The Patriots turned up practice a couple notches Monday morning at Gillette Stadium as the Jaguars arrived in Foxborough for joint workouts leading up to the teams' preseason opener on Thursday night.
As the process of training camp plays out, joint practice work with unfamiliar foes instead of the at times monotonous daily battles with teammates is a major stride forward toward actual game action.
And for fans, the joint practice work brings an entire second roster of NFL players to gaze at, almost overcrowding the two practice fields behind Gillette with more than 200 players, coaches and team personnel.
Check out our favorite photos from Patriots joint practice with the Jaguars at Gillette Stadium on Monday, Aug. 7, 2017.
Jacksonville's star power includes rookie running back Leonard Fournette – who got in a few live goal line reps -- as well as young defenders Myles Jack and Dante Fowler Jr.
New England's defensive backs, who've impressed in daily work against New England's projected (albeit banged-up) high-powered passing attack, got to see different players and skillsets in early Monday 1-on-1 drills and then group and team action against Jacksonville.
"It was great to work against somebody other than Julian [Edelman], [Danny] Amendola and the guys," said Malcolm Butler, who notched an interception in 11-on-11 action.
"I got winded out there going every play," Butler admitted of the increased intensity and competitive action. "But I need to. Practice play turns into game reality."
Overall it seemed the Patriots got the better of the early 1-on-1 action on both sides of the ball in battles between defensive backs and receivers. And as practice wore on, what was at first a somewhat sloppy New England offense made more big plays and distanced itself from Jacksonville and quarterback in Blake Bortles, both of whom have something to prove in 2017.
"It gives us a good feel for where we are," Jacksonville coach Doug Marrone "Obviously they are a great team and we have a lot of respect for both the coaches and the players."
Beyond the increased bodies and increased compete factor, here are one man's Blogservations made while doing a live PFW in Progress radio show overlooking the practice fields:
--LB Dont'a Hightower and DT Alan Branch remain on PUP. They were dressed in sweats and retreated to the lower practice field for rehab. The same was true of rookie T Andrew Jelks, who remains on NFI.
--WR Matthew Slater was again absent from the practice field, the lone player not seen.
--Those Patriots dressed in full pads but retreating to the lower field for rehab-type work included WR Malcolm Mitchell, RB Mike Gillislee, S David Jones, T Nate Solder and WR Cody Hollister.
--The Jaguars were actually on the field a good 15 or 20 minutes before the Patriots, doing various pre-practice work as a team around 9:15. Jacksonville claimed the right practice field, closest to the fan bleachers for much of their early work and stretching. New England used the left field.
--It's always fun to see if visiting teams bring different equipment to the practice environment. One thing of note for Jacksonville was a football secured to one of the oversized, large dummies. The bag was used to simulate the quarterback for the Jags defensive linemen in their pass rush drills, beating another dummy blocker and then going for the ball along with the sack of the faux passer.
--Interesting that Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio stood in the corner of the end zone with his arms folded watching intently throughout the Jaguars early-practice action on both sides of the ball. He could be looking for future roster additions as it's not uncommon by any means for teams to pick up guys who they worked against in joint practices in the summer. This week offers Caserio and his scouting staff extended, first-person viewing of Jacksonville's personnel.
--Later in practice in 11-on-11 work Ernie Adams watched from behind the offense and Bill Belichick and Caserio from down the field behind the defense, three sets of very experienced eyes overseeing the actin and the personnel.
--It was humorous that while nearly 90 Jaguars took part in pre-practice work on one field and a similar number of Patriots did the same on the other, six specialists stood between the two fields in a circle chatting. The squads' kickers, long snappers and punters might as well have been on their own little six-man team separate from all the other action.
--During pre-practice work some scout team offensive players wore yellow pinnies (or scrimmage vests) with numbers on them for the first time this summer. Those numbers (88/11/40/15) and others corresponded to Jaguars offensive skill players Allen Hurns, Marqise Lee, Tommy Bohanon and Allen Robinson.
--A crew of NFL officials was on hand for the first time this summer. The officials oversaw the entirety of the practice. They seemed to keep their flags in their pockets more often than not in early 1-on-1 action, but then the hankies got tossed with more regularity in 11-on-11 work later, both on special teams and offense/defense.
--The practice took place under partly cloudy skies that grew more gray as the morning played out. Temperatures were rather comfortable. Marrone was quite happy that the weather was dry, with rain holding off until later in the afternoon in the Foxborough area.
