Fights! Zolak’s Day 1 thoughts from joint practices with the Carolina Panthers
Zolak & Bertrand
Day one of joint practices with the Carolina Panthers is in the books. Intensity was ramped up to the maximum and the Patriots look pretty good today. Offensively, you’re headed in the right direction.
Jakobi Meyers Popped Today
Jul 29, 2022; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Jakobi Meyers (16) catches the ball during training camp at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports
I thought Mac Jones did a good job connecting with Devante Parker today on a couple 50/50 balls. Mac also hit Jakobi Meyers on a few plays. Meyers popped a little bit in this practice.
I thought Jonnu Smith stepped up a little bit today. Hunter Henry left early with an injury, which create a lot of opportunities for Smith and he took advantage in the team periods.
Fights Headlined Practice
Patriots Joint Practices with the Carolina Panthers
The big talk of practice were the two big scrums between the Patriots and Panthers players. the first starter with Kristian Wilkerson catching the ball in front of the sideline. I think he got pushed by a Panthers defensive coach and he said something to him. It sparked the Panthers to start a melee where the other field emptied out pretty much like a baseball fight, where they come out of the dugout and the bullpen. It took a lot to get it separated. Both Bill Belichick and Carolina Head Coach Matt Rhule were ticked off. Kendrick Bourne threw a punch. He was ejected along with Wilkerson.
Mac Watch: How did the Patriots offense look against a new opponent?
Mac Jones during Patriots training camp on July 28, 2022. (Syndication: The Providence Journal)
FOXBORO — Considering how Mac Jones and the Patriots’ starting offense looked practicing against each other for a couple of weeks, it was important to see how it looked against an actual opponent.
The Pats followed up a mostly clean practice on Monday with an encouraging performance in team drills during Tuesday’s joint practice with the Carolina Panthers in Foxboro. We charted Jones as 19-for-27 in 11-on-11 drills, mostly against the Panthers’ starting defense. DeVante Parker led the way for the pass-catchers with five receptions from Jones, followed by three each for Jakobi Meyers and Ty Montgomery.
Jones and the unit had a bit of an up-and-down period during the first 11-on-11 session. He completed passes to Meyers, Parker, and rookie Tyquan Thornton. The latter two were particularly impressive. Parker won a contested ball against the Panthers’ C.J. Henderson on a deep out, while Thornton gained several yards of separation to get wide open over the middle.
The first reps weren’t perfect, though. On one play, an official (yes, they had actual officials on the field) flagged Jones for a delay of game. On the next snap, he appeared to be targeting Kendrick Bourne over the middle, but the pass looked a little late and was tipped into the air and nearly picked off.
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In the next set of 11-on-11s, Jones looked to get into a rhythm. It’s no coincidence that it came while Jones had better protection up front. Only Brian Burns was credited with a “sack,” and it happened to come on the play that receiver Kristian Wilkerson caught a pass before getting into a fight with the Panthers’ Xavier Woods.
Two plays prior, the Panthers appeared to be blitzing, and Jones may have checked into a new play. But either way, he was able to get the ball out quickly for a dump-off to Rhamondre Stevenson, who looks to be in the lead to be the Pats’ primary pass-catching back. Stevenson also used his size to deliver some pass protection of his own during this period.
Parker, Meyers, Bourne, and Nelson Agholor all caught passes during the second set of 11s, and still look like the Patriots’ top-4 receivers on the depth chart, with Thornton continuing to be brought along relatively slowly.
It was in the third 11-on-11 session that Parker made the catch of the day, a leaping grab about 30 yards down the left sideline between two defenders. Parker was winning contested balls all day. He described so-called “50/50 balls” as “more like 80/20.” He certainly looked that confident out on the field.
On the next snap, Jones targeted Agholor deep, and the receiver drew a defensive pass interference flag. Two snaps later, he went deep for Parker again, but this time was almost picked by second-year cornerback Jaycee Horn.
Jul 29, 2022; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots cornerback Malcom Butler (4) and wide receiver DeVante Parker (1) run a drill during training camp at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports
The final 11-on-11 session for the starting offense was a simulated two-minute drill. Jones completed four of his first five passes, including a nice-looking drop in the bucket to Montgomery on a wheel route. Montgomery made all three of his catches in this period, and looks like the “new James White” in the all-important two-minute situations.
After Jones completed a pass to Montgomery over the middle, he called the offense over for what looked like a spike to stop the clock, but instead faked it and tried for Thornton on a quick out to the right. The pass sailed a bit wide, so the clock stopped anyway.
The final play was Jones’ only interception of the day, but it appeared to be a gotta-have-it type of situation. Fourth down, game-on-the-line stuff. Jones faced heavy pressure up front and heaved it to the end zone into triple coverage, and Panthers linebacker Frankie Luvu came down with the pick. It would’ve been a terrible decision and throw in a lower-leverage kind of situation, but it seemed like a do-or-die, nothing-else-he-could-do scenario.
Jones still seems to look a little sped up and indecisive when the walls start to close in on him up front. With a clean pocket, he and the receivers look on-point. He may need to work more on staying patient, keeping his eyes downfield, and delivering the ball cleanly when the heat’s turned up a bit.
However, Monday and Tuesday seems to have signified that the Patriots’ offensive communication has graduated beyond the “dumpster fire” phase. There are still some details to clean up, and getting these reps against an actual opponent, rather than each other, should help them sew up whatever holes remain.
Jul 29, 2022; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) calls a play during training camp at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports
The Patriots and Panthers practice again on Wednesday in Foxboro, before doing battle in preseason game No. 2 on Friday night at Gillette Stadium. We’ll have you covered every step of the way.
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Matt Dolloff is a writer and podcaster 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? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff and follow him on Instagram @realmattdolloff. You can also email him at email@example.com.