Wednesday saw the first of two joint practices between the New England Patriots and New York Giants; the two teams will be on the practice field together on two occasions prior to the preseason finale on Sunday night. The first of those practices was a highly competitive and intense practice as both teams strapped the pads on with starters on both sides getting lots of reps.
Overall, it was a great day for the Patriots. Mac Jones and the offense were clicking the entire time and the defense made life tough on his Giants counterpart, Daniel Jones. It was a glimpse of how dominant this team can be if both sides of the ball are playing complementary football.
Jones took every rep in competitive drills with Cam Newton still out, and it was a big step forward for the rookie as he continues to stand out in the quarterback competition. It was the type of day that made you wonder if Mac Jones is closer than we think to being the starting quarterback come Week 1.
Absent: QB Cam Newton, WR N’Keal Harry, WR Tre Nixon, TE Matt LaCosse, CB Justin Bethel, LB Josh Uche
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)
OT Isaiah Wynn: Wynn left the field with the medical staff. It is unknown when he was injured but he walked off slowly shortly after competitive drills started.
WR Nelson Agholor: Agholor left the field around the same time as Wynn. He walked gingerly with the medical staff as it looked like an ankle or foot ailment.
LB Dont’a Hightower: The Patriots linebacker was seen getting his hamstring stretched out by the training staff. Hightower stayed on the sidelines after but did eventually return to action.
WR Jakobi Meyers: The third-year wideout appeared to hurt his foot after a spectacular diving catch. He was not checked out by trainers, though, and eventually returned without any visible limitations.
Mac Jones was dealing: Mac Jones took advantage of his opportunity on Wednesday and he again took every competitive rep while Cam Newton remained out. The rookie may have had his best day as a member of the Patriots. He shredded the Giants defense in every competitive drill. Jones finished the day going a combined 33-for-39 in 7-on-7s and 11-on-11s. At one point, he had 18 straight completions.
His best throws of the day came to James White on a wheel route and a 35-yard completion to Jakobi Meyers towards the end of practice. On the White play, it was a wheel route with two linebackers tight in coverage. Jones threw it perfectly to White who turned, adjusted his body, and made the acrobatic catch.
Jones finished practice executing a successful two-minute drill going 6-for-6 in the process that ended in a touchdown. The drive was awarded by a low-five from head coach Bill Belichick.
All in all, it was a surgical day for Jones who showed that he has full control of the offense and is continuing to gain ground in the Patriots’ quarterback competition.
What today means for the Patriots’ QB1 job: It is no secret that Bill Belichick takes a lot of stock when evaluating his players during joint practices. They are much more physical, competitive, and a chance for starters to compete outside of a preseason setting. With Cam Newton still out, Mac Jones had a huge opportunity to get an extended look with the ones as well as get much more reps than he would usually get.
Considering how well the rookie performed, the question now is this: Did he do enough to really put himself into consideration for the Week 1 job?
Newton has been their starter since draft night but the last few days, and in particular Wednesday, it was obvious that the offense runs a lot more efficiently with Jones under center. He’s starting to gain more confidence in the huddle and it is catching on to his teammates who he continues to gain respect from.
Jones did enough against the Giants to at least make the Patriots think longer and harder about who should be under center for them come Week 1.
J.J. Taylor continues to pop: Sony Michel getting traded to the Los Angeles Rams pretty much solidifies J.J. Taylor’s spot on the 53-man roster. Taylor has had a strong summer due to his ability to chip in on both offense and special teams.
On Wednesday, he made a nifty move on a Giants linebacker in 7-on-7s early on in practice, breaking his ankles before hauling in a pretty deep ball from Mac Jones. Taylor’s workload is still unknown at the moment but with Michel out of the picture, the former undrafted free agent may wear many hats in New England’s loaded running back room this season.
Big day for the Patriots secondary: Lost in the Mac Jones buzz on Wednesday was how dominant the Patriots secondary performed. Daniel Jones had a rough day as it seemed like he consistently had nowhere to go with the football.
J.C. Jackson and Adrian Phillips locked up Kenny Golladay and Evan Engram with pass breakups in tight coverage, while Kyle Dugger picked off Jones. He read the pass play perfectly and jumped in front of Darius Slayton for the pick. With all the talk about the Patriots’ front seven this summer, the secondary is starting to come along here as camp winds down — even without Stephon Gilmore on the field.
What’s next? The Patriots are set to host their final joint practice of training camp on Thursday at 10 am. The two teams will then finish off the preseason slat eon Sunday night at MetLife Stadium.
With Cam Newton eligible to return after his Covid-related absence, it will be interesting to watch how the reps get sorted out after Mac Jones’ strong recent performance. Jones has thrown well over 80 competitive reps in the last two days so the rookie may have a lighter workload tomorrow with Newton coming in fresh.