It is no secret that Patriots coach Bill Belichick values joint practices more than most. In recent years the NFL placed restrictions on the frequency and intensity of training camp practices. Joint practices however, present a unique opportunity to teams and players alike.
Competition is always intense in these joint practices, and much can be learned about each team. So, let’s take a look at a few important themes heading into these two joint practices with the New York Giants.
Mac Jones Mans the First Team Offense on Wednesday
Cam Newton will presumably return to action on Thursday. However, in tomorrow’s practice Mac Jones will continue to lead the first team offense. New York’s defense outperformed preseason expectations in 2020 and retaining Leonard Williams in free agency was paramount. Star corner James Bradberry had a stellar 2020-2021 season for the G-men. New York’s secondary only improved this offseason with the addition of Adoree Jackson. Patriots fans will Remember Logan Ryan quite well, who transitioned to safety in his first year with the Giants.
This Giants defense has talent at multiple different positions, and they are returning their two best players in Bradberry and Williams. If Jones can lead this Patriots offense through a successful day of practice, he could take control of this quarterback competition. Bill Belichick himself said this will be a big week for the rookie. While the Giants defense will be a tough test, the Patriots revamped arsenal on the offensive side should help. Jonnu Smith, Hunter Henry, Nelson Agholar, and many others will need to show out in order to help the rookie QB navigate this joint practice against a tough secondary.
New England’s Diminished Secondary vs. New York’s Injured Receiving Corp
The secondary has been a concern throughout New England’s training camp. Without Stephon Gilmore, players like Jalen Mills, Joejuan Williams, and others need to step up.
J.C. Jackson has assumed the top corner position in Gilmore’s absence and he has looked capable doing so. Jackson had a great 2020-2021 campaign and would be the top dog in many other secondaries: he is not the concern. Jalen Mills has reportedly struggled in the position throughout camp, as he is not a traditional outside corner. Ideally, the Patriots would use Mills in a nickel or safety role. Third-year corner Joejuan Williams took a fair number of reps against Devonta Smith in the previous preseason game. While Williams was at a clear speed and quickness disadvantage against Smith, he held his own throughout the night.
The New York Giants improved their receiving corp significantly this offseason, adding Kenny Golladay in free agency and Kadarius Toney in the first round of the draft. Golladay is a tall, tough, physical receiver who is very capable of being a number one option, however he is not expected to practice this week. Kadarius Toney was dubbed by some as the most exciting player in the draft. He is a shifty receiver who has an otherworldly run after the catch ability; he didn’t earn the nickname “the human joystick” by accident. Toney has been banged up recently, but should be 100% for these joint practices. Additionally, the group features Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton who are both solid options. These matchups should present some problems for this secondary, even without Golladay. These next few days could provide key coaching points for both Bill and Steve Belichick, especially with Stephon Gilmore out of the lineup.
Pictures from last week’s Giants Browns joint practices went viral after a fight broke out. Receiver Sterling Shepard squared up like Floyd Mayweather against Brown’s corner Troy Hill.
It goes down at NFL joint practices 😲
Browns CB Troy Hill and Giants WR Sterling Shepard squared up on Friday afternoon… pic.twitter.com/uTbYaeR7ym
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) August 20, 2021
While the two laughed it off, fights are a dime a dozen during joint practices. Giants coach Joe Judge comes from the Belichick coaching tree, and runs a tight ship up in the meadowlands. Given that Belichick’s former protégé is now their head coach, fisticuffs would seem unlikely. That being said, never rule out a fight during an NFL joint practice. If any extracurricular activities do occur, you can be sure that both coaches will discipline their teams.
(Photo By Matt Stone/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald via Getty Images)