line of scrimmage and then turn a complete 180 before throwing directly away from the line. Not sure that situation would ever actually come up in a game.

--After Newton suffered the apparent injury to his throwing hand in a QB drill he spent lots of time with the training staff. He then had discussions with McDaniels and even Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who was watching the workout from the sideline. While Newton had been his usual animated self early in practice – including dancing and loud chatter – the quarterback spent most of the time after being looked at by the trainer with his head down by himself just watching the action from behind the offense.

--Second-year TE/FB Dalton Keene wore a full black sleeve on his left leg for practice.

--It’s really hard to take anything away from workouts in shorts this time of year, but based on the execution and overall energy it would have to be said the defense was well ahead of the offense on the practice field on Friday.

--The team closed out the practice with field goal attempts on the far field. From the side view it’s always difficult and dangerous to verify the success of the kicks. But undrafted rookie Quinn Nordin certainly has a decent leg.

--The workout finished with the team running conditioning sprints on the hills in the far corner of the practice fields.

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