The Gillette Stadium practice fields are about to get very, very crowded.
After practicing amongst themselves for the first nine days of training camp, the New England Patriots will welcome the Jacksonville Jaguars to Foxboro on Monday for a week of joint practices leading up to the teams’ preseason opener Thursday night.
The Patriots and Jaguars will take part in full practices Monday and Tuesday (both of which are open to the public), followed by a closed walkthrough Wednesday morning.
Here’s a quick list of players and matchups we’ll be keeping our eye on this week:
PATRIOTS’ SECONDARY VS. JAGUARS’ RECEIVERS
Last summer, we got to watch Malcolm Butler square off on the practice field against the likes of Brandin Cooks (then with the New Orleans Saints) and Alshon Jeffery (then with the Chicago Bears). This week, Butler, Stephon Gilmore and the rest of the Patriots’ secondary will do battle with a talented Jaguars receiving corps led by the trifecta of Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns and Marquise Lee. For what it’s worth, new Jacksonville cornerback A.J. Bouye told reporters last week that Robinson has been the toughest cover in Jags camp thus far.
PATRIOTS’ RECEIVERS VS. JAGUARS’ SECONDARY
Unfortunately, Jalen Ramsey currently is on the physically unable to perform list, so we won’t get a chance to see how Cooks, Julian Edelman and Co. fare against one of the NFL’s best young cornerbacks. Jacksonville will have Bouye, though, who signed for more money than Gilmore in free agency after his breakout 2016 season for the Houston Texans. It’ll be worth monitoring which Patriots receivers are full participants this week, as Edelman, Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola, Malcolm Mitchell, Matthew Slater and Cody Hollister all have been limited or absent at points during camp.
Fournette entered the summer with high expectations after being drafted fourth overall, and according to reports out of Jacksonville, the former LSU running back is off to an excellent start. Monday will be his first experience playing against NFLers who are not his teammates.
“I think it’s good for us personally,” Fournette told reporters over the weekend, via Jacksonville.com, “because we get to see how a Super Bowl team practices, how they work, and maybe we can get something from that.”
On the other side, we’ll be keeping tabs on Mike Gillislee’s workload in these joint sessions. The Patriots running back stood out on the team’s first day in full pads last weekend but was held out of team drills in each of New England’s last four practices.
PATRIOTS’ DEFENSE VS. BLAKE BORTLES
Bortles ranked 28th in the NFL in completion percentage last season, and he’s already had one practice this summer in which he threw five interceptions, including a pick-six. That apparently has been an ugly outlier in an otherwise solid camp for the 25-year-old quarterback, but if the accuracy problems that have plagued Bortles throughout his career reappear, this could be a big week for the Patriots’ formidable secondary.
TOM BRADY VS. JAGUARS’ DEFENSE
The last time Brady played against the Jaguars early in the 2015 season, he lit them up for 51 points. This Jacksonville defense is supposed to be much better than its 2015 counterpart — some have said it has the potential to be a top-five unit in the NFL — but slowing down arguably the league’s best quarterback still will be a tall task. While backup Jimmy Garoppolo has endured a rough summer thus far, Brady has been brilliant in nearly all of the Patriots’ nine practices to date.
Thumbnail photo via James Lang/USA TODAY Sports Images
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