FOXBORO — Neither quarterback Tom Brady nor running back Sony Michel were in attendance at the New England Patriots’ organized team activities on Thursday, but there was still work to be done.
“It’s good to get out on the field,” Patriots’ coach Bill Belichick said following the first OTA session that was open to the media. “Obviously, it’s been a productive spring for us, a productive week. We were able to do some down and distance work here, work in the red area so that was good and we’ll just keep moving on next week.
“We’ve got a long way to go but we’re just grinding it out here one day at a time and we’ll see how it goes,” Belichick added.
Patriots’ first-round pick N’Keal Harry was among the most impressive players on the field, showcasing a series of impactful plays in red zone drills like a back-shoulder catch for a touchdown (one of many) during 11-on-11s.
Second-round pick Joejuan Williams also received a fair share of reps, with the 6-foot-3 corner back standing out like a sore thumb due to his physical stature. Both Harry and Williams look the part of high-round draft picks.
For what it’s worth
- What’s the deal at left tackle? Nothing yet. The Patriots were without 2018 first-round pick Isaiah Wynn as he recovers from an Achilles injury and 2019 pick Yodny Cajuste (quadriceps injury), so the team had Joe Thuney at left tackle on Thursday with the starting group. Cole Croston, Dan Skipper and Cedrick Lang were among the mix protecting the left side as well.
- Brian Hoyer, Danny Etling and Jarrett Stidham seemed to fairly split snaps behind center in Brady’s absence. Hoyer was the clear No. 1 in drills while both Etling and Stidham were inconsistent.
- Other absentees included punter Ryan Allen, safety Patrick Chung, safety Nate Ebner, long snapper Joe Cardona, linebacker Kyle Van Noy, running back Nick Brossette, defensive end Michael Bennett, tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, wide receiver Demaryius Thomas and defensive end Deatrich Wise.
- Tight ends Ben Watson and Matt LaCosse rotated at the position with Seferian-Jenkins missing due to an excused absence. Watson made a nice grab in double-coverage on a pass from Etling during 11-on-11s.
- Defensive tackle Adam Butler intercepted a pass by Brian Hoyer and sprinted the full length of the field, scoring a touchdown, despite nobody chasing him and whistles blowing the play dead.
- With punter Ryan Allen absent, there was no competition for rookie punter Jake Bailey, who the Patriots traded up and spent a fifth-round pick on, during Thursday’s practice. Bailey showcased a big leg while spending the majority of the day with specialist Matthew Slater.
Mystery man No. 72, who was unlisted on Thursday’s roster, was later identified as Gunner Olszewski, a four-year player at Bemidji State. Olszewski, 22, was a defensive back and a returner during college, but the Patriots will work him out at wide receiver. The 6-foot, 170-pounder was named Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Defensive Player of the Year.