Spring is still trying to establish itself here in New England, but there's already a hint of summer in the air around Gillette Stadium. That's because we learned Tuesday who the Patriots will face this August during the 2019 preseason.
For the first time since Bill Belichick's first year as head coach of the team, New England will start off with consecutive preseason road trips (they had three straight in 2000, including a trip to Canton, Ohio for the Hall of Fame Game).
Exact dates and times have yet to be finalized, but we can say for certain that in Weeks 1 and 2 of the 2019 preseason, the Super Bowl Champs will travel to Detroit and Nashville before coming home to close out the exhibition calendar against the Carolina Panthers and New York Giants in Foxborough. None of these games will be nationally televised, but all will be broadcast locally on the Patriots Preseason Television Network, which has affiliated stations across the New England area.
Last summer was the first since the lockout-interrupted offseason of 2011 that New England didn't have any joint practices with preseason foes, but that appears likely to change this summer. It was reported a few days ago by ESPN that the Patriots made a request at the recent NFL Annual Meeting to face teams in the preseason with whom Belichick has a close personal relationship.
Since both the Lions (head coach Matt Patricia, general manager Bob Quinn) and Tennessee Titans (HC Mike Vrabel, GM Jon Robinson) are led by former Patriots personnel, it looks promising for the Patriots to get back into the summertime routine of holding joint sessions, even if only with one of these two clubs. It's plausible, though, that New England could arrange for consecutive weeks of joint practices on the road with both the Lions and Titans.
Meanwhile, both the Panthers and Giants are regular fixtures on New England's preseason schedule. Last August, the Patriots visited their respective cities, so, this year, those clubs will make their way to Massachusetts. It's unlikely the Patriots would host a joint session at home in preseason Week 3 against Carolina. The third week of preseason is generally considered to be the most regular-season like in terms of scouting and preparation for the upcoming opponent, but there was one summer (2012 at Tampa Bay) when the Patriots had a Week 3 joint campaign. So, it can't be ruled out entirely, but chances are, if there are to be joint sessions, they'll likely come in Weeks 1 and/or 2.
Logistics still need to be worked out in terms of dates and times, but that should come together within the next week or two. Generally, the Patriots prefer to play their preseason games on Thursday nights, kicking off in the 7 p.m. hour, although it's not unusual for them to play on Fridays or even the rare Saturday night during the month of August. Once those dates are confirmed, the team can potentially turn its attention to working out a joint practice schedule or two with its opponents.
In the interim, the complete 2019 regular season schedule is also likely to be unveiled in the coming days, just prior to the 2019 NFL Draft at the end of April.