The Expatriated Patriots Fan: News and Views from outside New England.
Richmond Va: Bon Secours training facility, Patriots-Redskins joint practice.
So, despite my years of fandom, I have never been to a Patriots practice, or any NFL team’s practice, before. But when it was announced that the Patriots would be holding joint practices with Washington for the three days prior to their Week One preseason game on August 7th, I knew I couldn’t pass up the chance to attend.
One slight hitch. Due to the popularity of the joint practices Washington held last year, they decided to issue tickets this year, in order to keep the crowds at manageable levels. The tickets were free, but awarded through a lottery system. So I applied … and didn’t get selected. However, I had asked my lovely wife to apply as well, and she did get selected. So, with much thanks to my better half, we both were able to attend the afternoon practice on Tuesday the 5th.
Arriving at the practice facility, we shelled out five dollars for parking, and made our way to the field. Entering through security and a tent based Redskins pro-shop, I was a bit concerned. While I can’t complain about 90 degrees for weather in Richmond in August, it still was sunny, muggy and hot. And the crowds, tickets or no, were substantial. Getting a good viewing area looked to be problematic.
However, we hiked down the length of the practice field and around the end zone, and were able to find a suitable location for viewing. Two fields were set up side by side. The Patriots were to our left to start, and Washington to our right. The Pats QBs were throwing to a few receivers at the far end, and near us Julian Edelman fielded punts near the end zone.
Soon however, the teams began interchanging personal. Defensive backs from each side went to the other team’s field. Two DB’s would face off against two recievers, and the QB would take a simulated snap, and try a pass. The Washington plays were closer to us, so we watched them. Sadly, in the 2 on 2 drills, there were far more completions to Washington receivers then plays made by the DBs. Of course, with no pressure, the QBs had all the time in the world, but it wasn’t what I was looking to see from our new and improved backfield.
As some cloud cover moved in and gave some respite from the heat, the teams moved to 7 on 7 end zone drills. Here, with a more complete secondary, our defense fared better. Unfortunately not great still. Both Nate Ebner and Tavon Wilson gave up TD receptions. On the last play however, I didn’t watch the overall play, but just watched Darrelle Revis. He wasn’t challenged on the other plays I had seen, and on this one I saw why. He stuck to his man like glue. Never more than a foot separation through the whole play. He did have a slight jersey grab, but even that was more the move of a crafty veteran then a mistake. His man was running along the back of the end zone, and on the cut, Revis had a slight grab with the hand to the back of the end zone, unlikely to be seen, but slowing his man up slightly. Watching that play made me feel better at least.
Then however, they moved to 11 on 11 drills. About ¾ speed that I could see. Mostly not tackling, just wrapping up the ball carrier, but some hitting and decent effort along the line. For this, the Patriots offense really shined. Running a mostly up-tempo offense, Tom Brady cut the Redskin D apart. Incompletions were rare, and actual plays from the defense almost none existant. He made Several passes to Edelman, a completion to Vereen in the flat, and a moderately long, over the shoulder pass to Amendola that would likely have resulted in a touch down. Only in the redzone, did they slow up a little, and that was likely impacted by the absence of Gronkowski, who didn’t make the trip. (Likely to protect his knee until the season starts. I expect we will see little, if any, of Gronk in the preseason.)
Brady took most of the 11 on 11 snaps, with Mallet seeing some work. Garoppolo ran the offense for the last series, but started off throwing a pick that likely would have been a pick-six on his first play.
When Washington was on offense, they also moved the ball reasonably well, but not with quite the same ease that the Patriots did. Robert Griffin III made a number of nice, plays, but the defense was able to generate some pressure as well. The Redskins did have a series of about 4 running plays straight, all of which looked like they might have resulted in a breakaway, or at least a long gain. So while there was some good signs, the defense looks to me like it may still have some work to do.
After practice, which ran from 1:35 to just after 4:00, a few of the Patriots players worked the sidelines signing autographs. (as did a larger number of Washington players) My wife was able to get two autographs, including Julian Edelmans. (although Chandler Jones walked right
by her. My exalted position as a Musketfire contributor seemingly failed to impress …)
Hopefully we will continue to see the cohesiveness of the offense continue in game one of the preseason, and at game speed, with actual tacking, the defense may show up better as well. Likely the first teams will only play the first quarter, if all of that. But as the first Patriots game since January, I for one am eager to see what I can. Stay tuned.