Phil Perry

Patriots training camp stock watch: Josh Uche already looking sharp

The 24-year-old linebacker is heading into a contract year.

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FOXBORO -- Josh Uche wants to be where he's wanted. He'd like to be wanted in the place he's played since being drafted at the end of the second round in 2020. 

But, as he heads into a contract year, he knows that until a new deal is signed, there's no guarantee he'll be sticking in New England. 

"This is the team that took a chance on me when I know a lot of other teams didn't know what to possibly do with me or what I was coming out of college," Uche said Thursday. "But this is the team that developed me into the player I've become. 

"This is the place I've called home the last four years. I'm comfortable. I know the area. I've got family out here, and I love it out here. And I've been able to make myself at home. I would love to be here. But at the end of the day, I understand it's a business, and business is business. So no hard feelings, I guess."

Uche did admit to reporters following Day 2 of training camp practice that his representatives had been in contact with the Patriots about a possible extension. But he emphasized the fact that he lets his agents handle those discussions, even adding that he didn't want to know all the nitty-gritty details of those conversations with the Patriots.

But those conversations have taken place, apparently. Makes sense. The Patriots might want to get aggressive in locking up their young pass-rusher coming off an 11.5-sack season.

Based on his first two days of camp, Uche looks like he could be poised to have another big statistical year that could lead to an equally-large payday should he get to free agency. Uchenna Nwosu of the Seahawks, whose highest sack total in one season is 9.5, agreed to a deal that will pay him nearly $20 million per year.

Let's get to more on Uche and some of his teammates in our Stock Watch from Day 2 of Patriots camp...

Stock Up

Josh Uche

After recording two snaps on Day 1 that looked like they would've resulted in sacks off the right side of the first-team offensive line, Uche was a disruptive force yet again on Day 2. He single-handedly blew up a screen to the perimeter with good anticipation. Soon thereafter he was doubled by Hunter Henry and Riley Reiff, fought through both to help force a quick throw from Mac Jones that resulted in an incompletion.

"Double team? I gotta win," Uche said after practice. "That's all I think about. Winning."

JuJu Smith-Schuster

The newest Patriots wideout was targeted five times in competitive periods on Day 2. The results? Not great. He caught two. But the fact that he's been on the field and a full participant -- he's been one of the top two on the field, meaning he's often out there even with two tight ends in the huddle -- is an encouraging sign.

Those reps with Jones should pay dividends. Smith-Schuster said he feels "amazing" physically after not being able to practice during the spring, and it's clear that he and Jones are doing what they can to develop their chemistry on and off the field. "His work ethic," Smith-Schuster said of Jones, "it's the best."

Lawrence Guy

It appears as though Guy still isn't thrilled with his contract, which was reportedly one of the reasons why he didn't report to mandatory minicamp. (Guy told reporters Thursday that he and his wife welcomed a baby around the same time on the calendar, which contributed to his absence.) And yet... he's here. And he's not "holding in," withholding his services until a deal gets hammered out.

He's stiff-upper-lipping it, perhaps because he feels as though he doesn't have much leverage. But he's a good player at an important position -- he caved in the offensive line for a would-be sack of Bailey Zappe at one point on Day 2 -- and he's a mentor of sorts to younger players on the defensive line.

"That's the biggest part now is when young veterans come in or players from college come in, it's giving them the knowledge that you have," Guy said. "I've played so many downs in this league, it would be a robbery for me not to share that information with them to make sure that they grow."

Matt Sokol

The journeyman tight end, on the practice squad in New England last year, made some of the best plays on the field for the offense on Thursday. His day started with a drop in the individual position period of practice early on. Easy throw. Easy catch. Clang. But then when it came to making some of the toughest catches of the day, he made 'em. He made a contested diving grab on a Bailey Zappe offering, and in the 7-on-7 period he recorded a contested-catch touchdown with Jalen Mills all over him.

The Patriots may need a third tight end if they're leaning heavily into their 12-personnel packages this year, and Sokol made a push to be considered No. 3 on Day 2.

Stock Down

Mac Jones

Part of the purpose of Stock Watch is simply to describe to you, wonderful readers, what happened at practice. There's not always some big-picture takeaway associated with these little blurbs. And it's with that qualifier in mind that we tell you, it was a clunky day for the offense. Jones went 0-for-4 in his 7-on-7 reps with a couple of misses on back-corner lobs to Hunter Henry and Ty Montgomery (more on him later). He went 6-for-10 in 11-on-11s and had two ill-advised throws where he rolled to his right and threw across his body into traffic. One was batted away. The other was picked by Kyle Dugger. His reaction to the pick, I thought, was noteworthy. We'll give you more on that in The Mac Report.

The miscues aren't a concern right now, in my opinion. But just know things aren't exactly seamless on that side of the ball right now.

Ty Montgomery

It looked like Montgomery would be getting a heavy workload with Rhamondre Stevenson getting what amounted to a day off out on the practice fields Thursday. But it wasn't.

In a 7-on-7 period, Trace McSorley targeted Montgomery over the middle with a pass that seemed to lead him into linebacker Terez Hall. The two collided and Montgomery needed an extra moment to get off the turf. He stayed in long enough to make a catch during a half-speed scout-team portion of practice, but soon thereafter he left the field and did not return. Not ideal for a team that is looking for a sub back to help handle pass-catching responsibilities and perhaps take some of the load off Stevenson's shoulders.

With both Stevenson and Montgomery unavailable, Kevin Harris, Pierre Strong and JJ Taylor got a lot of work. They could use another capable player there, it was apparent. Dalvin Cook, anyone?

Tyquan Thornton and Kendrick Bourne

Thornton wasn't targeted in competitive team periods. Bourne was targeted once on a hurried throw from an under-pressure Jones that sailed out of bounds. That was it. Thornton was targeted just once on Day 1, and the pass fell incomplete. There appears to be a battle between these two to be the No. 3 wideout behind DeVante Parker and JuJu Smith-Schuster. Neither has done much of anything to make a push for that role through two practices. 

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