Two days before their preseason meeting, the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles shared the practice fields again. The two teams held their second and final joint session together, with the teams again wearing full pads.
But while the setup was the same, practice itself looked much different — especially at the most important position: New England’s quarterbacks bounced back strong after a difficult Monday session. Both Cam Newton and Mac Jones found plenty of success during a practice mostly focusing on red zone work.
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, however. Here’s today’s Patriots Training Camp Notebook.
Non-participants: K Nick Folk, CB Jonathan Jones, DB Myles Bryant, LS Joe Cardona, LB Anfernee Jennings, TE Jonnu Smith, TE Matt LaCosse, WR Tre Nixon, TE Troy Fumagalli, DT Lawrence Guy
PUP/NFI: QB Jarrett Stidham (PUP), CB Stephon Gilmore (PUP), S Joshuah Bledsoe (NFI), LB Cameron McGrone (NFI), LB Terez Hall (PUP), DT Byron Cowart (PUP)
As was the case on Monday, tight end Hunter Henry was present and in pads but did not participate in any live drills. He departed after the team’s warmup period. Henry is dealing with a shoulder injury, although him making the trip to Philadelphia can be seen as a positive sign.
Fellow tight ends Jonnu Smith and Troy Fumagalli also did not participate. Instead, the two rode stationary bikes next to the field. They were joined by slot cornerback Jonathan Jones.
LB Ronnie Perkins: The rookie linebacker suffered an apparent right knee injury on a kickoff return drill. He limped off the field and was checked out by trainers, later leaving for the locker room. However, Perkins returned after getting his knee taped.
A short practice with a heavy red zone focus: Whereas Monday’s practice was a physical two-hour affair, Tuesday’s was wrapped up after around 80 minutes. Players were again in full pads, though, meaning that there was plenty of contact (although no full tackling to the ground).
The session itself, just like Patriots head coach Bill Belichick pointed out during a media conference call leading up to it, focused heavily on red zone work. While there were some 11-on-11 snaps sprinkled in as well, most of the team drills were done in a 7-on-7 setting. There also were some 1-on-1s, but they too took place inside the 20-yard line.
Quarterbacks bounce back after an inconsistent Monday: The Patriots’ quarterbacks had an up-and-down day during the first joint practice in Philadelphia, but they looked much better the second time around. While not all was perfect, both Cam Newton and Mac Jones bounced back in impressive fashion and looked much more comfortable and in charge out on the field.
Newton completed 13 of his 15 pass attempts in team drills, with his lone incompletions being a batted pass and a drop by Kristian Wilkerson. The incumbent starter went 11-for-12 in 7-on-7s and 2-for-3 in 11-on-11s. While he did get lucky on one pass that ended up in Kendrick Bourne’s hands rather than that of an Eagles linebacker, he had by far his best practice in a while now.
Jones, meanwhile, had a rough start to his day: his very first 7-on-7 rep was picked off after he stared down Devin Asiasi on a seam route. Other than that, however, the first-round rookie was on fire and completed every one of his throws. In total, Jones finished the day having hit 13 of his 14 pass attempts: he was 9-for-10 with the pick in 7-on-7s and also went 3-for-3 in 11-on-11s.
As for third-string quarterback Brian Hoyer, he threw an interception to former Patriots practice squad member Alex Singleton during on 7-on-7 series.
N’Keal Harry finds some success: N’Keal Harry had a good day on Monday, and he again had some positive moments in his second joint session versus the Eagles. While Philadelphia’s defenders had more success during 1-on-1s, the former first-round draft pick also found the end zone twice in team drills. One of those scores came on a low throw from Mac Jones where only he could catch the ball.
Devin Asiasi shoulders the load at tight end: With Matt LaCosse and Troy Fumagalli joining Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry on the absentees list, only one tight end remained standing for the Patriots: second-year man Devin Asiasi was all that was left from one of the NFL’s most talented tight end depth charts on Tuesday.
The second-year man, who opened training camp on the NFL’s Coronavirus reserve list, was actively involved. As noted above, he was the target on Mac Jones’ interception. He later also dropped a pass during a 7-on-7 period thrown by Brian Hoyer. However, Asiasi ended the session with a touchdown reception in 11-on-11 work on a pass from Jones. The young QB found the young TE in the flat for the score.
Defending tight ends is an issue: Led by Dallas Goedert and Zach Ertz, the Eagles have plenty of size and receiving talent at the tight end position. It gave the Patriots some problems during Tuesday’s practice.
Zach Ertz scored a touchdown on a corner route against Kyle Dugger, with Goedert beating Adrian Phillips for another score down the left sideline; he later also scored once against Joejuan Williams. All three of them also registered pass breakups as well, even though an argument can be made that Phillips’ actually might have been defensive holding.
Some moving parts in the secondary: With Jonathan Jones relegated to spectator status due to an apparent injury, the Patriots had to shuffle their cornerbacks around a bit. J.C. Jackson, who had another up-and-down day, was still the number one on the outside with Stephon Gilmore remaining on the physically unable to perform list.
The number previous starter opposite Jackson, meanwhile, was moved to the slot: Jalen Mills, who registered a pass breakup while covering Travis Fulgham but also gave up a catch to Quez Watkins in 1-on-1s, moved inside. In his place, third-year man Joejuan Williams saw some action as a starter-level outside cornerback.
Quinn Nordin is not quite automatic: With Nick Folk still out, Quinn Nordin once again handled place kicking duties at the end of the session. The undrafted rookie was solid, but he did miss one attempt from 45-ish yards away. All in all, he went 3-for-4 on the day.
Three Patriots attempt kickoff returns: Tuesday’s session also saw some kickoff return work. New England used three different players in this setting: J.J. Taylor, who handled kickoff returns during the preseason opener versus the Washington Football Team, as well as Brandon Bolden and Kyle Dugger.
What’s next? No practice is scheduled for Wednesday even though it is possible the two teams hold walkthrough sessions leading up to their preseason meeting. That game will be played on Thursday at 7:30 pm. The Patriots will head back home afterwards before hosting the New York Giants for more joint work.