The New England Patriots are one day into their joint practices with the Tennessee Titans, and there is already plenty to talk about — from the standout performances of Tom Brady and J.C. Jackson, to the Patriots’ pass catching corps suffering additional injuries. With that in mind, let’s dig a little deeper into what happened on Wednesday and clean out the notebook from the first of two sessions in Nashville.
Injuries are starting to pile up at the offensive skill positions
So far during training camp, the Patriots have suffered only one season-ending injury — rookie cornerback D’Angelo Harris was waived and later placed on injured reserve — but the smaller injuries have started to pile up now. New England’s pass-catching corps was hit especially hard recently, with two more players exiting practice on Wednesday because of injury: Phillip Dorsett left the session after landing hard on his back; Maurice Harris was also unable to finish practice.
With them now added to the list of already ailing pass catchers, the Patriots’ wide receiver and tight end depth charts can now be broken down as follows:
Hurt: WR N’Keal Harry, WR Phillip Dorsett, WR Maurice Harris, TE Matt LaCosse, TE Stephen Anderson, WR Julian Edelman (NFI), WR Demaryius Thomas (PUP), WR Cameron Meredith (PUP)
Healthy: WR Jakobi Meyers, WR Braxton Berrios, WR Dontrelle Inman, WR Ryan Davis, WR Damoun Patterson, WR Gunner Olszewski, TE Benjamin Watson, TE Ryan Izzo, TE Lance Kendricks, TE Eric Saubert, TE Andrew Beck
Considering that none of the players is believed to have suffered a season-ending injury, however, all should be available again at one point further down the line. In the cases of Harry, Dorsett and Harris, for example, it would not be surprising to see them back in action sooner rather than later.
Derek Rivers and Shilique Calhoun continue to go toe-for-toe
One of the most intense competitions of this year’s training camp comes along the defensive edge, where multiple players are fighting for spots on the team. The two most active of the non-roster locks are without a doubt Derek Rivers and Shilique Calhoun, who saw considerable action with the starters again on Wednesday. Both continue to look good, no matter if they are asked to rush the passer of set the edge in the running game.
Considering the Patriots’ current roster composition it might be hard to keep both Rivers and Calhoun, but they are making sure coaches will have to think twice about what to do. And — who knows? — maybe the two of them do find their way onto the 53-man team. If they can keep up their strong practice work during the rest of the preseason, it would not be a surprise even though New England is already deep along the defensive line.
New England’s offense uses a wide variety of personnel groups
The Patriots’ offense had an active day against the Titans, as players subbed in and out of the lineup on a regular basis. Those substitutions also brought frequent changes of packages with them: going against the Titans’ top defensive unit, New England used a wide variety of personnel groups and formations. From no-tight end packages like 10 or 20 personnel, to two-back, two-tight end formations (22), to classic three-receiver sets, Josh McDaniels called it all.
Bill Belichick likes the challenge of going against Tennessee’s quarterbacks
The Patriots will face a versatile slate of quarterbacks this year — from mobile guys like Patrick Mahomes and Baker Mayfield, to dual-threat quarterbacks Dak Prescott and Lamar Jackson, to classic pocket passers á la Sam Darnold and Carson Wentz. Being able to prepare fo the different skillsets is valuable, and New England already started last week when going up against the Detroit Lions’ Matthew Stafford.
While Stafford is a traditional pocket passer, the quarterbacks on this week’s schedule look differently. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick pointed this out during his press conference ahead of the two teams’ first practice: “It’s a great opportunity,” Belichick told reporters on Wednesday. “All three of these guys [Marcus Mariota, Ryan Tannehill, Logan Woodside] are very athletic, can do a lot of different things.”
“They’re involved in the run game, misdirection, moving pocket-type plays in the passing game, but also can scramble and so forth,” he continued. “So yeah, this will be good work for us. We haven’t really seen that type of quarterback so far this year.”