The New England Patriots have two joint practices with the Philadelphia Eagles planned this week, and the first took place on Monday morning. The two teams gathered at the Eagles’ NovaCare Complex for a two-hour session that saw the de facto home team look better. The Patriots, meanwhile, had their fair share of inconsistent play.
Before turning the page to the second day of those joint sessions leading up to Thursday’s preseason game, let’s take a final look back and clean out the notebook.
Patriots did not meet Bill Belichick’s expectations on Monday
Jalen Mills spent five seasons in Philadelphia before joining the Patriots, and he was asked on Monday how his new head coach differs from what he experienced in the past. The versatile defensive back would unsurprisingly not give a straight answer, but he did speak about what make Bill Belichick such a successful coach.
“I think the biggest thing with Bill is, for me, is the expectation that he has for each and every player — offense, defense, special teams,” Mills said. “It’s kind of a thing that once he walks into a room, you can feel his presence and you know he expects nothing but excellence.”
On Monday, those expectations were not met by Belichick’s team. The Patriots were up and down — something linebacker Kyle Van Noy also acknowledged during his post-practice media availability — and had their fair share of struggles, especially on offense.
Sure, there is a difference between practice and game situations but New England has plenty of work to do. Excellence was not on the menu on Monday for a lot of players.
N’Keal Harry’s interesting summer continues
N’Keal Harry has had quite the summer so far — from his agent’s trade request, to some spectacular practice performances, to a preseason opener that saw him catch only one 4-yard pass. The first joint practice in Philadelphia was again a mixed bag.
Harry dominated in 1-on-1s, and made some nice catches over the Eagles’ defensive backs. When the two teams gathered for 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 work, he became a bit more quiet but also had three receptions on three targets: two from Mac Jones, including a beautifully executed 20-yard touchdown, and one from Brian Hoyer. Incumbent starter Cam Newton, however, did not target him.
Devin Asiasi has to step up
With Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry sidelined due to ankle and shoulder injuries, respectively, the Patriots were already understaffed at tight end entering their first joint session in Philadelphia. Then, on the first period of competitive full-team work, Matt LaCosse was lost as well after taking a hard hit on a crossing pattern.
With the top-two and LaCosse out, and with Dalton Keene on injured reserve and David Wells released, the Patriots have only two healthy tight ends currently on their roster: Devin Asiasi and Troy Fumagalli.
Fumagalli is a bubble player, but Asiasi appears to be the frontrunner to take the TE3 role behind Smith and Henry when all is said and done. With the two out, and with LaCosse suffering an injury as well, the former third-round draft pick will have an opportunity to showcase his second-year jump.
Christian Barmore plays a prominent role
With Lawrence Guy still out for undisclosed reasons, the Patriots used a healthy rotation along their interior defensive line. Among the players used was rookie Christian Barmore, who saw prominent snaps after missing some time recently due to injury. It was an encouraging development for the talented second-round draft pick.
Kristian Wilkerson could be headed down a familiar road
Devin Ross has been down this road. Austin Carr as well. Don’t forget Zach Sudfeld, Chris Harper or Maurice Harris. All of them looked impressive in training camp before eventually fading away into relative obscurity, at least in New England.
Kristian Wilkerson is obviously nowhere near that point. However, the second-year wideout has had some struggles recently after what was a good start to training camp. Monday’s practice, for example, saw him drop more passes in team drills (2) than he caught (1). He now has seen a team-high five throws go through his hands, which is not what you would like to see from a player on the roster bubble.
Wilkerson still has plenty of time to get his momentum back, but he recently has done little to show he deserves a spot on the roster over a player like N’Keal Harry. He needs to find his consistency fast, or else he won’t make it far with roster cuts only two weeks away.
Kyle Van Noy thinks joint practices are ‘really, really good’ for the Patriots
Linebacker Kyle Van Noy was among the players to speak to reporters following Monday’s practice, and he essentially echoed Bill Belichick’s remarks when asked about the value of joint practice.
“When you do these joint practices, they’re a really good experience for everybody,” the veteran defender said. “Older guys, younger guys, and coaches as well, going against a different team that gives you a different look. The Eagles did a good job today. We had some ups and downs, but again, we’re gaining experience. This is really, really good for the team.”
Van Noy has participated in his fair share of joint sessions in the past, including one against his former team — the Detroit Lions — in 2019. Like his coach, it appears he is a fan of those opportunities as well.
“Coming out here and just playing Patriot football, and doing the right things, and learning more experience from good competition, and just seeing how different players do different things and different looks, it’s really, really good for all of us to see,” he said on Monday.