What We Learned From Patriots’ Training Camp Game Simulation

Friday's practice was an in-stadium simulated game

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FOXBORO, Mass. — The New England Patriots’ annual in-stadium practice typically is a low-speed walkthrough.

That was the case again this year, but with a twist.

Head coach Bill Belichick opted to turn Friday night’s event, held on the Gillette Stadium game field and open to season-ticket holders and Foxboro residents, into a full-pads game simulation.

Full bench setups were erected on both sidelines, a crew of game officials was brought in for the occasion and players ran through a full pregame routine, complete with music and extensive warmups.

The Patriots split their roster into Team Blue and Team White, stocking the former with players who have repped with the first-team offense and defense in training camp and filling the latter mostly with backups.

TEAM BLUE
QB Mac Jones
QB Brian Hoyer
RB Damien Harris
WR Jakobi Meyers
WR Kendrick Bourne
WR DeVante Parker
WR Nelson Agholor
WR/RB Ty Montgomery
TE Hunter Henry
TE Jonnu Smith
OL Trent Brown
OL Mike Onwenu
OL David Andrews
OL Cole Strange
OL Isaiah Wynn
OL James Ferentz
DL Lawrence Guy
DL Davon Godchaux
DL Christian Barmore
DL Henry Anderson
LB Ja’Whaun Bentley
LB Raekwon McMillan
LB Mack Wilson
LB Anfernee Jennings
LB Josh Uche
CB Jalen Mills
CB Terrance Mitchell
CB Jonathan Jones
CB Malcolm Butler
CB Marcus Jones
S Devin McCourty
S Adrian Phillips
S Kyle Dugger
S Cody Davis
ST Matthew Slater
K Nick Folk
P Jake Bailey

TEAM WHITE
QB Bailey Zappe
RB J.J. Taylor
RB Pierre Strong
RB Kevin Harris
WR Tyquan Thornton
WR Tre Nixon
WR Kristian Wilkerson
WR Lil’Jordan Humphrey
WR Josh Hammond
TE Devin Asiasi
TE Matt Sokol
OL Bill Murray
OL Yasir Durant
OL Arlington Hambright
OL Drew Desjarlais
OL Yodny Cajuste
OL Kody Russey
OL Justin Herron
OL Will Sherman
DL Deatrich Wise
DL Carl Davis
DL Daniel Ekuale
DL Sam Roberts
DL LaBryan Ray
DL DaMarcus Mitchell
LB Harvey Langi
LB Cameron McGrone
LB Ronnie Perkins
LB Nate Wieland
CB Myles Bryant
CB Jack Jones
CB Shaun Wade
CB Justin Bethel
CB Joejuan Williams
S Joshuah Bledsoe
S Brad Hawkins
S Jalen Elliott
S Brenden Schooler
K Tristan Vizcaino
P Jake Julien

Joe Cardona long-snapped for both teams.

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The scrimmage itself was played at less than full speed, featured no live contact and was only mildly competitive. But it did offer some early glimpes of what New England’s depth chart currently looks like six days out from next Thursday’s preseason opener against the New York Giants.

Here’s how the Patriots opened on offense:

LT Trent Brown
LG Cole Strange
C David Andrews
RG Mike Onwenu
RT Isaiah Wynn
TE Hunter Henry
TE Jonnu Smith
WR Jakobi Meyers
WR DeVante Parker
RB Damien Harris
QB Mac Jones

Bourne, Agholor and Montgomery both checked in within the first few plays, with the latter spelling Harris at running back. Rhamondre Stevenson likely would have seen early backfield snaps, as well, but he was inactive, watching the proceedings from the Blue sideline.

Ferentz, whose primary position is center, replaced Onwenu at right guard for the second series. The Patriots have been subbing in Hambright for Onwenu in practice for the last week or so. It’s worth noting Onwenu began last season as New England’s starting left guard but eventually was benched for Ted Karras. Perhaps the Patriots aren’t completely sold on him at right guard, either.

Offensive line coach Matt Patricia called plays for Mac Jones and Team Blue. Quarterbacks coach Joe Judge did so for Team White, radioing them into Zappe’s helmet.

The Patriots then sent out this group for their starting defense:

DE Henry Anderson
DT Lawrence Guy
DT Davon Godchaux
OLB Anfernee Jennings
ILB Raekwon McMillan
ILB Ja’Whaun Bentley
CB Terrance Mitchell
CB Jalen Mills
Slot CB Jonathan Jones
S Adrian Phillips
S Devin McCourty

Dugger replaced Jones after one play, with the Patriots sending in their frequently used big nickel (aka three-safety) package. Barmore, Wilson and Uche checked in on the first passing down.

Jennings was starting in place of Pro Bowler Matthew Judon, who’s missed the last two practices. Anderson’s spot might have been filled by Wise had the latter been healthy. Wise, who’s been limited for much of camp, interestingly was on Team White, but he spent practice roaming the sideline and did not play.

On Team Blue’s second defensive series, Butler and Jonathan Jones were the outside corners, with rookie Marcus Jones manning the slot. Barmore and Uche also replaced Guy and Jennings, respectively.

Uche later was ejected from practice along with Herron after the two scuffled after the whistle early in the second half.

Marcus Jones’ inclusion on the starters’ squad was noteworthy. He and Strange and were the only rookies tabbed for Team Blue, with fellow 2021 draftees like Thornton and Jack Jones playing for Team White despite seeing reps with the top units in camp.

Defensive line coach DeMarcus Covington appeared to call defensive plays for the blue team, with linebackers coach Steve Belichick doing so for the white team. Steve Belichick has been the Patriots’ primary defensive play-caller, so having Covington handle those duties for the starting unit was an interesting development.

It’s important to remember we’re still nearly a month away from cutdown day — with three preseason games and two rounds of joint practices still to go — so fans shouldn’t view every player on Team Blue as a roster lock. A lot can change between now and Aug. 30.

But this practice did provide the clearest look yet at where the Patriots’ depth chart currently stands.

Other assorted notes from Friday night:

— Players not in uniform: Judon, Stevenson, safety Jabrill Peppers, tight end Dalton Keene, linebacker Jahlani Tavai, running back James White, offensive linemen Chasen Hines and Andrew Stueber.

Stevenson, Peppers, Keene, Tavai and Hines watched from the sideline. Tavai suffered what initially appeared to be a serious leg injury during Thursday’s practice, so it was encouraging to see him walking around.

— Tight ends coach Nick Caley returned after missing the previous four practices for undisclosed reasons.

— Montgomery and Dugger handled kick- and punt-return duties for Team Blue, respectively. For Team White, it was Nixon and Taylor on kickoffs and Bryant on punts. Dugger and Bryant each muffed one punt.

— The play of the night was a second-half bomb from Hoyer to Parker, who shot past Williams and Schooler for a 60-yard touchdown. Hoyer dropped in another long touchdown to Bourne a few plays later. Both drew big cheers from the modest crowd, which filled about half of Gillette’s lower bowl.

— Thornton dunked the ball over the goalpost after scoring a second-half touchdown for Team White. The skinny speedster also has some hops.

— Former Patriots safety Patrick Chung was in attendance. His young son fielded punts from Bailey during a simulated “halftime,” with Bill Belichick swinging by to give him some pointers.

NESN.com’s coverage of New England Patriots preseason is presented by Cross Insurance, protecting your team since 1954.

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