The New England Patriots are holding two days of joint practice with the Houston Texans before the two teams play in the second week of the preseason. Joint practices are a great time for teams to work out specific techniques against a new roster of players and to refine the individual performance.
But this week of joint practice should have a different meaning since the Patriots and Texans are playing in week 3 of the regular season. That upcoming match-up (in a little over a month!) raises questions to how and what the Patriots hope to accomplish in a joint practice.
Won’t those two days just reveal unnecessary hidden secrets to the Texans? Head coach Bill Belichick disagrees.
“Honestly, I don’t think it’s that big of a deal,” Belichick said on Monday. “I mean, I think this is another event that’s hyped up by a lot more of the people who are watching it than the people who are involved with it. So, I mean, look, we played this team three times in the last two years. Half their coaching staff coached here. It’s not a big secret how we run a certain play or how we coach a certain defense, and I’m sure they’re coaching it the same way when we played against them.”
Belichick has a great point. The two teams faced each other twice in 2016, including once in January. There is no opposing coaching staff in the NFL that knows the Patriots better than Texans head coach and former Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien, Texans assistant head coach and former Patriots defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel, Texans defensive coordinator and former Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel, Texans special teams coordinator and former Patriots special teams ace Larry Izzo, and Texans offensive coaching assistant and former Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker.
Whatever wool that the Patriots might try to pull over the eyes of the Texans won’t come during this series of joint practices. These practices are about strengthening the base performance of the team and not focusing on the superfluous bells and whistles.
“That’s not really what this practice is about,” Belichick continued. “It’s not what the middle of August is about. It’s about building your team’s conditioning, building your team’s fundamentals, building your team’s awareness, having them learn to play together with each other against good competition. That’s what we’re going to do this week.
“We’re not going to show them our triple reverse and they’re not going to show their triple safety blitz and a bunch of other garbage. That’s not what this is about. It wouldn’t be about that with any team, but it’s certainly not about that with these guys. They’re a tough, sound, fundamental football team. We’ve seen that and we know that from their coaching staff and the way they prepare and the way they coach and the way we’ve competed against them. This is about us trying to get better, them trying to get better, and when we play each other in the regular season, then we’ll game plan and we’ll strategize and we’ll do everything we can do to try to win the game.”
So for the two days of joint practices, look for Patriots cornerbacks Stephon Gilmore and Malcolm Butler to get work against a prototypical #1 receiver in Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins instead of their typical practice reps against Patriots receivers Brandin Cooks and Julian Edelman. Look for the offensive line to try and stop J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilius instead of stopping rookies Deatrich Wise and Derek Rivers.
This is a great opportunity for the Patriots to test their fundamentals and technique against a different array of players. The Patriots use August- and September, if we’re being honest- working on learning about the capabilities of the players on the team so the entire roster is a well-oiled machine come November and December.
And if any other team in the league is trying to accomplish the same task, it’s the Houston Texans, which is why they’re the perfect team to work against in the preseason.