The Patriots have concluded their first or two joint practices in Green Bay before the teams face off in the preseason Saturday night. New signing Ezekiel Elliott made his debut but didn’t appear to be in full pads. After going through position drills, taking handoffs, and running routes on air early in practice, he did not take any competitive or team reps against Green Bay. Unsurprisingly, Mike Gesicki was not present after suffering a shoulder injury on Monday. Bill Murray returned to the field in a red non-contact jersey after missing the last few sessions. Marte Mapu shed his red jersey for the first time this offseason after undergoing surgery for a torn pectoral muscle. Jonathan Jones’ quiet continued absence the past two weeks is becoming a concern.
Physically Unable to Perform
- RG Mike Onwenu (ankle)
- ST Cody Davis (knee)
- DL Trey Flowers (unknown)
- OT Calvin Anderson (illness)
Missing/Did Not Participate
- WR Ty Montgomery (left leg, considered day-to-day)
- LG Cole Strange (left leg)
- CB Jonathan Jones (unknown)
- TE Mike Gesicki (shoulder)
- RB Pierre Strong (unknown)
- IOL Kody Russey (unknown)
Red Non-Contact Jersey (excluding quarterbacks, kickers, and punters)
- IOL Bill Murray (unknown)
PLAYERS SPEAK ON EZEKIEL ELLIOTT SIGNING
Though most have speculated Ezekiel Elliott will be a short-yardage and pass-blocking specialist in New England as part of a rotation, it sounds like the veteran signing will be the clear-cut backup to Rhamondre Stevenson.
For starters, Elliott was the second man up for drills when the running backs went through position drills, which may seem insignificant but stood out for a player who joined the team just two days ago.
While speaking to the media, Mac Jones referred to Elliott and Stevenson as a “one-two punch,” while Stevenson himself alluded to the Patriots typically having a tandem at running back. Elliott is also throwing himself into the fire, with Belichick saying he spent time with the back talking terminology, plays, and protections both last night and during the team’s flight to Green Bay.
Time and on-field performance will tell what Elliott’s role ultimately becomes in this offense, but expectations inside the building appear to be higher than they are to many on the outside.
PRESSURE AND ERRORS PLAGUE OFFENSE
The Patriots came out hot offensively in competitive drills. Mac Jones kicked things off with several under-center play-fakes, completing his first attempt on a crosser to JuJu Smith-Schuster, finding DeVante Parker in the soft spot of zone coverage, and connecting with Hunter Henry on an out-breaker along the sideline. The offensive line also got strong push in the ground game, which carried over throughout practice.
Things got shakier when the top offense threw from the gun, though. Parker, who was the Patriots’ best receiver today, seemed to stop his route on a deep shot, Rasul Douglas broke up a pass intended for Henry, Jones took what looked like a coverage sack, and pressure started to build with multiple reps that would’ve been quick takedowns in a live game. Kayshon Boutte did manage to stand out in these early periods, catching multiple passes from Jones and Zappe, with the best being a deep out that was behind him and contested along the boundary. Mac Jones also had a couple of impressive completions, including a great anticipation throw on another Boutte deep out that left his hand before Boutte was out of his break, as well as a Red Zone slant touchdown to Parker between two defenders.
Besides a near-interception where he threw late to Smith-Schuster on what would’ve been a sack, Jones looked good on a day full of short-intermediate throws. But the lack of offensive line depth was a glaring issue as practice went on, throwing longer developing plays and forcing quarterbacks off of their spots. To be fair, Trent Brown and David Andrews were the only expected starters at their usual positions on the field, with Riley Reiff playing right guard, Atonio Mafi at left guard, and Sidy Sow at right tackle. Still, the offense’s inability to operate because of pressure could come back to bite them in the regular season.
The offense also had its sloppiest performance of camp, which included multiple penalties and a two-minute drill where receivers didn’t seem to execute properly and Bill Belichick ripped into Jones after an error. The quarterback said that, after a quick field goal attempt, the offense had to repeat a play due to an apparent miscommunication.
— Patriots on CLNS (@PatriotsCLNS) August 16, 2023
Jones acknowledged the benefit of such learning moments for both teams but I’m sure the offense is expecting a much-improved performance in tomorrow’s session.
COMPETITIVE, BUT IMPERFECT DAY ON DEFENSE
The Patriots’ defense terrorized Jordan Love early in practice. Matt Judon, Deatrich Wise, Josh Uche, and Shaun Wade all brought the heat to keep the quarterback from finding his rhythm.
Love finally got the Patriots on a long touchdown pass to Christian Watson. Hard to know for sure without film, but it looked like Jalen Mills was late to his deep zone because of a disguise, while Christian Gonzalez actually made a heads-up play peeling off his underneath assignment to get underneath the throw, but tried to play the ball and couldn’t make up enough ground to affect the pass. It was a perfect ball from Jordan Love that I would call more of an offensive win than a defensive failure.
Gonzalez gave up another catch later in practice on a slant to Romeo Doubs where he seemed to be caught off guard but locked the receiver up defending a go route on the next snap.
Jack Jones had an early pass breakup after an impressive recovery on a deep ball to Romeo Doubs. Later he got into a brief shoving match with Packers receiver Jadakis Bonds that was quickly broken up, then gave up a long touchdown on the next play to Malik Heath, though Sean Clifford delivered a perfect pass that beat step-for-step coverage from the corner. Jones seemed to have some words for Clifford after the play, likely believing his assignment was out of bounds, and defensive line coach DeMarcus Covington had to step in.
That wasn’t the only near-altercation of camp, as Jalen Mills got into it with a gunner on the Packers after the safety and Ameer Speed got a little overzealous in their blocking. An official separated the parties, but the jawing continued down the sideline and cornerbacks coach Mike Pellegrino wasn’t happy.
Overall, I thought the defense did a good job keeping plays in front of them, though Love was able to dink-and-dunk his way downfield during a two-minute drill that ended in a field goal, with Marcus Jones appearing to allow a few receptions.
- Demario Douglas continued to shine, separating on a whip route in the low¯Red Zone and winning on a crossing route later in practice.
- Nick Folk made all but one field goal attempt on the day, though below-average leg strength was apparent on a windy day. Chad Ryland had two misses on five field goal attempts early in practice, with his kicks going so high it was nearly impossible to tell whether they were good without signals from the officials.
- Tyquan Thornton got behind the Packers’ secondary, but Zappe overthrew him. Wind may have once again been a factor.
- As has been the case since last week, Malik Cunningham is mixing in with both the top unit and backups on QB-centric runs, though he did have a play-action bootleg attempt where he ultimately tucked the ball and ran to the sideline.
- Matt Sokol appeared to be the next man up at tight end with Mike Gesicki out, though Anthony Firkser also got some run with the top unit.
- The Patriots and Packers’ next joint practice will take place tomorrow at 10:30 AM CT.