Wednesday’s Joint Practice
The first Joint Practice was a mixed bag. The Offense seemed to move the ball early but was stymied by poor O-line play by the 2nd unit in particular. Bailey Zappe had no time to throw and would have been sacked 9 times. It was reported by Andrew Callahan of the Herald that he was holding onto the ball too long.
Greg Bedard also wrote in Boston Sports Journal “We also have to remember that this is the third “system” the Patriots have been in the past three years. Yeah, it’s somewhat familiar, but there’s still a learning process. Compare that to the Packers being in Year 4 with Matt LaFleur … (Jordan) Love sat a few years and learned. Watson and Doubs are in Year 2. There’s a comfort that comes with that, and the Patriots don’t have it. But they can get better and I look forward to them taking a step forward on Day 2”.
Christian Gonzalez got burnt deep for a 50-yard TD, Love to Watson. Pretty pass. Mills was late to get to the ball (a big concern I have). Mills does not have the speed necessary to play Free Safety. Jon Jones should be the Free Safety. However, that leaves the team vulnerable at Slot Corner. Marcus Jones is in position on every play, but he is just too small and they catch the ball over him. Jack Jones made some plays and then would get beat. He gambles a lot and that leads to some spectacular INTs and pass breakups. However, he is just as likely to get toasted on the next play. His Probable Cause hearing in court was postponed until Sept 15th. Can the Patriots trust he will be there all season? I don’t think so.
On offense, both QB’s didn’t have time to throw and as a result, they couldn’t throw the ball downfield.
Jones was 18 of 26 (69%) and Zappe was 15 of 21. Jones was much better at the start going 11 of 15. Toward the end of practice, the line was called for two penalties to rookies Sidy Sow for holding and Antonio Mafi for a false start. These were around a couple of catches by DeVante Parker. He was 4-5 with one pass broken up that he said he should have caught. It appeared the receivers were having a difficult time getting open.
The secondary has been playing mostly zone. Is this because of the young Cornerbacks or do they not want to show their man-to-man coverage?
Deatrich Wise was said to have a good day putting pressure on GB QBs. The Patriots’ Defense had their share of sacks too.
Marte Mapu was a full participant shedding the red no-contact jersey. Can’t wait to see him on Saturday night.
Ezekiel Elliott was in full pads and worked with the team through stretching a few drills and simulated offensive plays but no contact as he sat out the joint part of the practice. The Patriots have been force-feeding him the playbook since he arrived.
Michael Owenu made the trip to Green Bay with the team and was an observer at practice in street clothes. This is an encouraging sign that he is getting closer to returning.
Malik Cunningham worked as a gunner again and got a few snaps under center.
Demario Douglas had 3 catches all from Bailey Zappe.
TE Anthony Firkser had his best day in camp with 3 catches, outperforming both Hunter Hemry and Matt Sokol.
Kayshon Boutte is continuing to progress and was 3-5 in targets.
In the kicking competition, Folk was 4 of 5 and Ryland 4 of 6 on a windy day. The wind also made it difficult to pass as well.
Thursday Joint Practice
The Patriots may have had their best practice of the Pre-season as they dominated the Packers on both sides of the ball.
The joint practice was marred by several flare-ups. The most serious was on Special Teams. It was a carryover from some Patriots Defense/ Packers Offense work. The Patriots’ Defense dominated Green Bay’s Offense physically on Wednesday, so this was bound to happen. Dakota Randall of NESN reported that Packers LB Keshawn Banks appeared to take a swing at Keion White during a punt drill, and Anfernee Jennings ran 20 yards and delivered a gnarly blindside hit. He immediately took his helmet off and left the field. Who in their right mind takes a swing at Keion White? Greg Bedard of Boston Sports Journal posted this on X. “Someone who saw the film of yesterday’s Packer-Patriots joint practice predicted that Green Bay Offense would be chippy today after NE was more physical in the trenches. The practice has been marred by skirmishes on that side. Has spilled over into Special Teams.” I like the fact that Jennings came over to support his teammate even if it meant being thrown out of practice by Bill Belichick.
Doug Kyed of the Boston Herald posted on X that there were 6-7 incidents with Keion White ripping a Green Bay player’s helmet off and tossing it. Matt Judon got into it with an O-lineman too.
This is from The Athletic’s Chad Graff’s X-post. “Not sure what has changed with the Patriots’ offense overnight, but this is the best I’ve seen them look since moving here a year ago. They just torched Green Bay’s defense in a full-field and red zone period”.
Evan Lazar from Patriots.com reported on X-post “After the Packers won the day yesterday, the Patriots had a huge bounce-back day two. Pats starting offense dominated red zone work, Parker’s exclamation point on a 40-yard TD from Mac. Starting D also stopped Jordan Love in 2-min. The sideline was feeling it. Fun day”.
