Without a top-tier prototypical “X” receiver on the roster, going up against Vincent Jackson for three days can only help improve the Patriots’ defensive backs.
The 6-foot-5, 230-pound receiver may make the Patriots’ secondary look foolish at times, but it’s good practice for bigger, more physical receivers the team will have to face during the season. The ball was thrown Jackson’s way 13 times during Tuesday’s practice, and Patriots’ defensive backs only “beat” Jackson three times.
Kyle Arrington beat Jackson once during one-on-ones, while Jackson beat Devin McCourty and Arrington in later reps. Steve Gregory picked off Josh Freeman on a throw intended for Jackson in 11-on-11s. Justin Green also got the better of Jackson on one rep. The rest of the time, Jackson was beating guys like Arrington and Aqib Talib. Talib appreciated the practice, though.
“That’s good work, man, leading into the season,” Talib said. “One week you get DeSean Jackson, change up the look you get V-Jack, young Mike [Williams]. Man, it’s definitely good practice.”
Talib got beat by Philadelphia’s Jackson on a 47-yard touchdown pass in the Patriots’ first preseason game. Talib’s results were reportedly mixed against Jackson in the three joint practices held in Philly.
Rookie safety Duron Harmon also appreciates going up against two of the top receivers in the league, who use different strengths to get open and succeed in the NFL.
“It’s been exciting,” Harmon said. “Anytime you get to go against guys of that stature, it’s very, very exciting, because you get to measure yourself and get to see how you react in a situation where they’re getting the ball.”
Harmon held his own against Jackson in practice Tuesday, helping out his corners over the top. The Patriots’ defensive backs have mostly been going up against rookies this training camp. Aaron Dobson, Josh Boyce, Kenbrell Thompkins and Quentin Sims have received the bulk of the snaps across from Danny Amendola in the offense. Going up against players like Jackson, Riley Cooper and Williams, as well as seeing different offenses, is valuable to the Patriots’ secondary.
“You want to see a different offense, different receivers, different speed, different size, because that’s what you’re going to see throughout the whole season,” Talib said. “It’s definitely good work.”
Bill Belichick has had his team participate in two weeks of joint practices each of the last two years.He says there’s a lot of value in seeing new looks in practice against other teams.
“I think it’s a good way to prepare our team,” Belichick said. “We’ve seen ourselves, we’ve seen Philadelphia and now we’ll see Tampa. Our players will get a lot of exposure, and I think those things will serve us well at some point down the road. We’re going to get them eventually.”
The Patriots have two more joint practices against Tampa Bay, then training camp is over. The Patriots will continue to practice amongst themselves without fans in attendance.