Patriots: Sights, sounds & thoughts from Day 4 of training camp

The first week of training camp came to an end with one more practice on Saturday morning and it was another good day for the defense.

Let’s just jump right into some sights, sounds and thoughts on the day and where things stand after four practices.

-Not only was there a standing room only crowd in the bleachers and on the hill on Saturday, but there was even overflow “traffic” up on the ramps looking out over the practice field. Without a doubt there is a buzz so far during this camp that didn’t exist last year. I think it’s the whole “do we really have the next guy?” factor when it comes to Mac for the fan base and everyone wants to see it for themselves.

-Terrance Mitchell was first out again as he has been for every practice. Jalen Mills and Kyle Dugger weren’t far behind.

-If you ever need to know where Mac is, just follow the roars. As expected, the thunderous ovation for him today was the loudest its been all week and will only keep growing. Matt Judon made his way out right around the same time and sort of side-shuffled in front of Jones while the two shared a laugh.

-Judon then did his now routine lap around the field while playing catch with young fans. The fact he wears a red hoodie every day in this weather still blows my mind too.

-After the usual positional drills following the team stretch, Jones worked with all the receivers on deep balls and intermediate routes for a good 10-15 minutes or so. Tre Nixon had the best catch during the drill, toe-tapping the back line.

-I think Kendrick Bourne is the smoothest route runner the team has at this point. It’s also hard to ignore his energy which was up again on Saturday. Fans really seem to be gravitating towards him.

-My guy Brenden Schooler was working quite a bit with Matt Slater at one point and I legitimately think he’s going to make the team. Obviously that could change and he could be useless when the pads come on, but that length can’t just be dismissed.

-There were four different 7-on-7 periods throughout the two-hour practice. In the first one, Nelson Agholor kicked things off with an impressive tumbling catch in the back left corner of the far end zone with Mills in coverage.

-A quick special teams period saw Ty Montgomery, Nixon and Marcus Jones fielding kick offs, but there’s no real return game yet, so not much to report on other than who caught the balls out of the machine.

-The second 7-on-7 period of the day was a really good one for the secondary as Malcolm Butler broke up a slant to Jakobi Meyers, Jack Jones broke up a pass intended for Thornton with a diving effort, and Mitchell had a PBU on a ball over the middle intended for Bourne.

-During this time, Tristan Vizcaino continued to hit bombs into the media and family tent. This is obviously Nick Folk’s job and I learned my lesson with Quinn Nordin last year, but it’s hard to ignore some of his kicks.

-Hunter Henry was able to split double coverage against Dugger and Josh Bledsoe and almost hauled in a great leaping catch but it was off his fingertips. Strong throw from Mac on this one.

-During the “open field” drill we talked about during the week, Thornton showed his quickness with a ridiculous juke move against Ronnie Perkins. Can’t wait to see the pads come on so Thornton can show what he can do in a full speed situation.

-The third 7-on-7 period the music was ramped up to simulate noise at the line of scrimmage. Mills got it started with a PBU against Montgomery.

-Once again it looks like Matt Patricia is the clear play caller with a side of Bill Belichick too. Both were in Jones and Zappe’s ear during the various competitive periods.

-Mac had a pretty throw while rolling to his left right off the snap, hitting Jonnu Smith for a short TD in a small window. The rollout for Jones has been more common than you’d expect to see so far.

-Zappe and Nixon connected twice in this particular period, both on short tosses over the middle.

-Joejuan Williams had a fantastic PBU against Devin Asiasi in the back left corner of the end zone, making up some ground and then jumping to knock it away.

-Vizcaino was kicking field goals again at this point, and the Eagle Tribune’s Bill Burt had a phenomenal one-handed snag on a kick. There’s a real possibility it was as good – if not better – than Jerry Thornton’s sliding catch last year.

-Parker and Bourne seemingly feed off the fans every chance they get, constantly signaling them to get up and get loud. Fans may end up loving this dynamic duo.

-We finally got some 11-on-11 work at 10:58 A.M. Perkins and a name many people have completely forgotten about, Anfernee Jennings were VERY noticeable in the pass rushing department, causing problems for both Mac and Zappe.

-On one of the first snaps, Parker had a great toe-tap grab on the sideline on a ball from Mac.

-A “best throw of camp” candidate came from Zappe on one of the final snaps of this particular period. The rookie QB placed an absolute dime into the arms of Kristian Wilkerson with Jack Jones in coverage, drawing a big “ooooh” from fans and media alike.

-Some quick field goal work on both sides of the field broke things up for a bit before one more 11-on-11 period started (ironically enough) at 11:11. Trent Brown false started on the very first snap and had to run a lap.

-Meyers had the catch of the day when he went up and snagged a ball in-between Mitchell and Shaun Wade, drawing another big reaction from everyone.

-Mac continues to show great ability to slide around and extend plays. He took off for the end zone on one snap after waiting for what felt like at least five or six seconds for someone to get open. He’s not Mike Vick, but if this mobility continues to improve it’ll be awfully helpful on 3rd-&-4 or 5.

-Jones and Henry hooked up for a TD over Dugger late. Henry and Smith could ultimately be the most important X factors for this offense.

-On the second-to-last play of the day, Dugger undercut a route on a ball intended for Parker and picked Mac off for a house call. Fans roared as he sprinted down the sideline, joined by some teammates. The offense immediately had to get down and do pushups.

-At 11:23, the Patriots headed to the conditioning hill, officially wrapping up the first week of camp.

Next week will be extremely interesting once the pads come on. There’s reason for optimism with a lot of the younger guys and there’s a good chance this defense might be better than we all thought too. I keep saying the offense is already very underrated and I stand by that, but it’s hard not to be impressed with the defense and their compete level the last two days.

As always, keep reading for all your New England football coverage and if you can, try to make it out for one of the open practices next week, it’s been a phenomenal atmosphere so far.