The New England Patriots defense had the pleasure of practicing with the Las Vegas Raiders offense this week at joint practices.
Led by All-Pro wide receiver Davante Adams, the Raiders offense gave the Patriots some valuable practice reps. After the second of the two sessions, cornerback Jalen Mills talked about the improvement that New England’s defense had over the course of the week.
“Started a little bit slow yesterday morning, we picked it up towards the middle of practice, finished really strong and then today we practiced really good,” Mills told reporters on Wednesday afternoon.
The defense struggled on Tuesday as the Raiders offense had its way with the Patriots. Quarterback Derek Carr had an efficient day while Adams dazzled regardless of setting. He went 3-0 in 1-on-1 drills against Mills, including a rep that resulted in a 30-yard touchdown on Tuesday. He later impressed in full-team drills as well.
On Wednesday, however, Mills bounced back going 3-0, with wins over three Vegas receivers; Adams, Keelan Cole, and Tyron Johnson.
“He’s one of the best, if not the best in this league,” said Mills about Adams. “So, there’s no better look right now than to get to see him play-in and play-out at practice these past two days. ... Being able to line up against a guy like that, knowing he’s going to give you everything he’s got, it’s going to do nothing but sharpen my skills as well.”
These reps are extremely important for Mills as he appears to be the Patriots’ lead corner heading into the season. He will match up against elite receivers all year, so being able to get reps in against an All-Pro receiver and improve over the course of just a couple days should bode well for his confidence.
Even with Mills seemingly locked into one starting spot, the cornerback position is one of the biggest question marks of this Patriots defense heading into Week 1. Communication, along with Mills stepping up as the number one corner, will be key in the group’s success.
“Going really, really good,” said Mills on the Patriots’ communication. “Especially when you have a guy like Jon[athan Jones] who has played the inside before, he is kind of a flex guy which makes the quarterback have to read a little bit more.”
New England’s secondary will look to improve on this communication in its last preseason game on Friday night. The final tuneup should allow Mills and guys like Jones a chance to work together, if they see the field: the Patriots are expected to give their starters minimal snaps.