ALLEN PARK, Michigan – Prior to the first joint practice between the Patriots and Lions, both Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia explained how they hoped the added competition of going against a different opponent would be beneficial for all concerned.
With a variety of situations, personnel groups and individual battles on tap, it made sense to expect some players to benefit from the scenario. That has been the case on both sides with the teams enjoying periods of success against one another again on Tuesday.
One guy who has stood out for New England has been Shilique Calhoun, who has seen action in his share of reps with the first team and has flashed his ability to get after the passer consistently against the Lions.
During both 1-on-1s and full team action, Calhoun has gotten quick presser off the edge and recorded would-be sacks each day. On Tuesday he joined Derek Rivers on the outside with the first group when the teams conducted their first set of 11-on-11s and he again was productive.
The 6-4, 260-pound Calhoun played his college ball at Michigan State before being selected in the third round by the Raiders in 2016. But in three seasons in Oakland he wasn’t able to establish himself as a regular and in 26 games managed only 29 tackles and .5 sacks while switching back and forth between the active roster and practice squad.
He signed a one-year deal in the spring and became a Patriot, barely registering any attention locally at the time but suddenly he seems to be making a push for a roster spot in his new spot.
“You can never have a fresh, new start, but it’s nice to come somewhere new and just have an opportunity for the most part,” Calhoun said. “It’s a blessing just to have an opportunity to go out there and compete. I’d just like to thank the organization because it’s always nice putting the pads on and having fun with a bunch of guys as dedicated to one common goal.
“Right now, it’s just reps. It’s just rotation. It’s just another opportunity. Right now, I could be with the ones, next week I could be down to the twos. Focus on getting better. It doesn’t matter what team I’m in on. I’m just trying to get better each and every snap.”
Calhoun’s speed and size have stood out during practices and against Detroit he’s been a fixture around Lions quarterbacks. He got to backup Tom Savage on Monday and was around Matthew Stafford on Tuesday. At the very least, he figures to be among a large group of players getting plenty of work during Thursday’s preseason opener at Ford Field.
“I always look forward to games,” Calhoun said. “I look forward to practice. I look forward to competing in general. It’ll be nice to go out there and be able to lace it up one more time because each and every play is not guaranteed to you, so just the opportunity to be out there will be amazing.”
Calhoun isn’t the only player who stood out on the edge against the Lions. As mentioned earlier, Rivers got some reps with starters, and a couple of young players shined during 1-on-1s against Detroit’s offensive line in Chase Winovich and Trent Harris.
Both showed explosiveness off the edge. Winovich made Taylor Decker look like a turnstyle a few reps before Harris did the same to Ryan Pope. Winovich is a rookie third-round pick out of Michigan so his roster spot is likely secure, but for players like Rivers, Calhoun and Harris, who spent last season on the practice squad, it will be difficult to win a job given the depth of athletes at the position.
Based on what we saw in Detroit, Belichick will have some tough choices to make when trying to whittle down his options on the edge.
Beyond the pass rushers, here are some observations from the second joint practice session between the Patriots and Lions, the 10th training camp session for New England this summer.
*Most of the attendance list was unchanged from Monday but one player – Patrick Chung – made it back on the field. Chung was still wearing his red, non-contact jersey but took part in the session. The PUP (Nate Ebner, Ken Webster, Demaryius Thomas, Cameron Meredith) and NFI (Julian Edelman, Yodny Cajuste) lists remained unchanged and Rex Burkhead and Lance Kendricks also remain out of uniform. Edelman, Thomas and Burkhead did some rehab running prior to practice.
*While the injury news heading into practice was positive, it didn’t stay that way. N’Keal Harry appeared to suffer a right leg injury (certainly looked to be a hamstring) about midway through practice. Harry limped to the sideline and spent several minutes with head trainer Jim Whalen. He did several light jogs under Whalen’s watch and seemed to labor quite a bit while trying to stay on the field. He was able to avoid an early trip to the locker room but did not do much from that point on, and he didn’t run the conditioning sprints up the hill at the end of practice. The severity of the problem is unknown but with the preseason opener coming up on Thursday it wouldn’t be much of a surprise to see Harry sit it out.
