For the fourth time in the last seven summers, the New England Patriots and the New Orleans Saints have decided to join practice forces. The two teams held their first of two session leading up to Thursday’s preseason opener today.
The weather was once again perfect as the two teams, wearing full pads, practiced in front of thousands of spectators. They witnessed a Saints team that was the better today and a sloppy Patriots team – one that suffered two injuries to key players.
The list of players that did not practice looked as follows: RB Dion Lewis (PUP), WR Danny Amendola (PUP), TE Bryce Williams, OT, Nate Solder, OT Sebastian Vollmer (PUP), OG Tre’ Jackson (PUP), OG Jonathan Cooper, SS Nate Ebner.
Starting left tackle Nate Solder is a new addition to the list. He did not appear to have suffered an injury yesterday.
Amendola was spotted for the first time in days but the veteran is not yet off PUP and did not partake in any drills.
Defensive end Rob Ninkovich left practice together with a team doctor and walked to the stadium.
Shortly afterwards, wide receiver Julian Edelman had to leave the session – under his own power, albeit slowly – after apparently (re-)injuring his left leg. Before he sat down on a cart with trainer Jim Whalen, he threw his helmet to the ground [EDIT: initial reports appear to be positive].
The quarterbacks performed as follows:
Tom Brady: 7 of 11, INT
Jimmy Garoppolo: 7 of 15, 1 INT
Jacoby Brissett: 4 of 7
Tom Brady: 4 of 8
Jimmy Garoppolo: 3 of 7
With the two starting tackles out, LaAdrian Waddle and Marcus Cannon took top reps as the left and right tackle, respectively. Cameron Fleming also saw some reps at left tackle.
The Patriots’ wide receivers and tight ends were dominant in 1-on-1s. At one point, they caught 11 straight passes. Edelman was particularly impressive, leaving Saints safety Vonn Bell and cornerback Jimmy Pruitt in the dust after quick moves.
The entire team struggled with drops and sloppy play during team portions, though. Six of Jimmy Garoppolo’s pass attempts during team drills were dropped, two of Brady’s. Rob Gronkowski and Chris Hogan had two apiece, while Aaron Dobson, Chris Harper, Brandon Bolden and James White had one.
Brady’s first pass in 7-on-7s – intended for Martellus Bennett – was almost intercepted by linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, who dropped it. Later in 11-on-11s, Brady was picked off by rookie defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins (on a pass intended for White), who returned the interception for a pick-6.
Brady saw more reps with the top offensive players today. Still, his offensive line gave up two would-be sacks to linebacker Kasim Edebali during one of Brady’s drives (on which the quarterback completed all four of his pass attempts). Brady was “sacked” two more times later in the session.
Garoppolo was intercepted by defensive back De’Vante Harris in team drills. The pass was intended for Dobson, who struggled to get open today, but was off the mark.
While the passing game was sloppy, New England’s running game – led by LeGarrette Blount and Tyler Gaffney – looked good today.
The defense gave up the following pass completions:
Drew Brees: 21 of 25
Drew Brees threw only four incompletions in team work, and started with nine straight completions. New England’s defense had no real answer for him today.
The Patriots’ defensive backs competed well in 1-on-1s, though. Logan Ryan, Malcolm Butler, Darryl Roberts, V’Angelo Bentley and Cyrus Jones registered pass breakups. Jones finished the day with two.
Ryan also recovered a fumble.
Dont’a Hightower and Trey Flowers registered two hurries each, while Jamie Collins and Shea McClellin were also able to put pressure on the quarterbacks.
Malcolm Butler matched up with wideout Brandin Cooks for most of the day; while both made plays, Cooks made them more consistently.
Duron Harmon made a diving interception off Luke McCown during 11-on-11s.
Practice started with punt return work involving both teams’ special teams units. Cyrus Jones, Chris Harper and V'Angelo Bentley worked as the punt returners.
Ryan Allen’s punt have had a hang-time of around 4.57 seconds.
Justin Coleman and Brandon King exchanged some not-too-friendly words with Saints return man Reggie Bell.
Saints’ punter/holder Thomas Morstead threw a touchdown pass on a fake field-goal attempt.