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Day 16 blogservations: Patriots find their stride late

The Patriots and Raiders kicked off the first of two joint practices, with Las Vegas providing some new challenges for New England.

Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) signals to the offense before a drill against the Las Vegas Raiders defense.
Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) signals to the offense before a drill against the Las Vegas Raiders defense.

The Patriots and Raiders held their first of two joint practices on Tuesday and it was a hot and highly competitive session that gave New England an up-close look at some of Vegas' talented players.

Starting out, it felt like a reunion of sorts with former Patriots players and coaches who now wear the silver and black, while there were also quite a few visitors of note, including Julian Edelman and Michael Lombardi. Edelman said it almost felt like it was Patriots vs. Patriots with so many familiar faces. Former Raider teammates Raekwon McMillan and Maxx Crosby also shared some hellos.

"I think for me, obviously as an older guy, going up to [Brandon Bolden] and [Chandler Jones], even [Duron Harmon], they're some of the oldest guys on their team," said Devin McCourty following practice. "And I think just to kind of see all those guys come in as young guys and grow and to see them on another team and you know even on other teams they've been on being leaders, captains and different things like that is cool for me to see. And you know, it's always fun competing against some of the better players in this league and that's what we got today. So good competition and then obviously seeing some familiar faces is always fun."

Bill Belichick was spotted sharing a handshake and brief conversation with Chandler Jones before chatting with Josh McDaniels prior to the start, while other former Patriot players like Harmon, Bolden and Jermaine Eluemunor all took some time to catch up with their former mates.

However, the goodwill and happy vibes quickly dissipated into a competitive practice with Raiders stars like Davante Adams and Hunter Renfroe putting their sizable talents on display. For reporters, it was a challenge to chronicle all of the ins and outs of the practice, as the media tent was situated on the far sideline at the same level as the fields. The vantage provided a keen view of one field that mainly featured Raiders drills at the outset, but a more limited view of the middle and far fields that the Patriots were primarily occupying.

After an initial walkthru and some individual drills, the Raiders receivers took on the Patriots cornerbacks at the closest field. It was a drill that immediately announced the presence of elite receivers Adams and Renfroe. Adams beat Jalen Mills on two reps, pulling away up the sideline as the ball arrived on one dynamic play that showed the receiver's game-breaking speed. Renfroe was a handful with his quickness, crossing up Myles Bryant on one rep. Bryant said after practice he enjoyed going against one of the best slot receivers in the game.

Those themes would carry over into the initial 11-on-11 periods that appeared to focus on early down work. On the second play of the drill, Mills jumped for a potential interception that went over his outreached arms and into the waiting hands of Adams downfield. Refroe was a terror underneath all day, taking short dump-off passes whenever the other receivers were blanketed.

Adams would have three receptions on six plays when the teams met in the middle field after a brief punt team session.

The Patriots initial 11-on-11 possession was a continuation of what we've seen this summer. Mac Jones completed his first attempted pass, connecting beautifully with DeVante Parker for what appeared to be a touchdown on a crosser. But the final four reps would include two runs that looked fully contained and two incompletions with a pass break up by the Raiders on a pass intended for Nelson Agholor.

The Pats defense would start to find some success during the next period though, with Jonathan Jones finally snuffing out a pass intended for Adams. They'd add a run stuff to cap it off.

However, the offense didn't quite find their stride yet during this period, with Mac Jones finding Agholor on a crosser on his first pass attempt but then finishing with a pass breakup, an incompletion to Jakobi Meyers and then finally, an interception to end the drill. Mac appeared frustrated, but with only one period left, the Patriots would turn things around on both sides of the ball.

The last period included situational work, with the offense down by four with just over a minute left on the clock. Derek Carr made one completion before Matthew Judon took over, drawing a hold and then finishing off the Raiders day with what appeared to be a closing sack.

The offense would feed off this energy and turn in one of their best performances of the entire summer.

First, a checkdown to Damien Harris, followed by an incompletion. But that's when Mac started clicking, hitting Meyers on what was projected as a 3rd-and-5 to get the conversion. Then Mac found Ty Mongomery for another first down and then fired a pinpoint throw to Parker who tapped two feet in bounds just outside the end zone.

Mac then hit Jonnu Smith for what should've been a touchdown, though they were forced to take another rep. It didn't matter though, as Mac again found the end zone, lasering a pass to Kendrick Bourne for an official touchdown that he celebrated with an emphatic spike.


Will the end-of-practice performance be a catalyst for the Patriots? Despite being one of their most lackluster practices of the summer, they finished it with one of their most impressive drives. They'll look to carry that success over into the final open practice of the summer.

Here's everything else that stood out from the first joint practice...

-- Devin McCourty was one of the first people to stop Julian Edelman at practice, shouting out when he saw his old teammate. Edelman had some fun with Patriots social media, continuing to tease a potential return to the field, which seems extremely unlikely at this point.

-- Isaiah Wynn was out of the red jersey he wore during competitive portions of Monday's practice as he continues to get fully healthy. He did not look limited on Tuesday.

-- The same players were missing today: Kristian Wilkerson, Tyquan Thornton, Harvey Langi and Ronnie Perkins. Perkins was placed on Injured Reserve later in the day as the Patriots got down to 80 rostered players. They'll have to get down to 53 next Tuesday. Rookie offensive lineman Andrew Stueber was also moved to Reserve/NFI. He has yet to be seen at any point since he was drafted in the seventh round of the draft in May.

-- Christian Barmore could finally be seeing an increase in run-down reps as he's recently seen more and more time against the run with the top group. That's a good sign. We all know Barmore can be a disruptive pass rusher, but if he can continue to earn the coach's trust against the run, he has the chance to truly become a dominant three-down player.

-- Tough moment during punt coverage drills with Josh Bledsoe facing the ire of coach Cam Achord for a mistake. Bledsoe's route to a roster spot almost certainly must include contributions on special teams. Jabrill Peppers' ascending usage is making things even more interesting at safety.

-- Jack Jones' feisty play shows up a lot but former Patriot Isaiah Zuber got the best of him on one individual rep. Jones would bounce back though with a pass defense in team drills.

-- Patriots punt returners included Myles Bryant, Marcus Jones, Kyle Dugger and Jabrill Peppers.

The Patriots and Raiders will wrap up their final joint practice on Wednesday morning and then face off in Las Vegas on Friday night.

View photos of the Patriots-Raiders joint practices in Las Vegas on Tuesday, August 23, 2022.

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