Patriots: Sights, sounds & thoughts from Day 3 of training camp

If the first and second day of training camp for the Patriots was clearly 1-1 between the defense and offense, then Day 3 was more of a tossup.

There was some good and bad from both units as things continue to progress towards the first padded practice on Monday. The Pats have one more practice this week on Saturday morning (9:30, open to the public) before the first day off on Sunday.

Here’s some sights, sounds and thoughts from Day 3.

-For the third straight day, Terrance Mitchell was the first guy up the stairs. I thought Mac was on Wednesday but just completely missed Mitchell. It’s actually impressive how early he’s been, it’s at least 5 minutes before anyone else.

-Mac was a bit later than he has been today but was still one of the earlier arrivals. The ovation each morning has gotten bigger and is probably going to keep growing.

-I’ve said this for three straight days now, but any worry about the fans being less interested has been completely eliminated. Standing room only today.

-Matt Judon continues to be a man of the people whenever he gets a chance, playing catch with fans once again before practice today and sticking around for quite a while afterwards to sign autographs and take photos. Plenty of guys have done the same, but Judon’s effort to connect with the fan base just seems to give him the same amount of joy that it does them.

-New (and clear) WR1 DeVante Parker is quickly turning into a fan favorite already as he received a loud ovation upon jogging onto the field just as stretching was starting.

-Kendrick Bourne’s energy continues to be unmatched. Bourne ran out, got the fans going and then shared an elaborate handshake with Damien Harris. Both Harris and Bourne have also continued barking like dogs seemingly 24/7.

-David Andrews was back in uniform for the first time today and was one of the first linemen out for practice.

-After some routine light positional work to start practice, Jonnu Smith had the first big play of the day in 7-on-7 when he went up to get a ball from Mac, receiving a big cheer from the thousands in attendance.

-Bailey bombs were back and it was a glorious thing to see. His directional ability coupled with pretty ridiculous hang time (4.97 seconds was his best) is actually an art form.

-Bailey can also put some Tim Wakefield-like knuckle on his punts and did so a few times, much to the chagrin of Marcus Jones who muffed one and had to run a lap.

-Tre Nixon, Marcus Jones and Dugger all caught punts from both Bailey and Jake Julien. The Patriots haven’t had a real special teams scoring threat since Edelman and (in my opinion) desperately need to get something from that unit this season.

-The second big play of the day once again went to Smith, who Moss’d Dugger during more 7-on-7 work, gaining an even bigger roar from the crowd.

-Nixon had a similar catch moments later over Shaun Wade. I still believe he’s going to legitimately contribute this year whether it’s catching the ball, taking back punts or all of the above. Just feels like this team’s type of guy.

-Adrian Phillips had the first big defensive play towards the end of the first 7-on-7 period, picking off Bailey Zappe while covering Smith.

-Around 10:34 the first bit of 11-on-11 competition started and it looked like Matt Patricia was calling plays. Having said that, Belichick was heavily involved with the offense again on Friday, so we’re not getting any definitive answers any time soon.

-Bourne almost had a ridiculous diving catch in the back right corner of the end zone but couldn’t come up with the ball from Mac. Mills had pretty good coverage on the play, but Bourne was upset with himself afterwards.

-The man with the new contract, Davon Godchaux, had a tipped ball at the line of scrimmage during the 11-on-11 that was nearly picked off over the middle but fell harmlessly to the ground.

-Zappe wasn’t great on Friday, but he had an absolute DIME in the back right corner of the end zone to one of the newest Patriots Tye Montgomery that drew a collective “wow” from many in the media tent.

-The ugliest play of the day from an offensive standpoint came when Mills picked off a pass from Mac almost by accident. There was a clear miscommunication between Jakobi Meyers and Jones and the ball basically caught Mills and he happened to put his hands up. Mac threw his hands up in disgust.

-During some brief field goal work, Jones and Patricia chatted for a bit following the miscommunication.

-Back to 7-on-7 work around 10:47 and Parker got things rolling with a nice high-point catch in the back left corner of the far end zone.

-Smith had another pretty grab on the left sideline and it seems like his connection with Mac – like most of the Pats’ pass catchers – is growing daily.

-Once again, the pass rush showed up on Friday, but Mac continues to show a strong ability to slide, step up and extend plays that we didn’t see a ton of last season.

-Hunter Henry made Dugger’s day a bit worse with another Moss-like grab .

-One play later, Justin Bethel picked off a ball at the goal line while wearing giant pads/mittens on his hands.

-The final competitive snap of the day saw Mac roll to his right, extending another play as he was chased. Jones pointed towards the back right corner of the end zone and then fired a laser into Meyers, earning one more eruption from the crowd.

-The end of practice wasn’t your typical conditioning on the hill. Instead, there was a punt catching competition between a few players. The only wildcard was that guys had to keep the balls in their arms to see how many they could ultimately hold onto. The first round was between Marcus Jones and Nixon, with things ending at 5-5. It wasn’t without some controversy though, as Jones put a few balls under his shirt to hold onto them.

-Round 2 was Cole Strange against defensive lineman Damarcus Mitchell. Strange took that one 2-1, with the last catch drawing a huge reaction from his teammates before the breakdown to officially end practice.

Through three days, there’s a few things that stand out to me. First, it’s clear that Mac is lightyears ahead of where he was a year ago, both as a leader and in terms of his play on the field. This offense should be much better than people think. Defensively, there are still a lot of questions, but there’s one thing for certain, the unit believes it can be very good and has taken pride in its competitiveness thus far.

The most glaring thing for me is a difference in tempo and energy amongst the entire team compared to last year. It feels like (aside from a few new players) that second and third year guys are much more comfortable now and it’s showing in the effort on both sides. Things felt lethargic at times last year during the first few days of camp, but that’s not the case this season and the guys haven’t even put on pads yet.