New England Patriots

New England Patriots

New England Patriots

The Patriots and Packers held their second day of joint practices on Thursday in Green Bay. (Photo by Bob Socci)

Two days into his tenure with the New England Patriots, Ezekiel Elliott has graduated from limited participant to fully invested.

In Thursday’s often-pugnacious joint practice in Green Bay, marked by an offensive bounce-back and marred by injuries and an ejection for the visitors, Elliott ran in his usual determinedly bruising style and, while rotating in team drills with Rhamondre Stevenson, supplied energy from the sideline.

The ex-Dallas star had eased into the Pats’ system with a relatively light fare of walk-throughs and intra-unit pass routes before observing 11-on-11 series just 24 hours earlier. But by Thursday’s second period of head-to-head reps vs. the Packers defense, Elliott carried off consecutive handoffs from quarterback Mac Jones.

Up the middle. Off left edge.

Then came a screen two periods later on the first of four straight snaps at the south end of Ray Nitschke Field.

Elliott caught Jones’s lob, running right. He went out in pattern, as his quarterback scrambled. He rushed left. And he barreled up the middle, before the ball was stripped free as the play was being whistled to a halt.

It’s too early to tell if Elliott is fit for the system. At the same time, there’s no reason to doubt it either. If anything, Elliott’s second practice as a Patriot indicates that he’s immersing himself into team culture and camaraderie.

When fellow back J.J. Taylor buckled a defender with a sideline jump cut, Elliott howled in delight. And when Bailey Zappe led Kayshon Boutte with a strike to the front pylon for a score in two-minute drills, Elliott stomped onto the field, as the first to congratulate the quarterback.

The exhortations accompanying Elliott’s career exploits on the field are appreciated by the equally if not more boisterous Matthew Judon.

“I believe Zeke loves football. I believe that with my whole heart,” Judon said post-practice, inside the Don Hutson Center. “You can see it from Ohio State til now. He’s going to bring energy, he’s going to bring excitement to the game. He’s going to buy in. He’s going to buy in to the craft and to the system, in to what we’ve got going on around here.

“That little bit of excitement for his second day and somebody you really don’t know in Boutte, it just means that he loves his team.

  • FOUR-DOWN TERRITORY

    Hutson Center

    (Photo by Bob Socci)

    Elliott’s positive emotional punch stood out amid the feistiness of the morning and afternoon overall. With two 75-yard grids laid out side by side, a flurry of minor skirmishes broke out while the Pats defended against the Packers offense on the field’s northern half.

    Several interruptions to separate players prompted head coach Bill Belichick to summon the entire New England defense for a huddle in the middle of the field.

    “Focus up, guys,” said defensive back Jalen Mills, summarizing Belichick’s main point. “We’re competitive. They’re competitive. Let’s not get chippy.”

    Unfortunately, that’s exactly what occurred in at least one instance thereafter, during a punt period, when New England’s Anfernee Jennings leveled a Packer and was seemingly ejected from the practice.

    In the aftermath of the early-practice altercations, including Jennings’s foul, Mills was heartened by the team’s collective response. They bore down; not broke down.

    “Sometimes you have those times where it may get a little chippy, guys are talking noise here and there, (and) guys can’t think; they just want to go out there and hit the first thing they see,” said Mills, who commended his teammates for a sharpened focus in the latter half of practice.

    That doesn’t mean they softened their stance. Both teams remained physical throughout, though thankfully shifted from shoving to sparring with their words. And nobody got the last word in after safety Jabrill Peppers.

    One of Peppers many audibles that will go unquoted in this space was, in no uncertain terms, a shout of approval for Mac Jones’s late deep ball to the end zone caught by DeVante Parker.

  • Mac Jones

    New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) throws a pass during a joint practice with the Green Bay Packers in Ashwaubenon, Wis. on Thursday, August 17, 2023. Seeger Gray/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

    • On that note, Jones and Zappe enjoyed much success in the red zone on Thursday. The former uncorked one of his best throws on a Period 7 crosser by Kendrick Bourne in the back of the end zone. Jones followed with a strike to Parker. Zappe and the next unit took over and scored on a succession of passes, including two to Demario Douglas. The second was a toss to the back right corner of the end zone after Douglas was left wide open.
  • Don Hutson Center

    New England Patriots defensive backs run drills on Clark Hinkle Field, before joining the Green Bay Packers at Thursday’s joint practice. August 8, 2023

    • Three Patriots left Thursday’s practice due to apparent injuries. Rookie defensive lineman Keion White went down late, eventually walked to the sideline and, after having his right lower leg attended to by medical staff, sat out the duration. Receiver Tyquan Thornton made a sensational diving catch only to be examined in the shoulder-collar bone area, before leaving. And offensive lineman Jake Andrews was seen exiting the practice field into the back side of the adjacent Hutson Center.
  • Malik Cunningham

    Jun 12, 2023; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Malik Cunningham (64) speaks to the media at the Patriots minicamp at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

    • From the department of random observations…Malik Cunningham worked as a gunner on the punt unit and showed an ability to hurry downfield, set up behind the incoming ball and catch the kick on a bounce…Count Christian Gonzalez among the Patriots, including Boutte and Christian Barmore, who show their college loyalties in their shoulder pads. Gonzalez’s pads have the Oregon logo, while Boutte’s are LSU purple and gold and Barmore’s feature Alabama’s ‘A.’ “I’ve got wide shoulders,” Barmore said on Thursday. “These pads (which are custom fit) are good for my shoulders.” 

     

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