--Butler got toasted by Lee on one of the first 1-on-1 reps between the teams. Shortly thereafter Edelman was blanketed on the other field and unable to come away with a catch.
--Cameron Fleming and Dwayne Allen did a penalty lap after a rep in 1-on-1s in the trenches, likely for a false start.
--WR Devin Lucien continued to make plays, hauling in a TD down the right sideline, beating cornerback Tracy Howard.
--All Patriots players wore white jerseys for the session. It's interesting to see New England's defensive players, who don blue shirts for most practices, in white. It also can make it difficult to differentiate between guys who wear the same number. For example, both Dion Lewis and rookie Will Likely look very much alike in their No. 33 jerseys.
--It probably won't garner as much attention as plays made in later 11-on-11 drills by bigger names, but second-year passing back D.J. Foster may have made the catch of the day in 1-on-1 work. Foster reached up while running toward to the right sideline and tried to pull the ball down from over his head with his right hand. He then actually trapped the ball against the back of his helmet as he got his feet down before going out of bounds. It looked a little like an infamous opponent's catch that we don't talk or write about in these parts.
--Lucien had a second nice catch on a deep ball, getting behind the defender despite the Jaguar grabbing the second-year receiver's jersey early in the route.
--The teams both worked on the kickoff/kickoff return game in the workout. Interesting that Jaguars kick returners would hold a ball in their hands prior to Stephen Gostkowski's kickoff, and then toss it behind them before the live ball actually arrived. Could be they wanted to ensure a return even if the kick was too deep/unreturnable, but hard to tell for sure.
--Patriots owner Robert Kraft was on the field and watched the morning session that actually ran for nearly three hours in total.
--Celtics all-star guard Isaiah Thomas was in attendance and spent time chatting with Kraft.
--The practice drew a massive crowd of media and fans. Beyond reporters from the two teams' markets, there was national and international media coverage, including crews from Mexico.
--NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock watched the practice from the sidelines wearing a t-shirt with the name "Mayo" and No. 20 on the back. The front showed a Boston College logo with BC above it and OC below.
--Rob Gronkowski had a rare, ugly drop on a throw from Brady down the seam.
--Gronkowski beat young athletic Jaguars linebacker Myles Jack for a sideline reception in 7-on-7.
--When the Patriots were on kickoff return Dion Lewis was the first guy back deep with Rex Burkhead as the off returner. The next group had Cyrus Jones with James White.
--Continuing to be one of the more physical Patriots defenders of the summer, Elandon Robert put a pop on Jags running back Corey Grant that sent the third-year player to the ground in team action.
--Deatrich Wise Jr. worked some rushes from between the guard and tackle. On one such rep Wise was engaged with the guard when the tackle stepped down to help out and knocked the rookie defensive end to the turf with alarming ease. Clearly Wise was caught off guard by the two-man block and will need to become more aware of such schemes if he's going to continue to get reps as an interior rusher.
--Brady and Brandin Cooks failed to connect on their first deep ball of the day down the middle. Cooks was behind the defense but seemed to miss-judge the throw and the ball ended up going off his fingertips. The play came just after the aforementioned Gronkowski drop and Brady seemed to become a bit irritated with the early 11-on-11 inefficiency of his passing attack.
--The first offensive line in most drills included, from left to right, Fleming, Joe Thuney, David Andrews, Shaq Mason and Marcus Cannon. With Solder out of action, Fleming and LaAdrian Waddle have seemed to split the veteran's reps with that group but today the latter worked with the second group through most drills.
--The Patriots weren't the only ones with bad drops. Lee, Rashad Green Jr. and Hurns (who left practice with an apparent injury later) were among those who had ugly drops for Jacksonville.
--Rookie wide receiver Austin Carr got some reps with Brady's group, lining up alongside White, Cooks, Edelman and Hogan in one set, with Gronkowski coming on for Hogan in another look.
--Harvey Langi had to take a lap for an unknown infraction in team action.
--Brady and Allen clearly were not on the same page on one incompletion. Brady threw the ball for the tight end crossing toward the far right corner, but the veteran seemed to have let up and the throw fell to open grass. Brady not only showed displeasure on the field, but later found Allen on the sideline to talk things out.
--The second group of linemen, from Waddle's left tackle spot to the right, included Ted Karras, James Ferentz, Cole Croston and Conor McDermott. McDermott has seen his reps go up a notch over the late couple practices, something that can't be said for Tony Garcia.
