Tom E. Curran

Patriots-Packers practice observations: Pats offense ends on sour note

Tom E. Curran shares his key takeaways and observations from the first Pats-Packers joint practice.

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GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Patriots … ummmm ... have work to do.

A marathon practice in Green Bay that started out so promisingly for the New England offense, devolved over the final hour in a parade of penalties, pressures and general sloppiness the team hadn’t really put on display until today.

The ineffectiveness of the Patriots during 11-on-11 situational work came out of nowhere. For the first 90 minutes of practice, the Patriots offense worked against the Packers defense on one field while about 100 yards away, the Pats defense locked up with Jordan Love and the Green Bay offense. During that stretch, Mac Jones was locked in and spreading the ball around with confidence. Protection was good. The offensive line was getting a push in the running game.

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It wasn’t until everyone joined on the same field that the Patriots started to flag.

“We just gotta maintain our focus for 60 minutes or however long we’re asked to be out here,” said left tackle Trent Brown. “Whatever we’re asked to do we have to maintain a level of focus and determination to get things done.”

When practice was done after nearly three hours of work, Bill Belichick spoke at length to his team as it huddled around him. Belichick was using a bigger voice about a half-hour earlier when Jones fired a pass incomplete to the sideline (mighta been a throwaway, mighta been a slip on the wideout). That play prompted Belichick to basically ream Jones out for about 10 seconds, which I don’t think I’ve seen happen during practice before.

Asked about the exchange, Jones explained it was a miscommunication between he and Belichick.

"We scored on the two-minute drive with a field goal, and then we just wanted to try a situation again," said Jones. "We just kind of re-did the situation, I guess. That was fun, I guess, but it was my fault.

"I think it was just a miscommunication between all of us. It was fine. It was a good learning experience. It’s too hard to explain in football terms to the media and stuff, but it was kind of a nuance, because we kind of repeated a situation we just did, you know what I’m saying? That’s what we need, though, so both teams can get the situation, try and practice it and then do it again to get it right."

As for the Patriots defense, Love and his receivers started slowly during the 11-on-11 situational work then hit their stride with a number of explosive plays, including a ridiculously well-thrown ball from Love to wideout Christian Watson down the left sideline that scraped over the fingertips of Christian Gonzalez and went for a touchdown. Watson and second-year wideout Romeo Doubs were the standouts for Green Bay on a day you’d have to give to Love and the Packers for effectiveness and explosiveness.

On the bright side? None of it counted. All of it can be worked on. And the two teams will be back at it again tomorrow giving the Patriots a chance to turn things around.

What they wore

Full pads and navy blue practice jerseys.


Before we mention who wasn’t there, let’s point out who was: Ezekiel Elliott. The newly signed running back took part in the early portion of practice – walkthrough plays, individual drills, stretching – before disappearing for a stretch in the Packers facility. He rejoined the team later in practice, likely after having gone through some conditioning work. Elliott’s a bigger back but he appeared to be in very good shape.

As for the absences, still no Calvin Anderson, Cole Strange, Kody Russey or Michael Onwenu for the offensive line. Running backs Ty Montgomery and Pierre Strong also missed. Mike Gesicki was out of practice after getting dinged Monday. Jonathan Jones, Cody Davis, Ronnie Perkins and Trey Flowers were out as well.

Of particular note

  • Rookies Atonio Mafi (LG) and Sidy Sow (RT) were with the starters again. Conor McDermott has been dropped to the second offense.
  • Malik Cunningham keeps getting cameo reps with the starting offense usually running RPOs with mixed success.
  • When the team split and the defense wandered to the far field, Belichick stayed with the offense to observe.
  • He saw some very nice anticipatory throws from Jones in the early part of practice: one to JuJu Smith-Schuster, another on a well-placed screen to Demario Douglas and a third to DeVante Parker who made a nice juggling grab. There was also a would-be completion to Hunter Henry on the left sideline that was perfectly placed but the veteran tight end failed to get both feet inbounds.
  • When Bailey Zappe came in, the Patriots showed excellent push in the running game, but most of his throws were screens to Tyquan Thornton and Douglas.
  • Jones scuffled in his next set of reps with a sack, a throw to Henry that was nearly picked, a hospital ball completion to Rhamondre Stevenson and a downfield shot to Parker that wasn’t close. Mac closed that stretch with an underneath throw to Henry, then a pretty throw to Kayshon Boutte. That touched off a nice stretch of plays for Boutte, who caught a cross from Zappe, then made a nice adjustment on a throw from a scrambling Zappe. Thornton broke behind the defense on the last rep for Zappe but he was overthrown.
  • The wind was strong which made kicking difficult. Kicking into the wind, Nick Folk made four out of five while rookie Chad Ryland made three out of five.
  • At about 12:10 p.m., the full-squad 11-on-11s began for the Patriots offense. Jones took a sack to start, Stevenson had a good inside run and there were two completions to Parker in the middle of the field.  Then, on a second-and-1, the Patriots were called for a hold. On third down, they had a false start before Jones threw incomplete. Resetting on first-and-10, a Stevenson run and a nice outside throw from Jones to Kendrick Bourne followed. That set of downs ended with a completion to Henry that was wiped out by offensive pass interference.
  • Jones’ next session was a two-minute drill in which he threw incomplete, hit Parker, took a sack and then bought time before finding Bourne. A dart to Smith-Schuster preceded a Jones scramble up the middle. The Patriots clocked the ball and Nick Folk made the field goal. It was after the Folk field goal that Belichick got riled. 
  • Last note of the day, ending on a high? Keion White, coming off the left side of the defense, put an insane spin move on his man and had an open lane to rookie quarterback Sean Clifford. Seemed terrifying. 
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