Later today, the New England Patriots and the Detroit Lions will hit the practice fields together for the first of three joint practices this week. The workouts will give both teams a chance to compete against players from the outside for the first time this summer, and also be a reunion of sorts considering that numerous former members of the Patriots organization currently work in Detroit.
With all that in mind, let’s take a look at what to watch for as the two clubs kick off their week of working alongside each other.
Will the camp standouts find success outside of Foxboro?
During the first eight sessions of the summer, a group of players stood out for its performance. While veterans like Stephon Gilmore were their usual reliable self, some of the team’s youngsters also stringed together impressive practices — from wide receiver Jakobi Meyers to edge defender Derek Rivers to cornerbacks Jonathan Jones and J.C. Jackson. Now, they will need to show that their success early in camp was no fluke and that they can repeat it outside of Foxboro.
Isaiah Wynn’s development
The Patriots’ have managed the workload of their starting left tackle so far, but last Friday’s session was a step forward: Wynn played three snaps in a competitive team drill. While the practice was lighter than previous ones, seeing his workload increase is still a positive development — and one that needs to be taken a close eye on heading into joint practices with the Lions as well. The team trusting Wynn to handle more reps would be a good sign when it comes to his availability for the regular season opener one month from now.
The defense’s success against a potent offense
New England’s defense has looked outstanding through the first eight training camp practices. The unit was consistently stout against the run and in short-yardage situations, and it also made life hard for the Patriots’ pass catchers both in individual drills and in 11-on-11 work. This week, however, a new challenge awaits when the defense will have to defend an unfamiliar opponent (despite numerous ex-Patriots playing for the Lions). Joint practices will show whether or not the early hype surrounding the unit is justified and give us a better idea of its potential.
Will the Patriots’ offense find its rhythm?
With New England’s secondary and front-line being in lock-down mode for much of training camp, the team’s offense has failed to consistently find its rhythm. The defense’s superb play was not the only problem for Tom Brady and company: whether it was drops or false starts, miscues have been a common theme. Coming off two days of rest and with another team lining up on the other side, now looks like a prime opportunity for the entire unit to get back on track and build some momentum heading into preseason.
Training camp battles
Before training camp, we have identified the ten most intriguing training camp battles as follows:
Tight end, X-wide receiver, Swing offensive tackle, Defensive edge, Punter, Slot cornerback, Rotational defensive tackle, Slot wide receiver, Depth linebacker, Kickoff returner
So far, the favorites have already started to establish themselves. However, things can turn around fast at this point in the process and it would not be a surprise to see some unexpected players emerge while others take a step back. Needless to say that the camp competitions are far from over, and how players respond to a change of environment might become a deciding factor in determining who emerges victoriously and makes the Patriots’ deep 53-man roster.