--Derek Rivers continues to be somewhat quiet in his reps, many still coming with him playing on two feet in space rather than as a defensive end with his hand in the dirt.
--Interesting that the Patriots drafted two defensive ends and two tackles with their four draft picks and the latter pick at each position has been getting more noticeable reps in the early stages of their rookie training camp than the higher selection.
--Defensive tackle Vincent Valentine was down on one knee and gesturing to his back while being looked at by the medical staff. It did not appear that he took any more reps for the remainder of the workout and was seen walking down the sideline with a member of the training staff.
--Jimmy Garoppolo had another up-and-down session. He had one particularly ugly throw under the goal posts into the red zone that almost looked like a throw-away well beyond anything Allen could catch. But Garoppolo's reaction indicated that the throw may have just gotten away from him.
--Garoppolo and Brady took the bulk of the regular practice reps, with Jacoby Brissett having to wait until "opportunity" action late in practice to get his work in.
--Cornerback Eric Rowe took early reps as the third corner, but then was sidelined later to an apparent ailment, seemingly a lower-body issue.
--The back end of the Patriots defense twice allowed wide-open receptions for the Jags along the offensive right sideline. Both times it appeared Butler and a fellow defender – once it was Jonathan Jones – weren't on the same page in zone coverage responsibilities. A similar situation occurred with Butler and Patrick Chung, leading to an easy completion to Marcedes Lewis.
--Brady's frustration after the early drops grew with failed completions to Edelman and even a miss-fire on a would-be screen to White.
--TB12's displeasure was halted, though, when he finally hit Cooks on a deep ball down the right numbers to inside the 10 in team action. Cooks beat an early hold/illegal contact on the route and Brady aired it out for the long completion, although the receiver could not maintain his feet to get into the end zone.
--The positive momentum continued shortly thereafter down the left sideline when Brady dropped bucket throw into the waiting hands of Hogan for a long touchdown, beating very tight coverage from Jaguars cornerback Tyler Patmon. Cooks may be the new-found speedy star on the Patriots passing attack, but after tying for the NFL lead in yards-per-reception last fall Hogan still clearly has something to offer as a playmaker down the field.
--Late in team action New England ran its field goal unit on for a clock-sensitive field goal attempt by Gostkowski. He missed the first long attempt from 55-plus wide left, but Jacksonville was called for a penalty. Gostkowski then missed left again from 5 yards closer.
--Brady had an apparent free play with the Jags jumping offside on an ensuing 11-on-11 rep. He looked down the right side for Cooks, but the two weren't on the same page. Brady threw for a comeback or in-cut while the speedy Cooks went deep. The ball ended up being intercepted, though the penalty negated the turnover. Still not ideal that the two weren't aligned in their thoughts on the free play.
--If Foster's catch wasn't the best of the day, then that honor went to Cooks on the back line of the end zone. Brady threw a high, late ball that almost looked like it was destined for the fans. But Cooks went up high with his right hand to secure the one-handed, almost back-hand-style reception while getting his toes just inside the back line for the score. The touchdown was confirmed by the nearby official with his hands raised to the sky.
--The teams did some live-action goal line work late in practice. New England's defense came up big, stuffing the Jags, while Brandon Bolden and Burkhead each punched in scores for the Patriots offense. Burkhead's run, which may have seen heavy replay scrutiny in a game, was especially nice as he took a big hit shy of the goal line and got in on an impressive second-effort.
--The teams finished with opportunity work for the younger and less proven players on both sides of the ball on the two fields.
--The established Patriots did some conditioning work on the hill on the far end of the field. Jacksonville did conditioning on the level practice field.
--The Jaguars did some post-practice stretching as a team, including each player using a rubber band to stretch his legs.
--A group of military personnel watched the practice from the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation tent area, with the various branches of the military represented. The two teams went down to visit with the military members after practice. Patriots long snapper Joe Cardona changed into his Navy uniform for the occasion, which actually included a Navy reenlistment ceremony, and then walked off the field carrying his football pads/uniform.
--Patriots players meeting with the media included, among others, Gostkowski, Trey Flowers, David Harris, Thuney, Adam Butler, Malcolm Butler, Chung, Garoppolo and Gronkowski.
--The two teams will return to the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium for another joint session on Tuesday morning at 9:30. The workout is open to the public, but be sure to check patriots.com for any potential schedule changes.