The Patriots and Raiders completed their second joint practice on Wednesday, putting a final cap on training camp practices as they look to the final preseason game on Friday night. The 17th practice represents the final time the media will get any insight into New England's on-field progress, as the team will shift to a regular season schedule next week, meaning access to only the stretching portion of practices.
Josh McDaniels kicked the day off by holding a press conference, acknowledging the familiar faces of the Boston media before espousing the value of the joint sessions.
"It's great, yesterday was a great opportunity, today will be another one. I thought it was two teams that had the right idea about how to go about this and get the most out of it," said McDaniels. "We got a lot out of it, we learned a lot and I assume that we'll learn a lot today.
The Raiders coach was also asked about how he sees things progressing in New England following his departure.
"I really don't know what exactly everybody is doing over there, I just know they have a lot of really good coaches," said McDaniels. "I think at the end of the day, Bill has a plan for whatever he wants to do. That plan, sometimes he has the foresight that some of the rest of us don't have."
Once the teams took the field, the high level of competition from Tuesday carried over, as the two teams battled through extensive reps of 11-on-11 situational football. There was plenty for both teams to digest, facing a new opponent with different schemes and methodology. With both squads on the same page, both reaped plenty of benefits to prepare them for their upcoming season openers in just over two weeks.
After warmups, they jumped right into one-on-ones again, this time coming from just five yards out of the end zone, with the Raiders receivers taking on the Patriots defensive backs on the field closest to the media tent. Jalen Mills had a nice day in the drills, not allowing a completion after starting things off by breaking up an end zone fade to Davante Adams, who once again stole the show with his standout ability throughout the day, though the Patriots were more competitive with him on Wednesday than they were on Tuesday.
"He's one of the best if not the best, there's no better look than to see him play in and play out," said Mills of Adams after practice.
Jack Jones broke up the final pass of the session, showing good closing burst to knock the ball away from receiver Dillon Stoner. The result sent the Raiders to the ground for pushups, as former Patriots receiver coach Mick Lombardi and current cornerbacks coach Mike Pellegrino traded some good-natured barbs throughout.
7-on-7s came next and Terrance Mitchell had one of the nicer plays of the two sessions, breaking up a pass headed for a streaking Davante Adams up the sideline. The Patriots did not get a lot of hands on Derek Carr's passes this week, but Mitchell was around the ball a lot in drill work.
After a quick session with the teams working with their own punt and punt return teams, the 11-on-11s began and they didn't stop until the end of the practice. They featured all types of situations, from middle of the field, to red zone and two-minute. The high volume of snaps provided huge value for both teams.
Las Vegas again had success moving the ball, but the Patriots pass rushers were a problem throughout much of the day, with Matthew Judon and Josh Uche causing some consistent disruption. A Judon sack ended the first 11-on-11 Raiders possession. Ja'Whaun Bentley would get in on the quarterback when the drill shifted to the red zone, with the Patriots forcing two straight incompletions to close out that portion.
The Patriots put an emphasis on starting faster in practice but it still took some time for the offense to get in gear. Jakobi Meyers and Hunter Henry were the standouts on the day, with Meyers making multiple contested catches. One fade to the back of the end zone might've been the play of the day until it was unseated by the very last play of the day, as Meyers is showing a growing capacity to use his plus size to his advantage.
"He's just a really smart football player and one of my closest friends since I got here," said Mac Jones of Meyers. "Just working on growing together. He's just a tough smart football player, I'll take him on my team forever hopefully."
The session closed out with two-minute work and the Patriots defense missed an opportunity to force Las Vegas off the field after forcing two-straight incompletions that set up a fourth down. However, Carr was able to find Hunter Renfroe through a tight window in the middle of the field and it kept the chains moving, setting up a final touchdown for the Raiders.
While the defense couldn't match their success from the end of Tuesday's session, the offense did. Mac found Rhamondre Stevenson first out of the backfield, then hit Henry up the seam. After a clock-stopping spike and an incompletion, Mac hit Meyers again to get the team to the 18-yard-line. He'd miss Kendrick Bourne in the end zone on the next play, setting up one final play with just :04 left on the clock.
Mac dropped back and fired an on-time pass up the seam to Henry, who went up and came down with the ball despite the presence of multiple defenders around him, sparking a perfect camp-ending note for the Patriots as the offense gathered and celebrated together in the end zone.
After a challenging three-plus weeks of camp, there are growing hints that the Patriots offense has more potential than some of the clunky earlier performances might indicate. One touchdown pass does not a preseason make, but there's growing chemistry for New England on that side of the ball.
Here's everything else that stood out during the final open access practice of the summer:
-- It was of course still a hot day but probably the most manageable of the three sessions taking place in the desert. A brief morning rain initially cooled things off, while some clouds and a light breeze provided a bit of relief.
-- Attendance for the Patriots remained the same as Tuesday, with Tyquan Thornton, Harvey Langi and Kristian Wilkerson missing.
-- Damien Harris, Nelson Agholor and Isaiah Wynn all left the field at various points through the session, needing attention from trainers but both Agholor and Wynn returned to the field though they did not participate in drills. Their availability will be something to monitor, though they still have another full week before an injury report is due.
-- Justin Herron filled in at right tackle for Wynn and faced a tough challenge from pass rusher Maxx Crosby who was a problem throughout both sessions.
-- Brendan Schooler got an opportunity as the personal protector on the top punt team, as Cody Davis watched on from behind the formation with the backups. Davis has held that job for two seasons now and it's an important one. If the team can already trust Schooler in that role he might be more of a roster lock than anyone realizes.
-- Speaking of special teamers, don't let DaMarcus Mitchell fly under the radar. He's been in the mix with the core veterans nearly as much as Schooler. He should see plenty of playtime on Friday night.
-- Myles Bryant had his hands full with Hunter Renfroe in 1-on-1s, but after losing his first two reps to Renfroe on Wednesday, Bryant bounced back with a nice win. Renfroe is so shifty he's nearly impossible to cover in tight quarters.
-- Bailey Zappe completed a nice pass to newcomer tight end Jalen Wyndermyer during team periods. Wydermyer is a big-bodied tight end that has been thrust into the fire since signing with the team less than a week ago.
-- Zappe would also throw an interception to rugged safety Jonathan Abram.
-- Jabrill Peppers keeps seeing his usage increase in a variety of areas. He was first up for punt returns, followed by Myles Bryant, Marcus Jones and Kyle Dugger.
-- The two-minute drill at the end of practice gave an opportunity for some of the second team defenders to see work against the Raiders' top unit. Jack Jones, Terrance Mitchell and Josh Bledsoe highlight some of the players who were competitive in the period.
The Patriots are off on Thursday and will take on the Raiders Friday night at 8:15pm EST.