Both sides of the ball looked much sharper for New England in the second joint practice with the New York Giants.
The teams were in full pads for another very hot morning practice. The workout was intense as the focus was on much of the regular sets.
"This is real good work for us, being in pads and being able to do things at almost game tempo," Head Coach Bill Belichick said. "We still need to sharpen up a bit offensively as far as the skill guys catching the ball, but it's not bad. It was certainly up from yesterday."
New England's defense shined in both seven-on-seven drills and full unit work. The seven-on-sevens were run in the red zone. Giants quarterback Kerry Collins challenged Ty Law on his first two attempts, both intended for wide receiver Amani Toomer. The first play was a short completion that Law had covered, and the second was an incompletion well out of the end zone.
On his third pass, Collins did hit tight end Dan Campbell for a touchdown, but it took a superb effort by Campbell to make the catch. With Roman Phifer covering, Collins threw low, but Campbell made a diving one-handed grab just inches off the ground.
The Patriots dominated the next 10 plays. Safety Tony George had an interception of New York quarterback Jason Garrett. After the pick, Collins came back in and threw three straight incompletions. Law had a pass defensed on a ball intended for Ron Dixon, and safety Matt Stevens had solid coverage on Campbell on a ball over the middle. The referees working the practice ruled that pass interference would have been called on Campbell in a game.
New York did get another touchdown on a connection between Garrett and a wide open Dixon just before the drill finished.
For the New England offense, Drew Bledsoe got hot when the receivers were working one-on-one against the New York defensive backs. He and Charles Johnson connected for several plays, and Bert Emanuel and Troy Brown both beat Jason Sehorn within a short period. Bledsoe's best throw of the drill was a deep ball down the right sideline to running back Walter Williams.
The specials teams groups for both teams worked briefly on punt work. On the field with the Patriots punting, the drill was cut short by a lengthy scuffle that started between New England's Troy Brown and the Giants Marcellus Rivers. Before long several players from both teams got into the shoving, and after things were broken up, the teams went to separate field to let things cool down.
The teams finished up with full-unit work. New England's defense included defensive tackle Garrett Johnson and safety Matt Stevens starting with the first-unit. Linebacker Bryan Cox rotated in with Tedy Bruschi and Ted Johnson at linebacker. Cox came up big on several plays, calling out offensive sets before the ball was snapped. With Cox' ability to recognize plays, the Patriots were able to stop several for either losses, short gains or incomplete passes.
On the offensive side for New England, Bledsoe and Tom Brady took most of the snaps and each did well. The receivers dropped few more passes than Belichick would like, but there were some solid plays. One of Bledsoe early throws in the drill went off Johnson's hands and was picked off by Sehorn.
Bledsoe recovered and hit David Patten deep down left sideline, the second time in two days the duo has teamed for a big gain. Bledsoe also connected with Torrance Small over the middle for about 15 yards. Brady's most impressive throw hit Curtis Jackson in the seam.
The running game was up-and-down for the Patriots. At times it seemed the make-shift offensive line was overmatched, but there were some decent runs as well. J.R. Redmond broke off the longest run, getting outside the right tackle for what would have been a long run. Antowain Smith fumbled once, and Kevin Faulk got a few reps with the second regular offense, but not much. However, Belichick commended the quickness of Faulk and Redmond.
"We've had a few creases in there. I think J.R. and Kevin both showed a little bit of quickness in there running the ball," Belichick said. "Antowain is more of a power runner, and I don't think that will really show up until the pads come on and people try to tackle him. He is a big, physical guy, and that's not the kind of thing that shows up in non-tackling practice drills."
Center Damien Woody and guard Joe Andruzzi both practice in the red "no contact" jerseys. Wide receiver/defensive back Sean Morey was back on the field after missing a couple days because of dizziness… Rookie tackle Kenyatta Jones is the proud father of a baby daughter. Jones missed Tuesday's practice so he could witness the birth of Kamani Jones, who was 7 pounds, 8 ounces at birth. Jones said both mother and daughter are doing just fine… Wide receiver Terry Glenn was again absent, and Belichick said he had no comment or update on his situation… Former Patriot defensive lineman Ray Agnew announced his retirement from the St. Louis Rams today. Agnew, drafted by New England 10th overall in 1990, will remain with St. Louis as Director of Player Development/Team Pastor.