New England Patriots

UPDATE: Wednesday’s practice is over. Here are some notes from the final session before the preseason.

The New England Patriots are on the verge of playing some real, actual football. Yes, it’s just the preseason and the scores don’t matter. But the hitting, tackling, throwing, catching, and running will be very real, and the first taste of the game since the Super Bowl.

On the hitting and tackling … there hasn’t been a ton of it during Patriots training camp so far. For whatever reason, Bill Belichick hasn’t upped the intensity as much as in prior years, even in practices with full pads. He told reporters on Tuesday that it’s been a product of a lack of joint practices and a relative lack of urgency to install game plans.

“When you’re going up against a team like yesterday and today, which we would have done last year, and then we would have to put a lot of things in ahead of that,” Belichick said. “It would change the installation schedule and the pattern and so forth. Not saying one is good or bad, they’re just different. Yeah, we’re absolutely on a different pace, 100 percent, and there are some advantages to that and there are certainly some advantages to working against a different opponent.”

With that in mind, here are some things we’ll be watching for at the Patriots’ practice on Wednesday, which won’t be open to the public.

How many reps does Tom Brady get? Brady was very limited in Tuesday’s session, which prominently featured backups Brian Hoyer and Danny Etling. The latter, especially, should get the majority of playing time in Thursday’s preseason opener against the Washington Redskins. But perhaps Brady gets a series or two, which he has in the past. His workload on Wednesday could be an indicator.

Does the physicality and intensity go up a notch or three? The Patriots are going to have to start getting competitive at some point. The noticeably light practices so far have surprised many, and would mostly be a stark contrast to the full-contact game they’ll be playing on Thursday. Perhaps we get a scrimmage of some kind today. It would be surprising if there weren’t a lot of competitive team drills in some capacity, with a game against an actual opponent on the horizon.

Do limited players take another step forward? Kenny Britt has been suiting up in full pads lately, but hasn’t participated in more than early individual drills with the receivers before departing for the lower field where players on the PUP list typically work. In addition, the team got back Nate Ebner, Cyrus Jones, and Jonathan Jones on Tuesday, but they were also limited. The latter two could be battling for roster spots in the coming weeks, so it’ll be interesting to see if they look ready to get any snaps on Thursday.

Full report from practice coming later on Wednesday afternoon.

— By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com

Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at matthew.dolloff@bbgi.com.