FOXBOROUGH — The New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles held the first of three joint practices today at Gillette Stadium in preparation for their preseason game on Friday.
As is customary for joint practices, there were NFL referees on-hand to help officiate the practice. With the new emphasis on defensive illegal contact penalties (no touching a receiver when he gets five yards past the line of scrimmage), cornerbacks like Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner may have to adjust their game accordingly.
Browner learned that last week against the Washington Redskins when he was flagged for illegal contact in the Patriots' first preseason game, and Revis learned it today against the Eagles when he drew three flags during the practice.
Revis' three penalties were more than the Eagles committed as a team.
"It's the beginning stages," Revis said of the new rule. "The only thing we can do is ask questions. There was a lot of flags out there today, but at the same time, it's a new rule. So we're trying to get acclimated, and do the best thing we can do by covering receivers in the preseason game and the upcoming season."
Revis was also beaten deep by Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin for a touchdown in 11-on-11 work. This is obviously not the norm for Revis, who has been like glue to anyone he's been covering since training camp opened, but it serves as proof that he is not infallible and that the new rules apply to everyone equally.
It may take some time to adjust to the new emphasis, but in that sense, these joint practices are a benefit, as the players will get a better sense of how the rules will be called on the field.
Here are some more observations from Tuesday's practice.
— Attendance: RB Tyler Gaffney (meniscus), TE D.J. Williams (unknown), LB Cameron Gordon (unknown), TE Michael Hoomanawanui (unknown), LB Jerod Mayo (unknown), C Bryan Stork (unknown), OL Chris Martin (unknown, NFI), WR Jeremy Gallon (unknown, PUP), DL Chris Jones (ankle/leg), and DT Sealver Siliga (hand) were not spotted at practice. S Tavon Wilson and LB Ja'Gared Davis were present but not in pads.
— Passing stats: Tom Brady went 8-of-10 in 7-on-7 work and 15-of-23 in 11-on-11. Jimmy Garoppolo went 3-of-3 in 7-on-7 and 6-of-7 in 11-on-11. Ryan Mallett went 1-of-2 in 7-on-7 and 1-of-1 in 11-on-11.
— OL vs. DL results: As was the case during joint practices with the Washington Redskins, there were two sets of pass-rush drills on adjacent fields at the same time. The Patriots defensive line went 11-15 against the Eagles offensive line, and the Patriots offensive line went 18-10 against the Eagles defensive line.
— OL results: OT Nate Solder (2-1), LG Logan Mankins (2-0), OL Dan Connolly (1-1), OL Josh Kline (3-0), OT Sebastian Vollmer (2-0), C Ryan Wendell (0-2), OL Chris Barker (2-2), OT Cameron Fleming (1-2), OG Jon Halapio (2-0), OL Marcus Cannon (1-1), OT Jordan Devey (2-0), OL Braxston Cave (0-1).
— DL results: DT Tommy Kelly (2-0), NT Vince Wilfork (1-0), DT Joe Vellano (0-2), DE Chandler Jones (1-1), DE Michael Buchanan (2-1), DL Zach Moore (2-0), DT Dominique Easley (1-2), DE Will Smith (0-2), DE Jake Bequette (1-2), DE Rob Ninkovich (1-0), DT Marcus Forston (0-2), DT L.T. Tuipulotu (0-2), DT Eathyn Manumaleuna (0-1).
— With the officials on hand, we opted to track who was flagged. CB Darrelle Revis (3), CB Kyle Arrington, CB Alfonzo Dennard, DB Justin Green, DE Chandler Jones, and WR Danny Amendola were among the Patriots players committing penalties, while CB Brandon Boykin and CB Bradley Fletcher were the only two Eagles to be flagged.
— WR Aaron Dobson was in full pads for today's practice. He was planting and cutting on either foot while running routes against air, but did not participate in team drills or in 1-on-1 drills against the Eagles defensive backs. DT Dominique Easley was also in full pads and participated in some 1-on-1 work (seen above) as well as some work in a separate 2-on-2 pass-rush drill, but did not participate in team drills. About an hour into practice, both men went down to the lower practice field to do more conditioning work.
