Monday was a tune-up practice for the Patriots after arriving in Vegas the day before, as the team worked by themselves in the initial session. Coming off of Friday night's preseason victory over the Panthers there were some corrections to be made, but it was still an active practice that featured plenty of 11-on-11 work that set the stage for two days of joint practices with the Raiders.
"It's nice and cool here," joked Bill Belichick in his media availability prior to practice, making light of the desert heat that was described by some Raiders staffers as "actually not that bad." Surely, the weather should help keep the Patriots ready for their fast-approaching opener in Miami.
"It's a good opportunity for us the next three days to really tighten some things up and keep moving along in terms of installation and situation and things like that, and hopefully get a few guys back that we didn't have last week," continued Belichick, as the team welcomed back Hunter Henry, Isaiah Wynn and Justin Herron to practice.
As expected Tyquan Thornton and Kristian Wilkerson were not present, and they were joined by new absences Harvey Langi and Ronnie Perkins.
The returns and absences had an impact on the depth chart, as the tackle depth was once again restored but the thinning receiver group means opportunities are increasing for a player like Lil'Jordan Humphrey, who got some run with the first team but dropped Mac Jones' first pass that came his way. Humphrey spoke after practice, telling reporters he felt like he was making the most of his chances as he shined in both preseason games.
Overall, the offense finished this practice stronger than they started. Early three-quarter-speed drill work featured more reps on the running game and a number of screens, as well as some more toying around with the usage of tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith. Smith, who turned 27 on Monday, has been consistent throughout camp with his play and should play a big role this year.
After some kickoff work, the team went to more 11-on-11 drills, highlighted by an outside slant to DeVante Parker, a play they missed on against Carolina, and a deep post to Nelson Agholor. When they moved into the red zone, the offense picked up their play, with Mac hitting on his final three passes. The first was a crosser to Henry, followed by a dump off to Rhamondre Stevenson and finally, a pretty end zone fade to Jonnu Smith that he celebrated with a birthday spike.
Following more work in the kicking game, the last period was the most competitive and Jones connected on two dig routes to Jakobi Meyers, with the game clock running down in the kind of simulated situation that has been seen more and more at practice in recent days. The final play was a bit controversial, as Jones hit Nelon Agholor in the end zone on a go route for what appeared to be a touchdown. However, without pads it was tough to tell if Jabrill Peppers would've blown the play up. He came flying across the field from his middle safety position but appeared to pull up a bit to avoid any dangerous contact. The defenders and their coaches were signaling incomplete, but their offensive counterparts seemed to disagree.
With the backups entering for the final reps, Jahlani Tavai put a nice exclamation point on the practice, picking off Brian Hoyer with an impressive interception that wrapped things up.
In all, it was a surprisingly active day and one that set the stage for Tuesday and Wednesday's fully padded work.
Here are the rest of today's Blogservations:
-- Thanks to Raiders' PR staff who kept the small contingent of Patriots media well shaded and hydrated throughout the session. There were no fans in the stands, but there was one giant fan next to the stands that kept a nice breeze on the intrepid reporters. We're expecting even higher temps for the joint practices so stay tuned.
-- After not playing on Friday night for undisclosed reasons, Kendrick Bourne was right back in the mix with the top groupings. He had a nice jet sweep carry during the practice.
-- Isaiah Wynn wore a red jersey throughout practice but did just about all of the drills with the first team offense as the right tackle. Only for the final session did he come out of the lineup, swapped for Justin Herron. The roster battle along the offensive line is picking up in the final week, with Herron, Yodny Cajuste, Will Sherman and Arlington Hambright among those making a push. Bill Murray was present but didn't participate in team drills, instead running sprints with a coach.
-- Myles Bryant, Tre Nixon and Marcus Jones worked as punt returners. Bill Belichick was hard on the overall punt return operation against the Panthers, it's certainly an area they'll want to be better against the Raiders. Ty Montgomery, Marcus Jones, Pierre Strong and Kyle Dugger worked as kickoff returners.
-- New tight end Jalen Wydermyer was present for his first practice since signing with the team and got some one-on-one coaching from coach Nick Caley as he tries to catch up quickly.
-- It's been a quiet start to the year for new running backs Pierre Strong and Kevin Harris. However, Strong is starting to show a bit of the burst that people talked about when he was drafted. Not sure if he's been recovering from an injury that limited him early on, but on Monday it seemed like he was getting his legs under him. Harris didn't stand out for the same reasons, he had a drop during team drills.
-- Ty Montgomery was shaken up at one point and headed to a medical tent to be checked out, but he quickly reemerged looking no worse for wear. We'll keep an eye out to see if it affects his availability.
-- The Patriots and Raiders will take part in joint practices on Tuesday and Wednesday at 8:45 am PST.