*That would be unfortunate because Harry’s ability is becoming more and more apparent by the day. While his consistency is still lacking, particularly when it comes to creating separation, his skills are not. On Tuesday he made a terrific one-handed touchdown catch over Amani Oruwariye in the end zone. Incidentally, Oruwariye is a 6-2, 205-pound corner out of Penn State so it’s not like he took advantage of a smaller opponents. He caught the fade from Jarrett Stidham and jumped to his feet celebrating after seeing the nearby official signal touchdown, representing one of the highlights for the offense on a day that didn’t feature many.
*Phillip Dorsett did turn in another positive for Tom Brady’s crew. Dorsett made a double move on the outside, drew a flag for a holding call and still managed to haul in Brady’s pass in the end zone for a 40-plus-yard touchdown. It was a play that reminiscent of Dorsett’s touchdown in Kansas City in the AFC Championship game.
*Other than those two catches and a few other bright spots, Brady’s group continued to struggle. Brady had one pass intercepted by Detroit linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin, sparking a big celebration from the Detroit contingent. The running game in particular had a tough time getting going. It’s sometimes hard to evaluate that element during practice when there isn’t any tackling, but more often than not it seemed like Sony Michel and the other ball carriers didn’t have much running room. That led to several third-and-longs as both sides spent a lot of time in situational work and Brady wasn’t always able to convert. One third-and-seven attempt headed over the middle toward Jakobi Meyers but was knocked away. Another went in Braxton Berrios’ direction down the right sideline but was incomplete as well.
*Meanwhile, Stafford had some success working against the Patriots secondary. Rookie T.J. Hockenson had a clutch touchdown with less than five second remaining and the Lions trailing 24-20, grabbing a laser across the middle under the goal posts. Jermaine Kearse also beat J.C. Jackson on a deep post for a touchdown earlier. Jonathan Jones, who has been outstanding during camp, lost a battle with Danny Amendola on a cross route for a third-down conversion. Stephon Gilmore was his typically stingy self, however, preventing a completion to Marvin Jones with a terrific break up over the middle.
*Trent Harris was guilty of jumping offside, drawing a flag from the officials. Harris was forced to move to the vacant field to run a lap while the work continued without him.
*Dan Skipper continues to work at left tackle while Martez Ivey got the call at that spot with the second group. Still no Isaiah Wynn for any 11-on-11 reps against the Lions. Expect to see plenty of the Skipper, Ivey and the rest of the backups on Thursday as the coaches try to evaluate the state of the depth along the offensive line.
*Around the time Harry was being tended to by Whalen, tempers flared a bit while the Patriots offense was working against Detroit’s defense. It looked like James Ferentz and Lions defensive tackle P.J. Johnson had a disagreement and Patricia wasn’t too happy. The coach quickly moved his ATV toward Johnson and sent him back to the locker room, ending his morning. Ferentz remained with the team for the remainder of practice.
*There were a couple of interesting observations in terms of watching some of the different elements the Lions incorporate into their practices. One was a pair of large video monitors that were situated in the corners of the end zones on the far field. Another was the presence of some cameras in the backfield behind the Lions offense, one on a small tripod and the other raised high with a long stick offering a bird’s eye view. The Patriots have used cameras on the field during camp in the past as well.
*Stephen Gostkowski nailed a 53-yard field goal through the narrow uprights to complete what was rather unproductive hurry-up attempt late in practice. The situation had the Patriots taking over near midfield trailing by 2 in the last minute, but failed on two attempts to move closer than the 35 in the final seconds and Gostkowski was forced to bail the offense out with the long field goal.
*The Patriots again ended practice with some sprints up the hill to right of the near practice field. The Lions stuck to the far field and did conventional sprints. “It’s good to get on a different hill. Not a lot of run-out on the back of it – right off the edge. Hopefully, we don’t have to worry about that part of it. Yeah, it’s good,” Belichick joked before practice.
*Dorsett, Calhoun, Winovich, Gilmore, Dont’a Hightower and Sony Michel were among those who spoke to the media after practice.
*Trey Flowers, who is on PUP with the Lions, spent some time with his former Arkansas and Patriots teammate Deatrich Wise after practice.
*The Patriots and Lions are scheduled for another joint practice on Wednesday with the preseason opener scheduled for Thursday at Ford Field with kickoff set for 7:30 p.m.
Check out the best photos from the Patriots and Lions joint practices in Allen Park, Mich. on Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2019.