RICHMOND, Va. – After slugging their way through a three-hour practice that was about as physical as we've seen thus far in camp, the Patriots and Redskins toned it down noticeably on Wednesday for a walk-through conducted in helmets and shells.
The session lasted barely 90 minutes and featured a variety of situations and personnel groupings. Both teams worked their offenses and defenses as well as special teams, with the latter getting some work in various scenarios. Onside kicks, recoveries and late-game fielding of kicks were all addressed, and the teams left the field with the belief that they are ready for Thursday night's preseason opener at FedEx Field.
!Ryan Mallett and Jimmy Garoppolo figured to receive the bulk of the work. Washington coach Jay Gruden told reporters he expects quarterback Robert Griffin III to receive about 8-10 snaps, but Bill Belichick, who did not address the media on Wednesday, does not generally divulge such information anyway.
The two backups ran the Patriots offense against the Washington defense, methodically running plays at less than half speed as the teams moved the ball the length of the field. Mallett, who has been the hot topic in Richmond following some glowing comments about his play by NFL Network's Mike Mayock, said he's looking forward to getting in some game action.
"I'm very excited about the opportunity to play a lot," Mallett said. "I haven't gotten too many chances during the regular season obviously because I have a pretty good guy in front of me. Anytime I get to play I look forward to it."
Mayock reported on Monday that Mallett was "an NFL quarterback" and that he really "popped" in person when describing the fourth-year backup's play. Mallett was asked if he felt more comfortable with the experience under his belt and admitted things have been smoother this summer.
"For me I'd have to say yeah. I feel really good right now," Mallett said. "I'm seeing stuff pretty well. It's definitely slowed down. It happens over time and I'm happy it's finally doing that."
Mallett is expected to take the lion's share of reps against the Redskins tomorrow night. In year's past Tom Brady has made cameos in the opener and he's gotten the entire game off at times as well. On Wednesday it was Mallett operating the first offense for the majority of the practice, and it wouldn't be surprising to see him play the better part of the game.
When Mallett leaves it should provide an opportunity for rookie Jimmy Garoppolo to make his NFL debut. In fact it won't just be his first NFL action but it will mark the first time he's ever attended a game in person.
"It's the thing we've been working toward and we have to go out and take advantage of the opportunities," Garoppolo said. "I'm trying to go out there and perform my best and see what happens. I have the family coming so I'm pretty excited to get them out there and hopefully put on a show for them."
The second-round pick has struggled at times throughout camp but says he's excited to get going and understands the growing pains are part of NFL life – especially for a young quarterback.
"I'm getting more and more comfortable [with the offense] each day," he said. "It's a day-by-day thing. I'm a rookie and it's a process for me and I know that. Each day I have to keep progressing in the right direction and I'll be all right."
Check out photos from the New England Patriots joint practice with the Washington Redskins in Richmond, Va., Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2014.
Jamie Collins is arguably the best all-around athlete on the Patriots. With that in mind it should come as no surprise to learn that he was the man Belichick tabbed with the job of deep safety in a defense designed to prevent the Hail Mary.
The Patriots worked through some situations early in practice and when Brady lofted a bomb toward the end zone it was Collins who was lined up as the deepest defender. That's a job that's been held by the likes of Randy Moss in the past, so it gives some perspective on the type of athleticism the linebacker possesses.
On one of the reps, Brady's pass came down around the 3-yard line and Danny Amendola caught it before quickly throwing it back in the air into the end zone. The idea is to keep the play alive via some sort of tip drill, but Patriots receivers have been catching the ball and throwing it in the air during camp, which would appear to be a forward lateral. Just a random observation.
The Patriots and Redskins coaches were no doubt thrilled with all of the hard work put forth by their team on Tuesday but it may have come at a price – at least for New England. Two players, defensive tackle Sealver Siliga and tight end D.J. Williams were banged up and not in uniform for Wednesday's walk-through. Siliga was seen with what appeared to be a black cast on his left hand while Williams had a sleeve on his right leg.
In addition to those two, 12 others did not to part in the practice: Jemea Thomas, Brandon Bolden, Bryan Stork, Cameron Gordon, Ja'Gared Davis, Rob Gronkowski, Tyler Gaffney, Michael Hoomanawanui, Aaron Dobson (PUP/foot), Jeremy Gallon (PUP/unknown), Dominique Easley (NFI/ACL) and Chris Martin (NFI/unknown).
It's always interesting to listen to opposing teams gush about working with Brady and Gruden was no exception. On Tuesday he offered this glowing tribute of the Patriots quarterback: "It's fun to watch him," Gruden said. "He's poetry in motion and obviously a Hall of Famer and the best of all-time, so when you get a chance to watch him in a setting like this, it's a great learning experience for everybody."
The Patriots offensive line featured a couple of changes as Dan Connolly moved from right guard to center while Josh Kline worked at right guard. Based on Wednesday's walk-through it would appear that is the group that will open the game tomorrow night. Ryan Wendell centered the second group, which featured from left to right – Marcus Cannon, Jordan Devey, Wendell, Jon Halapio and Cameron Fleming.
Defensively the Patriots continue to line up in a variety of 3-4 looks with Vince Wilfork, Tommy Kelly and Chris Jones with Chandler Jones coming onto the field in sub packages as an edge rusher. Another interesting tidbit saw Brandon Browner get a lot of reps with Malcolm Butler with the second group, which perhaps indicates that the corner will remain on the field after the first unit leaves. Keep in mind that Browner will serve a four-game suspension to start the regular season and it's possible that Belichick wants to get him as much work as possible in preparation of the layoff.