This has been one of the most entertaining joint practices I’ve been to over the years. Great energy from both teams. Super competitive according to Evan Lazar.
Mac Jones had multiple long passes and completed one near the end to DeVante Parker. Jaire Alexander was trash-talking all practice and prior to this play, he was yapping it up with Jabrill Peppers on the Patriots sideline. Parker toasted Alexander as Jones hit him in stride for a 45-yard TD.
Alexander got beat early by Jones and Kendrick Bourne on a perfectly executed skinny post. The ball was out before Bourne even made his cut for Red Zone TD.
Kayshon Boutte made a diving comeback catch on a Bailey Zappe pass to the front pylon for a TD with 2 seconds left on the 2 min drill clock. Half the team sprinted to the End Zone to congratulate Boutte.
Rodney Randle should have had an INT. It was thrown right to him. If he had hands he would have been a WR!
Adrian Phillips fumbled a desperation throw by backup QB Sean Clifford at the end of the 3rd team 2 min drill. He dropped it right into the hands of TE Cody Chrest for a TD. Green Bay celebrated as they had just won the Super Bowl.
Keion White got rolled up on and sustained what appeared to be an ankle injury. He walked off the field under his own power and had the ankle taped on the sideline. He was working it up and down the sideline, hoping to get back into the action, but he was held out as a precaution. I don’t expect we will see him on Saturday night.
Pop Douglas was not to be outdone. According to Andrew Callahan of the Boston Herald, Douglas went 9 for 9 on catches. Douglas is a lock to make the 53-man roster. Now we need to look at how much he can contribute during the regular season. I am looking forward to what he can do Saturday night. He has tremendous route running and quickness in short space. If Mac Jones is going to pass the ball quickly, then Douglas will be a key player who can separate from the DB.
Bailey Zappe had his best practice of the year hitting Tre Nixon for a 35-yard TD. He went 6 for 7 in the 11-on-11. In that sequence, he had 1 drop and 1-2 sacks. Jones went 6 of 9 with drop, sack, and PBU.
Ezekiel Elliott got a few handoffs in the 11-on-11 and scored a TD. He was jawing with a few of the Green Bay defenders over the way he was hit.
Christian Gonzalez had a Pass Break Up at the end of practice denying Jordan Love an opportunity to score in the 2 min drill. The Defense shut him down.
Comings and Goings
Welcome Ezekiel Elliott
I love the signing of Elliott and see a few negative aspects of it. Elliot is no longer the bell cow running back, Rhamondre Stevenson cannot have as many snaps as he did last season. Never mind the wear and tear on Stevenson, but the risk of him going down with an injury was high and they don’t feel comfortable with the backups Kevin Harris and Pierre Strong. Strong is injured and we don’t know how severe that injury is. The only drawback is the reduced stats for Rhamondre Stevenson when he comes up for contract negotiations.
Matt Judon in his press conference yesterday after practice said “Zeke loves football”. I believe that Elliott has a lot left in his tank. He was described as “spry” in yesterday’s practice. He no longer has that breakaway speed, but he is solid in short yardage, an excellent receiver, and above average pass blocker.
In addition to Elliott, the Patriots signed Carson Wells a Linebacker from the XFL St Louis Battlehawks. The 6’3” 241 lb former Colorado Buffalo had 45 tackles in 10 games with St Louis. He has very good speed at 4.61 40-yard dash and 7.18 3-cone drill.
We say goodbye to Tucker Addington a Longsanpper that was brought in to replace the injured Joe Cardona late last season. Surprised he lasted this long. The other cut was LB Demarcus Mitchell. This was a bit of a surprise since Mitchel was on several special teams units. Could his release be a message to the Special Teams or an indication that sixth-round pick CB Ameer Speed is making an impact?
What to look for in Pre-season game #2
Of importance to me is how the offensive line plays against a good Green Bay front. If the Patriots want to be able to throw downfield they need to have better protection. Right now they are playing two rookies and an aging vet. The rookies are getting valuable reps against top competition. I would watch Sidy Sow and Antonio Mafi and see how they fare.
We have confirmed from these two-day joint practices that the Patriots starting Defense is pretty good. We weren’t sure if it was the defense or the poor ability of the wide receivers to get separation that was making the defense look better than it was. The second-team defense shut down the Houston starters last week, confirming that we have depth on defense.
Everyone is going to want and see Ezekiel Elliott with his new team. Again, Elliott’s production will depend upon the line opening holes for any of the running backs to run through.
On the Green Bay side, Jordan Love takes over as QB and he can throw the ball. He has a very good set of Wide Receivers in 2nd-year players Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs. The Green Bay defense is legitimate also. Jaire Alexander (who got beat a couple of times yesterday) is one of the top cornerbacks in the NFC. He was a 1st round pick in 2018 and has been selected to two Pro Bowls. He also was a second-team All-Pro in those two seasons. He is 26 and reaching his prime.
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