5 questions ahead of the Patriots’ preseason game with Carolina

After two days of fighting, the New England-Carolina joint practice week concludes with a game Friday night.

After a chippy week of joint practice with the Panthers, the Patriots are set to host Carolina in their last preseason home game Friday night at 7 p.m.

Friday’s contest will mark the halfway point of the preseason schedule, with last week’s loss to the Giants in the books, and the preseason finale in Las Vegas upcoming.

Many questions remain as the Patriots draw closer to the Sept. 11 regular-season opener in Miami.

Here are five things to keep an eye out for as the Patriots gear up for their latest matchup.

Can the Patriots keep tempers under control?

Granted, it’s clear that Carolina’s Kenny Robinson played a big role in why there was so much fighting this week.


He got kicked out of both practices and sparked a physical response from the Patriots after he stood over an injured Kristian Wilkerson following a hit that sent the Patriots receiver off the field on a cart.

But, how the Patriots respond to such situations is on them. And, as ESPN’s Mike Reiss put it: “Never seen it get to this point in any joint practice with the Patriots in Bill Belichick’s tenure (2000-present).”

Perhaps things will be different in a game setting, but it’s still worth looking at how the Patriots handle the little things. As we’ve learned from past Patriots teams, discipline has a lot to do with whether a team wins or loses.

Who will call the plays?

Three weeks before the season begins, the Patriots have yet to name an offensive coordinator.

Currently, Matt Patricia and Joe Judge are splitting play calling duties. Head coach Bill Belichick has mentioned an evaluation “process”, but there have been little details beyond that.

It remains to be seen how long the process will last or what it’s long term effects will be.

Return of the Mac?

The Patriots haven’t announced whether or not Mac Jones will play Friday night.

With Jones healthy and practicing this week, it seems to make sense to get him at least a few snaps. If he doesn’t play against Carolina, that would leave next Friday as his only shot at game reps before the opener.


With most of the Patriots’ offensive starters out last week, this week’s matchup could be the first glimpse of how the new offensive system looks in a game setting.

How will the offensive line look?

No matter who gets the start at quarterback, the offensive line will be a unit to watch.

First-round pick Cole Strange had a strong debut last week.

The Patriots were pretty pass-heavy during the Giants game, throwing the ball 40 times against 18 carries. Rookie QB Bailey Zappe had enough time to go 19-for-32 with 205 yards, a touchdown, and an interception.

The run game was more of a struggle, with 52 total yards and no runs longer than 9 yards.

How big of a hit did cornerback depth take?

The Patriots placed a pair of cornerbacks, Malcolm Butler, and Joejuan Williams, on injured reserve this week.

Williams was expected to compete for more playing time after making his first regular-season and postseason starts last year when Jalen Mills was out.

Butler, who made the crucial interception in Super Bowl XLIX, started in the preseason opener last week and recovered a fumble. He was attempting a comeback after sitting out the 2021 season.

Friday’s game will be a chance to see how those losses affect the position group.


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