— There were some very impressive grabs by the Patriots receiving corps against the Eagles defensive backs in 1-on-1 work. Among the most impressive: Patriots WR Kenbrell Thompkins made a diving catch against Eagles CB Cary Williams. Patriots WR Danny Amendola beat Eagles S Malcolm Jenkins with a sick double move to shake Jenkins from his shoes.
— DE Chandler Jones was spotted dropping into coverage at different times during practice, and did not fare well in those situations. He was even in coverage on Eagles RB LeSean McCoy on a deep pass in 11-on-11 drills. Not surprisingly, he allowed McCoy to get past him, but the pass was overthrown.
— Another solid day for CB Malcolm Butler, who was once again spotted with the first-team defense at times and continues to get those opportunities over second-year CB Logan Ryan. He seems to be at his best when covering receivers downfield, which could bode well for him as the potential starter on either side opposite Revis with Brandon Browner out for four games at the start of the season.
— Ryan had a mixed day in coverage. He allowed Eagles WR Brad Smith to beat him deep for a long reception, but came back on a later play to break up another long pass for Smith.
— LB Dont'a Hightower in coverage of RB Darren Sproles ended about like you would expect, with Sproles getting out into the open flat easily and beating Hightower to the edge. There were some bright spots for Hightower today, though. With Butler blocked out of a screen play, Hightower flowed to the ball, flying in from the middle of the defense to clean up the running back.
— RB Roy Finch remains the top choice for kickoff return duties, while WR Josh Boyce continues to get the alternating reps. Finch bowled over an Eagles defender during one of his kickoff returns today.
— Boyce sometimes looks like he could hustle a little harder. While other receivers will catch a pass, turn upfield and run with it during every drill, Boyce will sometimes catch the pass and pull up immediately afterward. Boyce has made some plays in team drills, but it looks like he's on the outside looking in on the Patriots battle at wide receiver.
— The Patriots continue to work on their 3-4 defense in practice, with different lineup combinations. Tommy Kelly, Vince Wilfork, and Joe Vellano were the top defensive linemen. With Jerod Mayo out of practice today, Dont'a Hightower took his spot in the middle next to Jamie Collins. Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich manned the outside linebacker spots. This has been a common grouping through most of training camp. LB Darius Fleming has been getting a lot of looks in the Patriots nickel package.
— Eagles CB Cary Williams got a lot of press for his comments about the Patriots, and he did not have a good day of backing up his trash talk. He won his two 1-on-1 matchups with WRs Kenbrell Thompkins and Brian Tyms, but got burned deep on a corner route by Thompkins in 11-on-11 work.
— WR Julian Edelman made something out of nothing in 11-on-11 work. He caught a short out-route in front of the goal line, then turned around 180 degrees the opposite way to turn upfield. In the process of this pirouette, he made an Eagles defender miss him and fly out-of-bounds. Edelman then proceeded to tumble forward into the end zone for the score. He also had a nice toe-tap reception down the left sideline in 1-on-1 work against Eagles CB Bradley Fletcher.
— WR Brandon LaFell showed up quite often in 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 work. He caught seven passes from Brady during these drills, and seemed to get open every time I was watching him. LaFell doesn't make a lot of flashy plays (although there have been a few during training camp), but seems to have the consistency the Patriots are looking for at wide receiver: getting open and catching the ball.
— Field goal drills are usually mind-numbing and boring at the end of practice, but there was an interesting moment where both teams ran fake field goals on adjacent fields, one right after another. Patriots P Ryan Allen completed a pass to Ryan Wendell, who caught it with one hand for the touchdown.
— There were a group of kids sporting white t-shirts bearing the name of Danny Amendola's charitable organization, Catches For Kids, in the VIP section; the announced attendance was 25,317, which is the largest single-session attendance for the Patriots at training camp ever.