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Replay: Patriots Unfiltered Tue May 21 - 02:00 PM | Thu May 23 - 09:55 AM

Breaking Down Patriots Day One Joint Practice Defense vs. Packers 

The Patriots defense gave up some big plays against the Packers in the first joint practice, but otherwise flashed their potential with a disruptive day.

Patriots defense during joint practices with the Green Bay Packers on August 16, 2023.
Patriots defense during joint practices with the Green Bay Packers on August 16, 2023.

GREEN BAY - The Patriots and Packers took to the fields just across the street from Lambeau Field on Tuesday for their first of two joint practices facing each other.

The session started off with the two teams divided up on opposite playing fields with a giant indoor facility between them. Initially, it felt like any other solo training camp practice, only with transplanted Patriots fans in Packers land littering the chainlink fence that surrounds the practice field instead of the usual Foxboro faithful.

The Patriots went through their usual early warm-up period before making their way across the property to the Packers' other practice field where the opponent was ready and waiting for a marathon session of 11-on-11 working front of packed stands with music blaring.

Immediately the teams jumped into the action and didn't let up for almost two hours, running their offenses and defenses at each other for the majority of the day. The Patriots offense and defense split to opposite ends of the field for early situational work before the full teams congregated together for the final hour or so of back and forth that included red zone and two-minute work.

"It was good finally going against another opponent, seeing the different techniques they use, the different rhythms different flows to their game their system, so it's finally nice to hit someone else," said Josh Uche following the practice. "It gets you in that rhythm of preparing for another opponent. In camp, there's that monotony of going against the same guys over and over so now you're' playing a different quarterback, a different line, different running back. Just trying to play what you see."

The defense had a solid day overall, with the notable exception of a few big plays that escaped their coverage, most often thrown to rising star receiver Christian Watson. One particular rep saw Watson race by rookie cornerback Christian Gonzalez for what would've been a big play score. It was the best play of the day for either team on offense.

The Patriots practiced in Green Bay, Wisconsin on Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2023, in preparation for their preseason game against the Packers on Saturday night.

It was a session to learn from for Gonzalez, who was again targeted multiple times during the final two-minute drill of practice. But it wasn't all bad for the rookie, as he helped force incompletions on other reps, including one to Watson down the sideline and what appeared to be a pass defense in the front corner of the end zone on Romeo Doubs that was signaled out of bounds by the referee yet still drew celebration from the Packers offense.

Like his brief appearance in the first preseason game, Gonzalez continues to rapidly acquire valuable experience that will help prepare him for the Eagles offense on September 10th.

"Things might be a little different for [Gonzalez] as a younger player, it might be a lot to see for him because he's younger, but it's a good opportunity for him," said veteran safety Kyle Dugger, who picked up a sack during the practice but also found himself the victim of a Jordan Love completion up the seam to rookie Luke Musgrave.

However, those big Packers plays were fairly isolated throughout the long practice as the Patriots defense also caused plenty of havoc around Love. Matthew Judon continued his dominance, recording multiple would-be sacks in the early periods. Deatrich Wise was similarly disruptive down the stretch, deflecting a pass at one point, then recording probable sacks during red zone work, both coming on would-be third downs. Anfernee Jennings also continued his strong summer with multiple pressures as well.

With early portions of practice dedicated more toward early downs and the running game, the Patriots front didn't allow much open space for the Packers backs to work with. One toss play to running back Aaron Jones did look like it would've been a big gain, but for the most part, the middle of the field was consistently plugged up.

But the big plays are certainly something to take away from the first joint practice session, as the absence of Devin McCourty is a concern when it comes to keeping everyone on the same page to prevent blown coverages. But the plays allowed weren't necessarily blown coverages, they were more about young cornerbacks adjusting to life in the NFL.

Put Marcus Jones in that category as well, as he allowed some catches to Romeo Doubs, including one of the final plays of the day. Even then, rookies Isaiah Bolden and Ameer Speed look more and more comfortable every day and are making a late case that they can help this team.

Tomorrow the teams will get after it again, with Dugger hoping the Pats D can put their mistakes of Tuesday behind them and take some positive strides forward.

"Not having repeat errors is the biggest thing," said Dugger. "Our communication has been high and we want to continue to keep that up. Really just not having repeat errors, making the same mistake twice, and things like that, being more consistent."

Deuce's Nickel Package

Some quick-hit thoughts on the defense's first day of joint practices.

  1. It shouldn't be a surprise but Keion White looks like his role on defense is growing by the day. He was consistently involved on defense and even made an appearance on the punt team, showcasing his surprising athleticism as a former tight end. There's a lot to be excited about with White and the impact he could make this year.
  2. And just like that, Marte Mapu was out of his red jersey and ready for contact on Tuesday. I recorded him with one pressure and what appeared to be a pass defense against rookie free agent Malik Heath. Solid step forward today for this rookie as well.
  3. Gotta love Jack Jones' energy, as he brings an edge from early individual drills through competitive team portions. Early on, in a modified tackling drill, Jones garnered praise from coaches for the "pop" he brought with his pads. Later Jones emphatically knocked away one pass and then pumped the Packer crowd after watching a deep pass fall incomplete due to his coverage. Jones was even sent on a blitz once but the Packers picked it up. Nice day for Jones overall.
  4. It's well known now that I'm a fan of Jabrill Peppers' game but it continues to be remarkable to me how he's showing leadership up and down the sideline during practice, talking to players on both sides of the ball and often looking like he's providing encouragement and advice. Not sure if Peppers is a captain this year but I don't think he's that far off and the increased leadership has been a positive, especially with the absence of Devin McCourty.
  5. Shaun Wade is under most analysts' radar but he's quietly coming on recently, recording a sack today and also coming up with a pass defense on third down in the end zone on rookie Jayden Reed. Between Wade, Isaiah Bolden and Ameer Speed, the depth at cornerback has really improved this summer. Tough to say how it all plays out when it comes time to build the 53-man roster.

DISCLAIMER: The views and thoughts expressed in this article are those of the writer and don't necessarily reflect those of the organization. Read Full Disclaimer

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