For the first time in training camp the Patriots began to prepare for a team other than themselves on Tuesday, officially kicking off preparations for the preseason opener against the Philadelphia Eagles this Friday night at Gillette Stadium. A week and a half into practice action, with nearly 20 sessions under its belt, Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick said in his morning press conference that his team is ready to take this next step in the process.
"We are at the point where we need to [face another team,]" Belichick said. "We have worked against ourselves now for 17 or 18 practices. We've seen what we do. We've seen plenty of it. And we have had problems with it on both sides of the ball. But there are also things that we don't do that other teams will do."
As an example, Belichick pointed to the fact that to date his offensive linemen have spent all their time blocking against New England's 3-4 front, a look the players will rarely see during the regular season. But the Eagles should also provide more than just a fresh look, as three-time NFC championship game participants Andy Reid's team is annually regarded as one of the top teams in football.
"They are a real good football team with a lot of good players, they are well-coached and are solid in all three areas of the game," Belichick said. "I am sure this will be a good test for us to get some idea, some indication of how things are coming along at this point. We are looking forward to that. We are going through the dog days of camp here so it will be good to see some different faces and see a little different scheme, some things that we haven't been working on, and we'll see how that shakes up."
In preparation for the Eagles a number of Patriots wore yellow mesh jerseys with numbers of Philadelphia players while running scout team plays during the full-pads, light contact morning practice. The team worked on the running game and play action passing on both sides of the ball, along with special teams work on kickoff, kickoff return and field goals.
Belichick said following the workout that it's important for his players to be prepared for the first action of the new year, but that it's also critical to put the players in a position where they can just play and react to game action in their time on the game field in 2004.
"I think you want to play the game on a level that's competitive, that for you to legitimately make plays your players have to go out and execute a fundamental, basic scheme against an opponent that's probably doing about the same thing," Belichick said. "You want something where your players are challenged by the look and they have to competitively make something happen rather than it just falling into their lap because it's a good matchup. I don't think you want to over scheme, but at the same time I don't think you want to under scheme. You try to have a balance."
Part of that balance for the Patriots coaches will be evaluating young player and new faces, while also properly preparing returning veterans for the coming regular season.
"We are definitely looking at the new people and how their progress is coming along, where we can project them to fit in," Belichick said. "We want to reassess our veteran players, guys that have been around here that we know the levels they have been at and to try to see where they are in relation to what that's been in the past. There are certainly a lot of scheme things to evaluate and you also have to take into consideration who is playing on the other side of the ball. As we have different types of players and players with different skill sets, even at the same position on our team, Philadelphia will have that same situation on their team. You have to be aware of the matchups as you are evaluating the players – who are they going against and what type of player are they going against. Some guys are better against certain styles of players.
"I think you try to combine all [those things]. Those are all interrelated. We'll talk about the scheme things that we want to try to run. We'll talk about the players we want to play, the playing time that they will be allocated. And then when those plays come up, then just evaluate it as it happens."
Flemister out for season
Belichick opened his morning press conference saying that tight end Zeron Flemister had ruptured his Achilles tendon on the practice field on Monday afternoon, ending the fifth-year veteran's season. The 6-4, 250-pound former Washington Redskin signed with New England just prior to the start of camp on July 27 and had seen plenty of practice action due to the early training camp absences of Christian Fauria and Benjamin Watson.
Flemister joins Rodney Bailey as the second Patriot lost for the year due to a ruptured Achilles. Bailey injured his on the second day of camp and was placed on injured reserve on Aug. 2. Like Bailey, Flemister is expected to be placed on injured reserve.
After missing action over the weekend, Richard Seymour and Larry Izzo returned to practice action in full pads. … The list of players not participating continues to be long, including the likes of Matt Light, David Givens, Kevin Faulk, Bethel Johnson, P.K. Sam, Je'Rod Cherry, Randall Gay, Jim Miller, Jarvis Green, Christian Morton, Matt Chatham, Ted Johnson, Roman Phifer, Cody Scates and Cedric Cobbs. … For the second straight day right tackle Tom Ashworth was noticeably absent from the practice fields. … During a special teams segment the first kickoff unit consisted of Shawn Mayer, Patrick Pass, Dan Klecko, Eric Alexander, Don Davis, Larry Izzo, Dexter Reid, Tully Banta-Cain, David Patten, Guss Scott and kicker Adam Vinatieri. … Punter Josh Miller handled the kickoffs for the scout team. … With Phifer out, Klecko took reps alongside Tedy Bruschi with the first group at inside linebacker. … Patten made the catch of the day with a right-handed, finger-tip catch deep down the right sideline from Tom Brady. … The entire offense ran a lap after botching an end around while running scout plays. … Patten and Pass were the first two return men during the kickoff return segment. Michael Cloud and Michael Jennings also took return reps. … Rodney Harrison dropped an interception on a scout team, end around option pass from Patten during a defensive segment. … Brady held for a few Vinatieri field goals late in practice. Banta-Cain blocked one of the attempts in the same drill. … Belichick called his troops together for what appeared to be more than a few words both before and after the two-hour session. … The team returns to the practice field for its second session of the day at 5:30 p.m.