After twelve days of the Patriots practicing against each other, they welcomed the Carolina Panthers to town to compete in a pair of training camp practices.
After practice I connected with the Panthers team reporter, Kristen Balboni to get insight on Carolina's concerns coming into camp and how she assessed their performance against a new opponent. Coincidentally, both the Patriots and Panthers burning preseason questions reside on the offensive side of the ball.
"I thought it was a good practice and the team came away with some big positives. They may have solidified what the left side of the offensive line looks like which has been a question that we've had throughout camp. We haven't seen the line play consistently together like we did today with the configuration of who we think will be starting, which is Ikem Ekwonu playing left tackle and potentially Brady Christensen at left guard," said Balboni.
In previous training practices, the team reporter quoted that they were still mixing up the combinations on the offensive line and today following the first joint practice, Panthers head coach Matt Rhule gave clarity on the shuffling of the offensive line leading into today.
"We wanted Ikem to play; put it on tape in a game before we put him with the ones. Lots of people have asked me that but we wanted him to go in a game and play and earn this," said Rhule.
Rhule also mentioned the value in playing against Matthew Judon. The Patriots linebacker and the rest of the defense had a prominent performance against the Panthers quartet of quarterbacks.
"On our field I know we were dominating the whole time. We did a great job of applying pressure and keeping on them. Our defensive backs were very active in the background and our defensive line was active upfront not letting a lot of yards get around or through us. We did an awesome job coming together as one," said Deatrich Wise Jr.
The Patriots' offense has also raised the most concern throughout camp with Ted Karras and Shaq Mason's departure, Isaiah Wynn's availability and switch to right tackle and the installation of a new offense.
Although the Patriots' defense stole the spotlight throughout the first day of joint practices, the Patriots made some strides on offense despite falling short in the final two minute drill. In the words of Patriots' running back Damien Harris following today's practice, everyday is a progression. There is still work to be done on the offensive line as the Patriots try to iron out the wrinkles of the run game but there was better pass protection for Mac Jones throughout team drills.
"Competitive, very competitive. Our first joint practice against another team. Our first time going out there and competing against another team that's what these days are all about. Improving and getting better at the fundamentals collectively, individually and as a team," said Damien Harris.
Looking ahead, Balboni and I will have our eyes on what adjustments both teams make tomorrow as the pair continues to seek improvement on offense.