FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The first day of training camp is in the books.
New England returned to the backfields at Gillette Stadium for a 75-minute get-your-feet-wet session, and the biggest storylines were a veteran wide receiver shining in the red zone, and an assistant coach with a walkie talkie that seemed to be calling the offense.
So without further ado, here are the first 10 training camp takeaways of the summer:
1. Patricia has the walkie
Patriots coaches didn’t have headsets on Wednesday morning, but for every (somewhat) competitive offensive period, Matt Patricia picked up a walkie talkie to relay plays into the huddle for Mac Jones. Though listed as a line coach, it’s becoming increasingly likely that Patricia will be coordinating the entire offense.
At points of practice Patricia was working with other parts of the offense while Billy Yates oversaw the line. This could conceivably be the case on game days too, as Patricia moves to a play-calling role while Yates is hands-on with the linemen the entire time. Trent Brown said he didn’t mind the new dynamic at all.
“A.I.O.: Adapt, improvise, overcome,” the tackle said. “Whoever’s down there, we’ve gotta listen, pay attention and jot down all the details… (Yates) played here, he knows everything we’re supposed to be doing and how it’s supposed to be done. The Patriot Way.”
2. DeVante dominates the red zone
Though it wasn’t an intense practice — players are just in helmets and shorts — DeVante Parker was the star of the day, particularly in the red zone. He used his 6-foot-3, 220-pound frame to catch a pair of touchdown passes in 7-on-7 drills, and sprinted over to the bleachers after beating Jack Jones and tapping his toes in bounds on the second one, electrifying the crowd. He added a third touchdown later in the session, too.
“Shout out to him doing very well, adjusting to the team well, buying in. Fits in well,” Kendrick Bourne said. “It’s exciting to see.”
It’s (very, very) early, but Parker looks like the player the Patriots hoped N’Keal Harry would be: A big-bodied wide out that’s going to come down with jump balls.
3. Mac gets in on the action
While on the topic of emoting Patriots, Jones was fiery after his final touchdown pass to Nelson Agholor that ended the practice. With Malcolm Butler in coverage, Agholor got a step on a fade and Jones placed a touchdown ball perfectly.
The offense and defense had wagered push-ups on the play, so as defensive players hit the turf, Jones sprinted across the field yelling as he sought out Agholor. He’s clearly growing more comfortable being himself in his second season — and the crowd ate it up.
4. Leaders in the clubhouse revealed
Defensive positional battles will rage in the coming months, but to open camp on Wednesday, Terrance Mitchell and Jalen Mills started at outside cornerback with Shaun Wade in the slot. Jonathan Jones is currently on the PUP list, so it’ll be interesting to see who he displaces upon return. He’s been one of the league’s best slot corners for years now, but if Bill Belichick thinks he has more value on the outside, perhaps he moves out wide. At inside linebacker, Raekwon McMillan got the nod alongside Ja’Whaun Bentley.
5. Kendrick catches punts
With a vacancy following Gunner Olszewski’s departure to Pittsburgh, Kendrick Bourne was once again back catching punts, alongside Kyle Dugger, Tre Nixon, Marcus Jones, and Jack Jones. It’s intriguing to see Bourne and Dugger getting significant reps back there, as they’re both expected to see significant roles on the first three downs, too.
6. Tackles stay flipped
Trent Brown was once again protecting Mac Jones’ blindside at left tackle, while Isaiah Wynn was over on the right.
“Feeling like home,” Brown said. “Feeling like home.”
Brown said that there were no discussions of the change during free agency and that he’s happy to play wherever the team needs him. James Ferentz took reps at center with David Andrews on the PUP list, while Cole Strange and Michael Onwenu were back at guard.
7. No surprise absences
All of the missing Patriots on Wednesday had already been placed on a reserve list.
PUP: Jonathan Jones, David Andrews, James White, Jabrill Peppers.
NFI: Myles Bryant, Chasen Hines, Andrew Steuber, Jake Bailey.
Pierre Strong was also a limited participant; he trotted down to the lower fields early in the session.
8. This ain’t Groundhog Day
Bill Murray was trying something new as training camp opened. A practice squad defensive lineman for the past two seasons, Murray flipped to offense and was sporting No. 62. He didn’t see many reps during team periods, but stepped in at guard with a field goal unit.
One of the hardest workers on the roster — Murray constantly stays late after practice for extra work — it wouldn’t be a surprise if he can carve out an unorthodox path to the 53-man roster as an offensive reserve.
9. New look helmets
At times, the Patriots looked like a pack of turtles — and that had nothing to do with their speed. The team is sporting new-look protective shells on the helmets of players that see a lot of contact during practice. It seems like a smart way to limit head injuries, but the optics will take some getting used to.
10. No super-yacht here
As Washington Commanders Dan Snyder sails through international waters, Robert Kraft was watching his team’s first day of practice from the sideline. At 81 years old, Kraft seems as intrigued as ever by what this new Patriots season will bring.
Story by Chris Mason, masslive.com