FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The New England Patriots are on the doorstep of opening up minicamp next week but slotted in one last OTA session open to the media on Friday. Similar to Tuesday's session, the pace was varying throughout portions of practice, but there were two competitive 11-on-11 sessions that could be described as a tie between the offense and defense.
Below we'll cover the biggest takeaways from Friday's OTA session, which includes third-round pick Marte Mapu opening some eyes.
Marte Mapu showing out
Third-round pick Marte Mapu really flashed his potential on Friday. While the Sacramento State product is billed as a safety/linebacker hybrid, he primarily was playing in the back end of the secondary at safety during this session. Mapu was a constant presence around the football during 11-on-11s, which included an interception off Bailey Zappe. Mapu also dropped what would have been another interception off Zappe during that second period of 11-on-11s on a pass intended for wideout Ed Lee.
"He's doing real good," Adrian Phillips said of Mapu, who officially signed his rookie deal on Friday. "He's just a guy that wants to learn. When you talk about rookies and guys coming in, that's the main thing you want to see. He's going to ask a million questions because he's one of those guys who doesn't want to get it wrong but he's not afraid to get it wrong because he wants to learn and be the best that he can. So it's just fun having him in the room, fun seeing him out there making plays. Seeing him grow every day. It's fun to be a part of. "
Mapu has been wearing a red non-contact jersey throughout OTAs thus far as he recovers from a pectoral injury, but has been opening eyes with his play despite the ailment.
It's important to preface that this is still only June but Mapu, first-round pick Christian Gonzalez (who continues to line up on the outside with the starting unit), and second-round defensive end Keion White do seem to be adjusting to the NFL quite nicely.
How the QBs played
I think it's fair to characterize Friday's session as an up-and-down day for the quarterbacks. Mac Jones was surgical during the first competitive 11-on-11 period, completing six of his seven passes as he marched the offense down the field for a touchdown. However, Jones' day didn't end on a high note. In the second and final competitive 11-on-11 portion of practice, Jones was just 2 of 6 by my count, which also included a throw that was tipped at the line of scrimmage and intercepted by safety Kyle Dugger, who returned it for a would-be touchdown. Jones was also picked off again during the second 11-on-11 period but it was dropped by linebacker Mack Wilson Sr., who could be seen doing some pushups following the play.
I also noticed that a couple of Jones' throws were a bit behind his intended receiver. That included one to DeVante Parker during the final 11-on-11 period, but the wideout bailed him out with an impressive catch where he had to turn his body back around. For the day, Jones completed 8 of 13, which was primarily against the first-team defense.
As for Zappe, he was a bit more efficient throwing the football but was also going against the second defensive unit. He was 7 of 10 during the first period and had a nice would-be touchdown slant throw to receiver Raleigh Webb in the red zone. He also had a long touchdown to running back Kevin Harris, who broke free down the sideline. Similar to Jones, however, Zappe struggled the second time around. While he was 6 of 8 during the session. He had one pick to Mapu on a throw intended for tight end Matt Sokol and then should have thrown another to Mapu had the rookie not let the ball pop out of his chest. I had Zappe going 13 of 18 on his throws on the day.
Local prospect gets opportunity
The Patriots signed Rhode Island wide receiver Ed Lee as an undrafted free agent earlier this week and the local prospect has been getting some work in multiple facets as he tries to carve out a role to potentially make the team. He has fielded kickoffs alongside Jabrill Peppers and seventh-round rookie Isaiah Bolden. With some of New England's top receivers still missing, he's also gotten reps at receiver. Of the three targets that he received from Zappe, Lee caught two of them while the other was nearly picked by Mapu.
Jack Jones slots in opposite of Gonzalez
With Jonathan Jones absent from Friday's practice, Jack Jones was the next man up at outside corner opposite of Gonzalez. The 2022 fourth-rounder is coming off a solid rookie season where he broke up six passes and had two interceptions in 13 games played. If he can elevate his game entering Year 2, there will be quite the youth movement going on in New England's defense.
Veteran kicker Nick Folk was on the field for the first time during these OTAs sessions that were open to the media. New England did a lot of special teams work on Friday and as the team transitions to minicamp and eventually training camp one of the notable storylines will be the battle between him and fourth-round pick Chad Ryland, who would seemingly have the inside track at the job.
As for who was not present during Friday's practice, here are some of the notable players missing in action.
- Matthew Judon
- JuJu Smith-Schuster
- Trent Brown
- Jalen Mills
- Jonathan Jones
- Tyquan Thornton
- Josh Uche
- Mike Onwenu
Of course, Monday is the start of minicamp, which is mandatory so all of these players (and the others that were also missing) should be accounted for then.