The New England Patriots are back on the practice fields for their 14th session of training camp. As opposed to the first 13, however, they are not alone — or on the fields behind Gillette Stadium, for that matter: the Patriots flew to Philadelphia on Sunday afternoon to hold two days of joint practice sessions with the Eagles.
The two teams will obviously face off in the preseason on Thursday, but they will also share the practice fields on two occasions leading up to that game. The first of those will take place on Monday, and here are three things to keep an eye at.
Mac Jones against another NFL defense
The Patriots’ rookie quarterback has had a solid first training camp so far, and he also looked good in last week’s preseason opener against the Washington Football Team. Now, he faces another challenge in a different setting again.
Participating in his first set of joint practices, Jones will get a taste of another NFL defense. How will he handle it? And will he be able to build on the momentum he created over the last two weeks? And how will he look relative to incumbent starting QB Cam Newton? All these questions will be interesting to answer, especially with Jones very much competing for the starting position.
O-line versus D-line drills
The Eagles have one of the better defensive lines in the league, while the Patriots field one of the best offensive lines in football. The battles between the two units will be fun to watch, especially considering that the two units have had little opportunity this summer to go against non-teammates along the line of scrimmage.
Take New England’s starting O-line: the unit played only 21 snaps against Washington, all of them without starting center David Andrews. Andrews is now back, with the group getting a golden opportunity to improve its chemistry and communication against a talented opponent.
On the flip side, there is the Patriots’ defensive line against Philadelphia’s O-line. New England invested considerable resources to rebuild the group this summer, and it looked good in Week 1 of preseason. Will this week be more of the same, starting on Monday?
Patriots’ wide receivers
While the Patriots will likely be without tight ends Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry — both of which have suffered minor injuries recently — their wide receiver group should have all hands on deck following Nelson Agholor’s return to practice on Sunday. One day later, Agholor and the rest of the unit will get a nice opportunity to prove itself.
While the ex-Eagle is a player to watch, so is third-year man N’Keal Harry. The former first-round draft pick was impressive in practice this summer, but he had a quiet preseason opener and caught only one 4-yard pass. Will he be more active against the Eagles, especially in full-team work?