Patriots Joint Practice Observations: Offense Craters Vs. Raiders

The Patriots' new offense took a step back Tuesday


August 23

HENDERSON, Nev. — The New England Patriots shifted their operation to the sweltering Nevada desert for the final week of the NFL preseason, joining the Las Vegas Raiders for a set of joint practices.

The first of those took place Tuesday at the Raiders’ practice facility, which Patriots head coach Bill Belichick called “magnificent” and compared to “the Taj Mahal.”

Here’s everything we saw during that practice:

Full pads.

Did not participate:
WR Tyquan Thornton
WR Kristian Wilkerson
OLB Ronnie Perkins
LB Harvey Langi
OL Andrew Stueber

Thornton (shoulder) and Wilkerson (concussion) are recovering from injuries suffered last week. The Patriots placed Perkins on season-ending injured reserve and Stueber on the reserve/non-football injury list after practice. Langi has missed the last two practices for undisclosed reasons.

Safety Jabrill Peppers, running back Ty Montgomery and special teamer Matthew Slater all briefly left practice before later returning. Those temporary layoffs could have been heat-related, as temperatures approached 100 degrees by the end of practice.

Cornerback Shaun Wade and offensive lineman Bill Murray watched the latter part of practice from the sideline. Wade had removed his shoulder pads, and Murray was in a practice jersey and shorts. It wasn’t clear why or when they stopped participating. Murray missed all of last week with an injury, but Wade had been a full participant in each practice since the start of camp.

A productive final drive allowed the Patriots to leave practice with some encouragement. But this was one of the worst performances of the summer for Mac Jones and the first-team offense.

Very little went right for Jones and company during their first three rounds of 11-on-11 drills.

The Patriots attempted to run the ball seven times with Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson during those periods, and six of those attempts were stuffed for minimal gains. Stevenson had the lone positive carry to close out the group’s first series.

New England’s offense had shown signs of improvement in last week’s joint practices with Carolina, but nearly all of that came in the passing game. The Patriots called just nine run plays over the two Panthers practices, and their struggles from earlier in training camp persisted.

Their passing attack wasn’t much better Tuesday. Jones went just 2-for-8 over his first three 11-on-11 periods, with a short completion to Nelson Agholor and a well-placed touchdown pass to DeVante Parker. His other attempts resulted in off-target incompletions to Harris and Jakobi Meyers, pass breakups intended for Agholor, a Kendrick Bourne drop in the end zone and an interception that capped a largely unproductive drive.

Jones was trying to hit tight end Jonnu Smith on a crossing route near the goal line but found Raiders linebacker Jayon Brown instead. After the pick, Jones briefly conferred with quarterbacks coach Joe Judge before walking 60 yards downfield and back, alone, his frustration clearly evident.

The saving grace came on the last possession for the first-team offense, a simulated two-minute drill. Jones was sacked once on the drive and had another pass to Agholor broken up, but he closed with three straight completions, finding Smith inside the 5-yard line and then Bourne in the back of the end zone for a touchdown. Bourne celebrated that score with an emphatic spike that sent the ball soaring through the air.

Overall, Jones completed 7 of 14 passes in 11-on-11s and 5 of 9 in 7-on-7s.

In a way, this practice mirrored last week’s preseason game for Jones’ unit, which opened with back-to-back three-and-outs before closing with an 80-yard touchdown drive. Finishing strong is a positive. But over its last two outings, this offense has logged seven drives and looked punchless on five of them.

Jones and his teammates are continuing to preach patience as they adjust to a new scheme and new offensive coaching staff, but the preseason is nearly over. They’re running out of time to get this right.

— Davante Adams might be the best wide receiver in the NFL, and he looked it Tuesday.

The former Green Bay Packers All-Pro was borderline uncoverable for much of practice, showing what kind of weapon he can be in Josh McDaniels’ offense this season. Adams went 3-0 against top Patriots cornerback Jalen Mills in 1-on-1 drills and caught at least seven passes in 7-on-7s and 11-on-11s, including a one-handed touchdown and a nifty toe-tapper that beat tight coverage from Jonathan Jones.

Jones later scored a rare win over Adams late in practice, breaking up a pass from Derek Carr along the sideline.

Hunter Renfrow also gave the Patriots’ defense problems inside. He often was matched up against Myles Bryant, who’s been New England’s top slot option for the last week-plus. Bryant won one of their three matchups in 1-on-1s, with Renfrow taking the other two.

After practice, Bryant called Renfrow — viewed as an almost-too-obvious Patriots target before the 2019 NFL Draft — one of the league’s best slot receivers.

— Cornerback Jack Jones has the skills to be a very good player for the Patriots, but his streakiness likely will prevent him from having a major role early in his rookie season.

The fourth-round pick had a pass breakup in 1-on-1s and another in 7-on-7 but also had two lopsided 1-on-1 losses, including a rep on which former Patriots practice squadder created about 10 yards of separation simply by stopping his route.

That’s been the story of camp for Jones. He has enticing potential but needs more seasoning.

— Like the offense, New England’s defense finished on a high by overwhelming Carr and the first-team offense in their final 11-on-11 encounter. That series, a six-play two-minute drill, featured three Patriots “sacks,” a diving Adrian Phillips pass breakup and a drawn hold, with Matthew Judon, Ja’Whaun Bentley and Josh Uche all causing disruption in the backfield.

Carr was given a clean pocket on an overthrown would-be touchdown to Brandon Bolden, but it was another encouraging period for the Patriots’ front seven, which Bill Belichick recently said has enjoyed a “really good camp.”

— This has been a tumultuous summer for Bourne, and Tuesday’s practice was another mixed bag for the struggling wideout.

Between his early drop and his late touchdown, Bourne frequently ran with the second- and third-team offense, seeing two targets from Brian Hoyer (one completion) and one from rookie Bailey Zappe (off his hands while airborne in the back of the end zone).

Mac Jones expressed confidence in Bourne during a post-practice WEEI interview, but the Patriots need to see more consistency from a player who should be one of their top offensive playmakers.

— The Raiders are stocked with ex-Patriots, from several members of McDaniels’ coaching staff (Patrick Graham, Mick Lombardi, Carmen Bricillo, Bo Hardegree) to a substantial chunk of their roster (Chandler Jones, Jarrett Stidham, Bolden, Duron Harmon, Jakob Johnson, Jacob Hollister, Zuber) to general manager Dave Ziegler.

There also was another New England alum in attendance Tuesday: Julian Edelman.

The retired wide receiver watched practice while sporting, of all things, a commemorative T-shirt from the Patriots’ Super Bowl XXXVIII win over the Panthers. He could be spotted chatting with Mac Jones and Judge during one special teams period.

— Perhaps because of that long list of Patriots-Raiders, this practice was not nearly as contentious as the ones New England had with Carolina last week.

Both of those featured large-scale brawls and multiple ejections. The vibe during Tuesday’s was borderline subdued, especially during 11-on-11 drills.

— One of the many enviable amenities at the Raiders’ sparkling Henderson headquarters: the full-sized pool located between the outdoor practice area and the cavernous indoor field space.

While several Patriots players spoke with reporters after practice, linebacker Raekwon McMillan went for what likely was an extremely refreshing swim.

The Patriots and Raiders will practice again Wednesday morning. That’ll be another steamy one, with the forecast calling for a high temperature of 102 degrees.’s coverage of New England Patriots preseason is presented by Cross Insurance, protecting your team since 1954.

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Thumbnail photo via The Providence Journal/USA Today
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