Patriots In Philadelphia For Joint Practices, Final Adjustments
The New England Patriots are days away from their first preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles. To prepare for the game, the two teams will hold joint practices for the next three days in Philadelphia. Both teams will look to reap the benefits of the joint sessions. Here’s what to watch for from a Patriots perspective.
Hitting other people
One of the best advantages of joint practices is assessing players against different competition. As training camp goes on, coaches and players settle into a routine by practicing in the same place, going against the same competition, and so on. The coaches will now be able to assess their team against another, and the players will be able to hit someone other than their own teammates, a refreshing alternative for all parties.
How far has the defense come?
The Patriots defense looks to be improved from last year's unit, but this week's joint practices will shed a little more light on how far they’ve come. While questions remain at the quarterback spot, the Eagles have a great running game and can create mismatches at receiver. Head coach Chip Kelly is known for his up-tempo offense, one that will test the limits of the Patriots D. The Eagles three QBs all have different playing styles, which will make preparation for the defense a little tougher.
Can pass-catchers continue to shine?
Danny Amendola, Aaron Dobson, Kenbrell Thompkins and Zach Sudfeld look like the best pass-catchers for the Patriots at this point. While the Eagles have plenty of questions in their secondary, the opportunity to go against players they are unfamiliar with will be a bonus for the Patriots pass-catchers. The rookies in particular may face a tough time as they will be forced to adjust.
The Patriots have been lucky so far with no players suffering major injuries. While a few players have missed some practices due to minor injuries, the team is healthy in comparison to the rest of the NFL. The team has to focus on staying healthy while in Philadelphia this week. Practice is about getting better, but maintaining good health is key.
Return for Dowling, Cunningham?
Speaking of minor injuries, some players like Ras-I Dowling and Jermaine Cunningham have been held out for the last few practices due to injury. Both players are on the bubble and need to get back on the field as soon as possible. If they miss joint practices with the Eagles, both players could get their walking papers sooner than expected.
Guard spot in focus
Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston noted that during Monday’s practice the Patriots were down to their fifth-string guard at practice. Dan Connolly, Marcus Cannon, Tyronne Green, and Marcus Zusevics were not able to participate in team-drills forcing T Will Svitek to move to RG, lining up with the first-team during practice. Perhaps some of those players will return in time for practice/the game on Friday. If not, the Patriots may need to make a few roster moves to bolster depth on the interior offensive line.
Punter competition heating up?
One piece of news flying under the radar is rookie free-agent Ryan Allen battling with starting-punter Zoltan Mesko. Mesko enters the last year of his deal and Allen provides a cheaper, younger alternative. Mesko has been praised for his hard work, but perhaps Allen can push Mesko to a new level, or off the roster. With the pressure turning up this week with the joint-practices, perhaps more developments in the punter competition will occur.
The popular QB has actually performed admirably during training camp, improving with each practice according to Ben Volin of the Boston Globe. Many believe Tebow will make the roster as the third QB. With the team traveling to Philadelphia, it will be interesting to watch Tebow respond in a more hostile environment against a team that has no allegiances to him.
Chip Kelly, a NH native and University of New Hampshire alum, has to be excited to play against the team he grew up watching. According to reports, the Patriots no-huddle offense from 2012 was influenced, in part, by Kelly. The new Eagles head coach was the most sought after coach in the offseason. The joint-practices and preseason game with the Patriots will be his first opportunity to make a statement that he belongs.