For the third straight day and seventh overall, the New England Patriots will hit the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium on Wednesday. It will be interesting to see how high the intensity level is after back-to-back practices in full pads, but the session projects to be another interesting one nonetheless.
With that said, here is what we will be keeping an eye on:
The offensive line. Two full-pad practices in, the Patriots’ offensive line looks like a major liability. The unit had a rough time in pass protection during team drills, with Mac Jones taking a pair of would-be sacks and getting flushed out the pocked multiple times and looking visibly uncomfortable.
The group also struggled generating a consistent upfield push in the running game, especially versus the starting defense: New England’s backs failed to gain positive yards on three of five handoffs in an 11-on-11 setting.
The cornerback rotation. The Patriots made some changes to their cornerback group during the first series of competitive team drills. Instead of using the starting-three of previous days — Jalen Mills and Terrance Mitchell on the outside with Jonathan Jones in the slot — they used Malcolm Butler, Jack Jones and Myles Bryant.
The three “starters” returned to take their spots in the lineup for the final 11-on-11 series, but it was interesting to see the Patriots give the second-stringers a more prominent look. Was this just a case of getting everyone involved, or will Butler, Jones and Bryant be able to make a serious push for more opportunities on Wednesday?
Mac Jones’ workload. The Patriots’ starting quarterback had a comparatively light ball passing the football on Tuesday. With the team going back to shells on Wednesday, however, the expectation is that he will be more active (which in turn would mean decreased opportunities for backup Bailey Zappe after an active day).
There is a lot to clean up in the passing game, and Jones and his supporting cast getting plenty of reps together will be key — especially after what seemed like an intentional reduction the previous day.
As for yesterday’s things to watch, here are a few quick notes:
Team discipline. One day after several infractions, the Patriots had a cleaner practice in that regard. Only two players were sent on penalty laps, with wide receiver Nelson Agholor making the trip because of a fumble and Bill Murray presumably due to a false start.
Mac Jones’ downfield passing. As noted above, Mac Jones did not see a ton of opportunities to throw the ball on Tuesday. In total, he attempted 19 throws between competitive 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills. Pressure was a major issue, resulting in him oftentimes taking the short completion rather than waiting for the longer one to develop.
Christian Barmore in 1-on-1 situations. Tuesday’s practice was more of the same for the Patriots’ sophomore defender. He looked near-unblockable at times, proving himself the most disruptive member of New England’s defense at this point in the process. He appears to be in the middle of the famous Year 2 jump.