On another warm New England afternoon, the Patriots played host to this Thursday’s opponent, the New Orleans Saints. As anticipation built with a start time pushed back to 2:00, fans sweated out the wait time, and got a glimpse of the gold standard of the NFL.
It doesn’t get better than Brady and Brees, but there was much more to see here. The absence of Sean Payton didn’t dampen the star power on hand as old Bill Belichick friend Jon Bon Jovi was present to watch the practice. Also, owner Bob Kraft made an appearance, collecting a loud cheer from the crowd.
As the teams went through an abbreviated version of their practices, opposite each other on both practice fields, down and distance drills (11 on 11) took center stage. Tom Brady was off his game today, misfiring on deep balls with receivers Brandon Lloyd and Donte Stallworth getting behind the defense. He was crisp on his intermediate passes to the sideline on back shoulder throws, but had trouble connecting in the middle of the field. He also threw a pick that gave Brian Hoyer some extra snaps, much to Brady’s dislike.
Jabbar Gaffney was his usual consistent self, hauling in a perfect throw from Brady splitting two defenders in stride. The running game needs some work, but Shane Vereen looked quick, while Stevan Ridley ran hard. But again, the offensive line troubles limited their production. Brees on the other hand, was more consistent in his offense, finding Marques Colston and Jimmy Graham with regularity.
While Patrick Chung botched a gift wrapped interception, Steve Gregory made good on his opportunity by snaring an overthrow. Don’t’a Hightower drew the middle linebacker spot with the absence of Brandon Spikes. If Spikes can’t stay on the field, Hightower will definitely be a starter on day one. He’s comfortable in this defense, and that gives the Patriots D a better blitzing option.
The Patriots pass rush seemed to have some success, but since the quarterback can’t be hit, some probable sacks turned into completions. Rookie Chandler Jones had a nice deflection of a Brees pass, displaying his length and ability to get his hands up when the ball comes out.
Going back to the Patriots secondary, they struggled against the fast Saints receivers. Devin McCourty still looks like the 2011 model, still late on coverage and looking tentative. We like Sterling Moore; he might not have been a high draft pick, but he competes as hard as any corner in the Patriots secondary.
The big story here is the Patriots offensive line that was manhandled in drills against Saints defensive linemen. Also, it was the root cause for Brady’s inconsistency as they struggled against a very good Saints pass rush. The Patriots showed flashes, but the Saints made sure the Patriots will have plenty of motivation on Wednesday.
Patriots-Saints Joint Practice
August 7, 2012