What a way to end training camp.
Day two of joint practices with Carolina on Wednesday saw another massive brawl, more progress for the offense and continued strong showing from the defense. That and more in our final edition of sights, sounds and thoughts from camp…
-Another huge crowd was on hand and I’m sure they all went home happy that they decided to come out. Weather worked out nicely and it ended up being entertaining as hell.
-More big names in attendance. Tedy Bruschi and his son Dante – who will begin his senior campaign with Bishop Feehan on Friday – Mike Mayock again and this time he was taking quite a few notes in a red notebook (front office role in play?), Steve Smith (Ice up son, ice up), Jonas Gray, Robert Kraft and the Bryant football team were all on hand. In the media tent, two of the best to do it, Albert Breer and Michael Smith were also in the house.
-At 10:20, 1-on-1’s began. Jonnu Smith had three nice grabs, Baker Mayfield threw a hell of a ball on a fade to Brandon Zylstra over Shaun Wade and Devin Asiasi continues to have a nice camp and caught a TD after beating Sam Franklin Jr. clean. Myles Bryant picked off Sam Darnold, Terrance Mitchell had a nice PBU against Sri Smith and Ty Montgomery had a ridiculous leaping one-handed catch on a ball from Mac towards the end of the period.
-At 10:30, kick off work started, by 10:33, both teams were involved in a fracas that would soon turn into a huge brawl that ended up in the stands. First, Kristian Wilkerson was laid out prone on the turf needlessly while the Pats’ return team was out there. Kenny Robinson – who got into the fight with Wilkerson on Tuesday – was celebrating over Wilkerson along with a few teammates, that initiated one scrum.
-After that was broken up, the teams tried to move to 11-on-11, but when Deatrich Wise hit Christian McCaffrey a bit too hard or late in McCaffrey’s view on the very first snap, he chucked the ball at Wise and the brawl ensued. A mass of humanity ended up right in front of the bleachers and a few guys wound up in the stands. A woman ended up getting hit in the foot by Wise’s helmet and was offered tickets to a game later on after refusing medical attention, according to some in depth and frankly impressive reporting by Tom E. Curran.
-Both teams ended up huddling and getting an earful from coaches as it seemed like things were very close to being called off and both teams would have just practiced alone on one field each.
-After that brief meeting, 11-on-11’s resumed at 10:45, and Nelson Agholor drew a playoff game-like roar from the crowd when he went up and snagged a jump ball in the end zone while being double covered. He spiked the ball after with playoff-like emotion.
-DJ Moore showed his elite skill on multiple plays throughout the day, his first highlight came at this point with a fantastic backline catch on a ball from Baker.
-Marcus Jones had a highlight-reel interception when he tipped a ball to himself and toe-tapped the sideline while making a catch for the interception, drawing another huge cheer.
-Towards the end of the period, Lil’ Jordan Humphrey had a nice TD catch in the back of the end zone on a ball from Hoyer.
-It was time for 7-on-7’s at 10:54 and once again, DJ Moore made his presence known with a true Moss-ing of Jonathan Jones that drew the same gasp from fans and media members alike.
-Tyquan Thornton and Jakobi Meyers each had nice TD catches at this point and Tre Nixon also hauled one in later from Bailey Zappe.
-During the majority of this 20-ish minute period, Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft spent a good time talking on the sideline in-between both fields.
-During punt work from 11:05-11:12 Dalton Keene was also working on his footwork and catching for a brief period of time by himself on the field furthest away from the stands.
-More 11-on-11 Red Zone work started up at 11:12 and almost immediately, Mayfield hit both McCaffrey and DJ Moore for short TD’s. McCaffrey also had a short rushing TD before Lawrence Guy had a would-be sack of Mayfield.
-When the Patriots offense had its turn, Damien Harris had a TD on one of the much-talked about outside zone plays. In the words of the Indians’ manager in Major League Lou Brown: “it’s starting to come together.”
-The play of the day came around this time as Nelson Agholor went up and caught a touchdown in the back right corner of the end zone while he was blanketed by triple coverage. Parker and Agholor might lead the league in contested catches during training camp.
-Rhamondre Stevenson had a tough TD run on a toss play where he had to fight through some tackles.
-11:35 kicked off the final portion of training camp with two-minute work. The Patriots offense struggled to move the ball downfield, and eventually it was placed on the Panthers’ 10-yard line. Mac ended up hitting both Parker and Montgomery for TD’s, but it felt a bit hollow.
-Zappe was picked off on just a hellacious throw to Marquis Haynes, who just stood there and watched the ball come to him.
-Ronnie Perkins had a nice run stuff with the 2’s and 3’s out for their two-minute work and Marcus Jones made a great tackle on a bubble screen, immediately wrapping up the receiver.
-With both teams still chirping on nearly every play, Brendan Schooler dislodged a ball from a receiver going over the middle with a thunderous hit. Moments later, JJ Taylor lowered his shoulder and trucked a defender near the Patriots’ sideline, drawing even more hooting and hollering.
After 14 days, fans don’t have to hit the panic button after all. Is the offense perfect? Absolutely not. I wouldn’t even call it good yet, but, is it better than it was a week ago? Definitely. It’s still not going to look like it did for 20 years and people need to realize that. If this team wins games 21-17, so what? They don’t ask how, just how many.
The defense (in my opinion) is good enough to keep you in those types of games, even against elite quarterbacks. As long as guys up front help out the guys in back, this defense is going to be a lot better than we all expected.
There is still a longgg way to go before we get any true answers, but after seeing the progress the Patriots made over the last two days against a team that came in and tried to show they wouldn’t be intimidated by the logo or the coach, it’s hard not to be encouraged. Carolina is a team with a ton of questions and a coach on the hot seat, the chippy play and at times unprofessionalism wasn’t surprising, and whether you believe camp fights are good or bad, there’s no denying they brought some juice that the Patriots desperately needed.
New England will play a preseason game against these same Panthers Friday night before heading to Las Vegas on Sunday. Old friend Josh McDaniels and his Raiders will host two joint practices next week before the final preseason game. From there, the Patriots will close practice and have a little less than two weeks to fine tune details and get ready for Miami.
Patriots: Final edition of sights, sounds & thoughts from training camp
What a way to end training camp.