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Notebook: Pats' veteran defenders sharing experience

The Patriots held one final practice at home before heading to Philadelphia for joint practices with the Eagles.


The Patriots are headed to Philadelphia, where they'll participate in joint practices with the Eagles on Monday and Tuesday prior to Thursday night's preseason game. It will be another chance to increase the competitive level of training camp as well as the opportunity to go against an unfamiliar opponent.

Despite limited padded opportunities and just three preseason games this summer, the joint practices will be a major help in getting the team ready for the season, but the veteran leaders, especially in the linebacker room, are doing their part to bring the younger players along and boost their development.

"They can handle a lot more," said head coach Bill Belichick of the vets on defense. "Adjustments, and things like that on the field. Once you see your offense come out of the huddle and see where guys are aligned and what formation they're in, you know a lot more than you do when you call the defense on the sidelines, so Devin [McCourty] in the back end, and [Dont'a] Hightower, Ja'Whaun [Bentley] has got four years of experience, too. Ja'Whaun, Kyle [Van Noy], Matt [Judon]. It certainly helps to have players with the experience."

"I think the experience part is everything," said Hightower after Sunday's walkthrough. "We're able to see certain things that maybe the other players might not be able to see. That's just kind of goes to back to the meeting room and how we operate. You're only as strong as your weakest link and keeping whatever little hidden gems [to yourself], having secrets doesn't really help anybody."

It's strange to think the Pats D spent last season without Hightower and Van Noy, who have slipped right back into their operating style like 2020 never happened, bringing back an invaluable mountain of experience and perspective.

"I really love having him back in the meeting room to talk, maybe a little bit more in-depth on things," said Hightower of Van Noy. "It's been great for me, it's been great for the other guys... I think we're starting to push where we want to be, but obviously, we still got a lot of work."

Judon is the new addition to the group and one who immediately stood out against the Football Team with some strong play. While he's also a vet, his experience with the Ravens gives him another perspective for the experienced Patriots and younger players to consider.

"[Judon] cracking jokes and stuff, that's eight out of 10 but his work ethic is 10 out of 10," said Hightower. "Doing extra pass rush stuff before practice, if it's an intense drill that we've got going he's still chasing the ball carrier down to the end zone. People feed off of that.

"I know a lot of guys Josh [Uche] and Anfernee [Jennings], a lot of guys who play on the edge, they're always picking his brain asking him a lot of questions... It's really good to have his perspective coming from Baltimore and having the success that he had."

Check out photos of the Patriots during Training Camp on Sunday, Aug. 15, 2021.

Comings and goings

There were some notable arrivals and returns at the Patriots' Sunday session, including Chase Winovich who appears to be now off the PUP list. Hunter Henry, David Andrews and Nelson Agholor also returned after missing some recent sessions in a welcome sign for the offense as they prepare to practice and play the Eagles.

Unfortunately, it wasn't all good news, as Jonnu Smith got tangled up during a drill and had to depart practice early. Mike Reiss of ESPN would later report Smith sustained a sprained ankle that is not expected to be serious. That's a good sign, Smith has had a strong summer.

Additionally, in anticipation of cutting their roster down to 85 players on Tuesday, the team reportedly released three players -- tight end David Wells, defensive end/special teamer Rashod Berry and receiver Marvin Hall.

Quotes of Note

Ronnie Perkins on taking no. 51:

"I was kinda hoping I could get 51, it was kind of a dream come true when I saw it in my locker on Thursday night when I came in. Coach Mayo played in it, one of my older vets Bentley played in it, so it's kind of me just carrying on the tradition, balling out in that number."

Kendrick Bourne on what it's like in New England:

Everything is what it seems... hard work, lotta effort, got to come to work and figure it out no matter what you're dealing with... injuries... you just gotta come to work and showcase your talents every day. If you can't handle it, you're going to get exposed."

David Andrews on camp competition:

"I think competition is the best thing. If you're able to challenge yourself every day, get beat, see this is why we got there and then, 'I won that rep' and then you compare the two. If you just go out here, win everything, you're ready for everything every day, you're not gonna get much better. I think that competition really does make everyone better on the football team."

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