FOXBORO -- The Patriots used to have a certain type at slot receiver. It used to be someone built low to the ground. Someone with quick-as-a-hiccup movement skills.
Troy Brown. Wes Welker. Julian Edelman. Danny Amendola.
That profile has morphed in recent years, though, with Jakobi Meyers taking on that role for the last several seasons. The Patriots brought in JuJu Smith-Schuster -- who said this week that the legacy of the slot position in New England is one he wants to uphold -- to be their operator on the interior after Meyers departed for Las Vegas in free agency.
Those are big-bodied, contested-catch options.
Through three practices, however, there's a throwback operating out of the slot who has started to make a name for himself. Let's get to the details on that rookie receiver and how he's impressed in our Day 3 edition of Stock Watch...
Demario "Pop" Douglas
The rookie sixth-rounder out of Liberty told us in the spring that he went by both his given first name and "Pop." We'll go with the latter here and until further notice because that's exactly what he's done at training camp thus far.
Douglas is the lone first-year wideout to have worked his way into first-team reps. He caught all five of his targets from Bailey Zappe on Friday. And when he touches the football, he has noticeable acceleration. Add to it all that he's been used as a kick-return option for the Patriots, and it's safe to say that Douglas has made a very positive early impression on his new club.
If Tyquan Thornton and Kendrick Bourne can't get more involved as camp wears on -- neither has a catch in competitive 11-on-11 periods through three practices -- there may be more work available for Douglas. He's undersized at 5-foot-8, 192 pounds, but he has next-level lower-body explosiveness. He made a leaping, tumbling grab with Jack Jones all over him in the end zone that was one of the best plays of the practice.
For now, Douglas is making us look good for pegging him as our rookie wideout to watch in New England back in June on Next Pats.
Judon ramped up his participation level on Day 3, but he's clearly still a limited participant. He took part in conditioning and positional periods, but he sat out for some time when team periods began. When competitive 11-on-11 work began, he did get on the field intermittently -- for about a half-dozen snaps total -- and recorded a strong pass-rushing rep on right tackle Conor McDermott (more on him in a second).
Judon continues to bring energy to the field, even with a smaller workload than some of his teammates, and he said Friday that his availability was related to a slow ramp-up period he'd discussed with the team's medical personnel and coaches. But, I've been told, he would like an adjustment to his contract. He deserves one, too, based on where the edge-defender market has gone as well as the level of production he's provided for the team over the last couple of seasons.
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The day didn't start off perfectly for Jones. He gave a tug to DeVante Parker's jersey on a jump ball in the end zone on the second 7-on-7 rep of the practice. But when 11-on-11s began, he had another opportunity on a similar type of play and recorded an impressive pass breakup. Two plays later he smothered Thornton on an incompletion to the second-year wideout in the back corner of the end zone. One play after that, Jones had yet another breakup on a target for Parker.
If the Patriots need Jones to play on the outside because Jack Jones is unavailable, based on what he showed Friday, the vet sure looks capable of disrupting gotta-have-it throws into the end zone when matched up with bigger bodies.
The rookie first-round corner is worthy of a mention in this category as well. He's consistently taken reps with the top defense, and he does not look out of place. In the least. The first target he saw on Friday, intended for Thornton in 11-on-11s, he broke up. He had another strong coverage rep one play later when Mac Jones targeted Bourne, whom Gonzalez blanketed as the ball sailed out of bounds. If the game is moving quickly on Gonzalez during his first week of training camp as a pro, it doesn't show.
It looks like the Patriots have a new top right tackle. That's at least how it played out on the field on Day 3. The veteran journeyman McDermott -- whom the Patriots signed off the Jets practice squad last season -- stepped into the huddle with Mac Jones, David Andrews, Hunter Henry and others to start 11-on-11 work Friday.
While the left tackle spot appears to be locked down by Trent Brown, who has been in shape and a full participant through three days of on-field work, the right tackle gig looks up for grabs. Riley Reiff started camp as the top option, but he worked with the second unit in the team's most recent workout.
Reiff may be itching to get the pads on. Right now, when edge rushers can come off the ball with speed knowing a pass is coming, he occasionally looks a little labored out of his stance. Late in Friday's session, Zappe would've been sacked twice on consecutive snaps off his right side when both Anfernee Jennings and Keion White had effective rushes against Reiff.
We'll monitor the right tackle situation closely and see if it's a job McDermott can hold onto when pads are introduced early next week. (Calvin Anderson, who like Reiff was signed as a free agent this offseason, remains on the non-football illness list and a non-participant in camp.)
Three days into camp and Gesicki is still waiting on his first catch in 11-on-11 periods. He was targeted in the end zone on Day 3 but had the pass broken up by reserve safety Joshuah Bledsoe.
Time to panic? Nope. But it should also be mentioned that every play of training camp to this point has taken place in the red zone. For the big-bodied tight end with high-end leaping ability not to have a catch inside the 20? After signing him in the hopes that he'd help the team improve on its league-worst red-zone efficiency rate? And with the Patriots running a large percentage of their plays this week with two tight-end packages that feature Gesicki? Noteworthy.
Tyquan Thornton and Kendrick Bourne
Still waiting on a catch from this pair in competitive 11-on-11 work. Both saw targets in competitive periods today. Both were covered well by rookie Christian Gonzalez. Thornton also dropped a pass in a drill Friday when footballs were dunked in a bucket of water and pass-catchers had to try to haul them in without their gloves.