The New England Patriots and Carolina Panthers were back on the Gillette Stadium practice fields for their second joint practice Wednesday morning. Like it was on Monday, both sides brought the energy, as well as some nasty.
Here’s what went down.
Absentees: OT Isaiah Wynn, OL Bill Murray, OT Justin Herron, TE Hunter Henry, OT Yasir Durant, OL Andrew Stueber (NFI)
Injuries: WR Kristian Wilkerson
The Patriots continued to be short along the offensive line as Isaiah Wynn missed his fifth straight practice. Justin Herron and Bill Murray remained out while Yasir Durant, who left Monday’s practice early, was not spotted either. Like Durant, Hunter Henry was also missing after leaving yesterday’s session early.
Kristian Wilkerson was hurt during an early special teams drill that resulted in yet another brawl (more on that later). Matthew Slater said Wilkerson, who was carted off, was being evaluated “off site.”
Round 2: After a pair of brawls yesterday, both sides came out hot Wednesday morning as an early special teams drill featured a lot of back-and-forth chatter. Later in that drill, Kristian Wilkerson was knocked down (leading to injury) and Carolina defensive back Kenny Robinson, who was ejected for fighting Wilkerson on Tuesday, stood over the receiver taunting him. Those actions led to an upset Patriots’ sideline, led by Matthew Slater and special teams coach Cam Achord. Both sidelines cleared but the physicality did not ramp up like Tuesday’s brawls yet.
As the two sides dispersed, the teams transitioned to 11-on-11 work. On the first play, Deatrich Wise Jr. laid a physical hit on Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey, knocking him on the ground. McCaffrey took exception to the hit, getting up andd throwing the ball at Wise Jr. which started an all-out brawl. Punches were thrown as the fight made its way into the crowd before being resolved.
In total, Kenny Robinson, Chuba Hubbard, and Wise Jr. were ejected. Practice then stopped for the second straight day as both coaches huddled up with their respective teams to clear the air.
CB1 Jalen Mills: Also for the second straight day, Jalen Mills was the best player on the field. He opened one-on-ones with two wins over D.J. Moore, including a pass breakup. In 11s, Mills appeared to intercept a Sam Darnold pass intended for Moore, running his out route for him. Down judge Sarah Thomas called it incomplete, however, indicating Mills was bobbling the ball on his way out of bounce. Mills still celebrated by booting the ball into the air in front of the Panthers sideline.
Three isn't enough: In 11-on-11 work, Mac Jones lofted a slot fade to Nelson Agholor that seemed bound for disaster. Instead, Agholor went up and made the catch of the day coming down with the ball in the middle of three Carolina defenders. It was the highlight of another strong practice for the speedster, who also went 2-0 in his 1-on-1 reps.
Jonnu bounces back: After a tough first joint practice for Jonnu Smith on Monday, the tight end looked much better Wednesday. Smith had success early in 1-on-1s, recording three wins spotlighted by an impressive back-shoulder grab. He also drew a defensive flag in those drills. In team work, Mac Jones hit Smith for a touchdown over Jeremy Chinn.
O-Line struggles: With more of a focus on the run game, the Patriots continued to struggle to find room on the ground. In the pass game, Jones found himself under pressure on several occasions, leading to several throwaways on what likely would be sacks on game day.
J.J. vs D.J.: Continuing to line up at outside cornerback, Jonathan Jones had a fair share of battles against D.J. Moore. Jones had a nice diving pass breakup in 7-on-7s and got him again later on in 11s. Moore had his revenge though, going up over Jones in tight coverage to haul in a touchdown in the back of the end zone.
Jones also had an impressive pass breakup going up and knocking a ball away from 6-foot-5 tight end Stephen Sullivan in the end zone.
Take you to School: Undrafted free agent Brenden Schooler continues to impress throughout the offseason. He laid the boom twice today, flattening a Panthers returner (while running with the top kickoff unit) and knocking a ball away from Derek Wright, which drew a rowdy applause from the nearby Matthew Slater. Schooler has given himself a chance at making the roster.
- Marcus Jones continues to make plays at cornerback. The rookie recorded a pass breakup and also an interception on a ball he deflected in the air.
- It was a slower day of work for receiver Kendrick Bourne. He appeared more with the second unit as Agholor saw time as the third receiver alongside DeVante Parker and Jakobi Meyers in team drills. After getting kicked out and yelled at on Monday, perhaps there was a message being sent by Bill Belichick.
- Jonnu Smith and Ty Montgomery continue to be involved on offense, getting fed the ball in creative ways.
- J.J. Taylor lowered the shoulder for a big hit on a Panthers defender late in practice. That drew some hype on the Patriots sideline, specifically from Damien Harris.
- Myles Bryant had an impressive interception in 2-on-2 work, breaking and undercutting a flat route.
The Patriots’ Thursday practice will be closed to the public and the media before they take the field Friday night for their second preseason game against the Carolina Panthers.