With less than a week until final roster cutdowns, the New England Patriots and New York Giants are joining forces. The two teams, who will meet in the preseason finale on Sunday, are getting together for a pair of joint practices leading up to the game.
The week projects to be an eventful one, and a final chance for players to make a case for themselves. Veteran special teamer Justin Bethel, whose spot on the roster is secure, said so himself during a recent press conference.
“This is kind of like the fourth preseason game. This is the last chance that you get to show what you can do,” he said in the aftermath of Tuesday’s practice. “Especially with younger guys, it’s like your last chance to put what you want out there on the film for this team and every other team that’s out there. It’s definitely exciting to get out there and play against somebody.”
While most of the spots on the Patriots’ roster already appear to be set in stone, nothing is final until cutdown day. Just take Sony Michel’s recent trade to the Los Angeles Rams, and how it shakes up the running back competition.
Competition in general will be big during joint practices with the Giants and the subsequent preseason meeting. Going up against another team and their system is therefore certainly a positive for the Patriots, as team captain Matthew Slater pointed out.
“It’s our hope to create a competitive environment. We try to do that each and every time we’re coming on the field. But certainly, when you’re bringing in a different team it creates a competitive environment,” he said.
“It makes both teams better. So, for us, it’s about coming out here and doing quality work against, obviously, a well-coached football team with great talent across the board and getting ourselves better. We know it’s going to be a challenging week for us, but it’s going to be good for our football team.”
Slater was not the only Patriot to speak about the benefit of joint practices recently. Tight end Jonnu Smith, linebacker Matthew Judon, and Bethel himself all mentioned them on Tuesday.
“It’s going to be some great reps,” said first-year Patriot Smith. “Those guys are coming up here ready to compete and we need that for this team. We need that for this entire organization; to take next step. These joint practices, as you all know, they get extremely competitive. That’s what we need. Not as far as the nonsense that goes on, but just playing football. So, it’s going to be good for us.”
Judon, who also joined the team as a free agent this offseason, mentioned the opportunity to hit somebody else as a benefit of joint practices.
“It’s always better to hit another opponent instead of your own teammates. You know how your teammates are hurting and how they’re banged up. You kind of don’t care about the opponent, so it’s just a new tempo and a new level of energy,” he said.
“That’s how we’re going to take it, and then we’re going to work through every situation that they give us and every look that they give us. Because they probably have some looks that they run that we won’t see unless we see it from them.”
The joint session with the Giants will not be the first one for the Patriots this year. The team already traveled to Philadelphia last week to join forced with the Eagles; the two clubs practiced alongside each other twice before an exhibition contest that was won 35-0 by New England.
The final score of the game obviously does not matter that much — we are talking about preseason, after all — but by their own account the Patriots still took a step forward while working with another club. This week should be more of the same, and give New England a clearer view of where individual players and the team as a whole stands in their development at this stage in the process.
“It’s always different when you get to practice against another team. You kind of get used to practicing against the same guys over and over,” Bethel said. “It’s cool when you get to see how everything you’ve been doing stacks up against another team.”