Patriots Diary: Rookies look comfortable heading into training camp


Marcus Jones is in his first training camp with the Patriots and is trying to buy some time in the defensive field. Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Shortly after that third practice in training camp, Patriots cornerback Marcus Jones wasted no time in identifying the biggest difference between college and the NFL.

It’s faster. Much faster. And you better keep going.

“That’s the main thing,” Jones said, “And since things can happen quickly, just make sure you stay on top of everything and get in the movie theater.”

Luckily for Jones, he’s teamed up with Tyquan Thornton.

Thornton, a second-round rookie from Baylor, was clocked as the fastest wide receiver prospect in the NFL combine last March with a 4.28 on the 40-yard dash. He and Jones have seen each other a lot so far at camp, where the two quickly find their place. Thornton led the Patriots with four catches in Thursday practice and caught another in Friday practice.

“It’s pretty obvious I’m quick, now I’m just trying to fill in all the other areas. … strength, road running, contested holds,” Thornton said Friday. “Trying to be a complete all-around receiver.”

Tyquan Thornton has been clocked as the fastest receiver in the NFL Combined and hopes to use that speed to buy some time with the Patriots. Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

Unlike Jones, Thornton faces a steep rise in the depth chart, with established veterans DeVante Parker, Jakobi Meyers, Kendrick Bourne and Nelson Agholor ahead of him. He and Agholor have regularly played with the second-team offense so far in training camp, while the front three run with the starters.

As for Jones, he took over nickelback duties for the starting defense on Friday. He didn’t allow a single catch in man coverage during the 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 periods. He dropped a punt, but atoned with a penalty round and later admitted that these mistakes were inevitable – at least at the start of camp.

Later, with the whole team watching at the end of practice, Jones lined up punts in a 1-on-1 competition between himself and Tre Nixon, where they held footballs while trying to kick some. catch another. Jones won by holding five footballs at him – four were hidden inside his shirt – as he grabbed a sixth, and the defense went wild.

The former All-American returner looks at home in early training camp competitions, as does first-round rookie offensive lineman Cole Strange, who started at left guard on day one of OTAs. .

“Honestly, I feel pretty good,” Strange said Thursday. “I think it’s just a matter of – and I would say it’s probably the same for anyone else – making sure you’re familiar with your homework and not being paralyzed by analysis. When you know your game and don’t think about it, you’re right.

Patriots linebacker coach Jerod Mayo had the respect of Mack Wilson, in his first season with New England, due to Mayo’s success during his playing career. Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

WHEN JERED MAYO talks, New England linebackers are listening.

Mack Wilson Sr., acquired in March from the Browns in exchange for Chase Winovich, says it was great working with Mayo, the team’s linebacker coach, also 2008 defensive rookie of the year and Super Bowl champion .

“Coach Mayo, to me, he’s a legend in my eyes. When he talks, I listen,” Wilson said. “I pay attention to everything he (does), everything he talks about in the boardroom, obviously, with the career he’s had here… it’s fun just to have a coach who really played the game, who put blood, sweat and tears in the same organization, and now he’s our coach, he gives us tools, advice, nuggets, and even coaches us at the end of the day.

“It’s a blessing. I’m happy to be a part of this organization and more importantly this linebacker room.

While Wilson at first didn’t really know or understand how good a Mayo player was as he navigated the middle of defense during his eight seasons with the Patriots, he made sure to do his homework before to meet his new job coach.

“Once I got traded here and found out he was going to be my coach, I did my research,” Wilson said. “And, the research speaks for itself.”

FAMILY NAME Bledsoe has a lot of connections in the Patriots organization, but sophomore safety Joshuah Bledsoe has no connection to former quarterback Drew Bledsoe. Instead, he’s just focused on making a name for himself after sitting out last season with injuries.

“It feels good to be on the pitch with my teammates,” Bledsoe said. “Obviously you make plays that just build confidence. Now I just try to play game by game and give it my all in every game.”

Drew Bledsoe played with the Patriots for most of his career and won the Super Bowl ring with the Patriots after losing his starting job to Tom Brady. During his 14-year career, Drew was voted into the Pro Bowl four times (1994, 1996, 1997, 2002).

“I don’t know him too well,” said Joshuah Bledsoe. “I know he played quarterback here. I know he was a good quarterback here. That’s all I know.”

Joshuah Bledsoe was selected by the Patriots in the sixth round of the 2021 NFL Draft. After signing a four-year rookie contract, he was placed on the active/non-football injury list at the start of training camp. He continued to be absent after starting the season on the reserve list, but was activated in December. Shortly after, he was placed in reserve for the rest of the season due to a calf injury.

This year, he wants to prove himself and earn a place on the pitch.

STEPHEN NEAL played for the New England Patriots from 2001 to 2010. He began his professional career as a defensive lineman but soon moved to the offensive line, where he remained for nearly a decade.

Bill Murray hopes he can do the same.

Murray, an undrafted free agent from William & Mary, spent the first two years of his career on the defensive line with the Patriots, mostly on the practice squad, but moved to guard before training camp. .

“I’m excited,” Murray said. ” It’s an opportunity. All I can be is to be grateful for this opportunity, to seize it with speed and to improve myself every day.

Murray says he worked with offensive line coaches Matt Patricia and Billy Yates on inside lineman fundamentals. Murray rotated guard with the team’s second offense in Saturday’s 11-for-11 period. The last time Murray played full-time on the offensive line was when he was a tackle in high school.

“It’s a brand new position. It’s very difficult,” Murray said. “My teammates and coaches have been very helpful. Every day I try my best to improve.”

Murray was an FCS All-American and a two-time All-CAA second-team selection on the William & Mary defensive line. He says the biggest thing that has translated to the attacking side of the ball is the ‘general resistance to football’.

“What we preach here is to be smart, tough and reliable,” Murray said. “That’s what I try to do every day.”

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