After holding their last two practices on the fields behind Gillette Stadium, the New England Patriots will move inside again on Tuesday. With the preseason opener against the Washington Football Team only two days away, the team will hold its second session in front of fans.
Here are three things we will look at during the event that is scheduled to start at 4 pm.
The first game day of the season is only two days away, so it would not be a surprise to see the Patriots remove the pads again to return to a lighter, less physical setup. If that is indeed the case, practice will obviously look different than it did on Sunday and Monday: there will be no live contact or blocking/pass rushing drills.
Of course, there is a chance that head coach Bill Belichick wants to take advantage of every opportunity he can get to prepare his team in full pads. There are only three preseason games this summer, after all, and practice time is limited per the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
That being said, the educated guess is that the team will shed the pads on Tuesday and hold a less challenging walkthrough.
Running back involvement in the passing game
Monday’s practice saw the Patriots’ running backs see plenty of action in the passing game. Sony Michel led the group with three receptions during team drills, including a beautifully executed fade thrown by rookie quarterback Mac Jones. James White caught two passes, with Damien Harris also catching one ball.
New England traditionally has relied on White as its primary receiving back, but Michel and Harris have both been featured in the passing game as well this summer. Will this continue on Tuesday, especially if the Patriots return to a lighter setup again (one that would lead to fewer running and more passing drills)? We certainly will keep an eye out on the trio as well as fellow running backs J.J. Taylor and Rhamondre Stevenson.
Brandon Bolden obviously belongs to this group as well, and has proven himself an able pass catcher out of the backfield. However, he has missed the last three practices for undisclosed reasons.
Lawrence Guy’s 1-on-1 drills
The Patriots re-signed Lawrence Guy on a four-year, $11.5 million contract earlier this offseason, but the veteran has had a quiet training camp so far. This was especially true during 1-on-1 competition. Guy went 0-for-1 on Monday, bringing his total to 0 wins and 5 losses as charted by The Athletic’s Jeff Howe.
Obviously, practice success in 1-on-1 situations is not a sign of things to come, but Guy is still a player to watch if those come up again this week — especially if New England decides to do blocking drills on Tuesday.
As for yesterday’s things to watch, here are a few quick notes:
The tight end depth: With Hunter Henry out due to a shoulder injury suffered on Sunday, the Patriots turned to Jonnu Smith as the undisputed top guy at the position. The free agency addition looked good as a blocker and also caught a pair of passes from Cam Newton during team drills. The other tight ends — Devin Asiasi, Matt LaCosse, Troy Fumagalli, David Wells — were not targeted in competitive 7-on-7 or 11-on-11 work.
The injury list: The Patriots’ injury list did see some changes on Monday. As expected, Henry, center David Andrews and long snapper Joe Cardona were not present. Meanwhile, wide receiver Nelson Agholor and defensive tackle Akeem Spence returned after having missed one and four practices, respectively.
Kristian Wilkerson’s workload: Despite Nelson Agholor’s return, Wilkerson was actively involved in team drills for the second straight day. But while he was tied for the team lead with seven catches on Sunday, Wilkerson caught only two of his seven targets during Monday’s session: Cam Newton went 1-for-4 targeting him, while Mac Jones went 1-for-3. The second-year man also registered a pair of drops, one with each passer.