By: Jake Mackey
The New England Patriots and the New Orleans Saints conducted their first of two joint practices on Tuesday morning on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium, and if you were going to chalk up a winner and a loser, the Patriots were certainly the loser.
The two teams went through their own warm ups and stretches on opposite fields, and did not start participating in drills against each other until about an hour into practice. The first was one on one drills all across the fields. The one right in front of the majority of the crowd was Patriots defensive backs against Saints receivers. The Saints for the most part had the upper hand. The most intriguing match up was Brandin Cooks versus Malcolm Butler. Cooks had his way with Butler in joint practices last summer, and it was much of the same today. In one-on-ones Cooks was three for three, including one deep ball down the sideline. Cooks stands at 5-10. Smaller receivers have given Butler more trouble than larger framed ones.
After one-on-ones the two teams went into seven on seven and live team drills for the remainder of the practice. In seven on seven work the only real notable storyline was Patrick Chung. On the second play, Chung shoved Saints rookie receiver Michael Thomas, unprovoked and had a few words for Thomas afterwards. On the following plays Chung was beat for two touchdowns down the seam by tight ends Coby Fleener and Josh Hill.
Before going into live team drills, a very spirited punting session ensued . The Patriots were in punt return coverage when Duron Harmon got into a minor skirmish with wide receiver Reggie Bell. The two had to be separated after Harmon head-butted Bell.
Tom Brady took the first snaps in team drills, and on the second play Brady was picked off by rookie defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins on an attempted screen pass to James White. Jimmy Garoppolo had two nice passes on his first couple of attempts but both were dropped by wide open targets; Rob Gronkowski and Chris Harper.
After those two nice passes, Garoppolo was sub-par at best. He was 7 for 15, with an interception by De’Vante Harris on a horrendous under throw to Aaron Dobson over the middle.
Brady was not much better going 7 of 11 with an interception. He was also sacked twice in one session. The pressure came up the middle the first time and off the edge the next. Dante Scarnecchia huddled the offensive line grouping that was primarily starters, afterwards. Brady did have one tremendous 50-yard throw to the corner of the end zone intended for Nate Washington, but it was dropped. As of right now, Washington seems to be a long-shot for the roster.
Jacoby Brissett did not receive any reps during the practice.
The Patriots defense on the other hand looked solid. Drew Brees still had a decent day, but the Patriots secondary overall played very close to receivers and were very energized all the way through the morning. Rookie Cyrus Jones stood out among all others. Brees went after him more than any other corner it appeared, and Jones more than held his own, covering primarily Willie Snead. Jones had one very nice break up down the side line, getting his hands on the ball at the last second.
Not great news on the injury front for the Patriots from today’s practice. Julian Edelman and Rob Ninkovich both left early. Ninkovich injured his tricep and Edelman appeared to tweak his already injured foot during one-on-one drills. NFL Networks Ian Rapoport reports that it is, “not believed to be serious.”
The two teams will practice again on Wednesday before their preseason game at Gillette Stadium on Thursday.