The Patriots spent Labor Day working on the lower practice field, settling in after a weekend of roster moves and turning their focus to the Miami Dolphins, a team that got the best of New England in last year's regular season finale.
Though it seems a lifetime ago after the offseason we've just endured, it's hard not to remember the Week 17 defeat that cost the Patriots a bye week. While Stephon Gilmore acknowledged they would look at the film of the stinging loss, he was trying to turn the page to 2020.
"You know the good thing about football, every year starts over so you got a chance to prove yourself every year," said Gilmore on Monday afternoon via Webex. "This is the first game that you got an opportunity to go out there and prove yourself and I take that mindset each and every week, no matter what happened last year."
If the Patriots are to avoid losing to Ryan Fitzpatrick in back-to-back regular season matchups at Gillette Stadium, the secondary will be a critical component. Gilmore pointed out that Fitzpatrick isn't afraid to throw the ball and that could present opportunities for a secondary that saw their ball-hawking ways taper off last season after a white-hot start.
"I think he's a smart guy, seen a lot of football," said Gilmore of Fitzpatrick. "He's been in the league for a long time. He's a gunslinger, you know he's going to throw it no matter if someone's open, he's going to give his guys a chance to make a play on the ball."
Last year, Fitzpatrick threw for over 300 yards and when it came down to needing one final stop, the defense couldn't deliver. Gilmore will likely see DeVante Parker again, after Parker had eight catches for 137 yards in the Dolphin win, though Gilmore was quick to point out they had a number of talented receivers.
With Chan Gailey joining Fitzpatrick to face the Patriots with their third AFC East team together, New England can expect Miami to come out throwing. With their big receivers, the Patriots could choose to mix some of their matchups, incorporating more of defensive backs like JoeJuan Williams or Jonathan Jones.
"I think the end of the day, it's gonna come down to make the plays, tighter coverage and making sure we get the ball out, forcing more incompletions," said Jones on what corrections needed to be made.
There are plenty of unkowns heading into the season opener, but the Patriots veteran secondary should be one thing the team knows they can count on, even if it comes in a stadium without fans.
"We have our teammates, we have to bring our own energy and we have to trust each other," said Gilmore. "The competitiveness in us is going to be great. Anything between those lines, I think we're going to compete and go hard for each other and may the best man win."
The Patriots are making two more reported shifts to their roster, moving Beau Allen to Injured Reserve per Field Yates and promoting Cassh Maluia per NFL.com's Tom Pelissero. Allen was seen at just the in-stadium walk-through near the end of training camp and did not participate. He'll now be on IR for a minimum of three weeks. Maluia adds some valuable depth at inside linebacker, as it was a short stay on the practice squad for him.
The second move involves Damien Harris being placed on IR and J.J. Taylor being promoted to the 53-man roster per Field Yates as well. Harris suffered a finger injury late in camp, while Taylor could provide a spark in the running game if he gets a chance on the gameday roster.
The Patriots were back in pads on the lower field for Monday's Labor Day session. Some of the rookies had new numbers including Kyle Dugger 35, Anfernee Jennings 58, Josh Uche 53, Devin Asiasi 86 and Dalton Keene 44. There also appeared to be a new 77 who could've been one of the rookie offensive linemen. New roster updates should clarify some things later this week.
Gunner Olszewski's return to practice was a welcome one. The second-year receiver was having a strong camp before going missing from practice over the last week. He's likely to step right into punt return duties against the Dolphins, but we'll see what the injury report says on Wednesday.
Missing from open portion: Beau Allen, Damien Harris
Returning: Gunner Olszewski
Webex Quotes of Note
Cam Newton to The Greg Hill Show on WEEI about Julian Edelman:
"I see guys like Julian [Edelman], I can say I've never had a receiver like that, outside of like Steve Smith; a person who was a veteran and understood what it took. Everybody else was pretty much a young guy who you had to mold and shape."
Bill Belichick on the lack of external roster movement across the league:
"The flexibility to put veteran players on the practice squad gives teams a lot more flexibility than what they had in the past. So, we anticipated that. Having said all that, I'd say, created the opportunity for teams to keep more of their younger players in some kind of protected role. There were fewer of those players exposed, draft choices or college free agents or rookies from last year that, might have been on the fringe. A lot of those players were able to be protected this year. There were very few claims. This was a low-claiming year which, again, was expected because teams are trying to protect players and it's just hard to create space to claim a player when you're trying to protect players at the same time."
Joe Thuney on the quickened preparations for the regular season:
"You just don't get the routine of going through a real live preseason game against an opponent. Whether it be traveling away or having it here at your home stadium, but that's every team that's sharing that same experience. We're just gonna have to start with regular season game number one following with everyone else, it just is what it is. We just gotta try to approach it the best we can."