By: Steve Balestrieri
The New Orleans Saints and New England Patriots will conduct two joint practices on Tuesday and Wednesday prior to the Patriots first pre-season game Thursday night.
The teams conducted a similar series of joint practices prior to their pre-season game in 2010. The value of these practices can’t be understated, Patriots coach Bill Belichick said of the previous joint encounter, “I thought yesterday’s practice was probably one of the most productive practices I think I can say that I’ve been a part of in my career.”
And added this about the Saints practices: “We’ve all seen enough things out at practice. They’ve seen it from us; we’ve seen it from them. It’s not one thing. There’s multiple formations, multiple defenses. … It’s a much better example to do against another opponent, but it’s the same thing we would be doing if they weren’t here. We would still be running their plays.
Some things to look for on the practices include:
Special Teams Work-
In 2010, much emphasis was placed on special teams including, on-sides kicks and trick plays. The competition was intense and there were a few extracurricular activities including shoving matches with former Patriots WR Brandon Tate and a couple of bouts involving former Pats DB Terrence Wheatley, much to the delight of both sidelines. Expect plenty of STs work this week as both teams will want to hone their skills.
Situational Work Stressed-
The teams wasted little time in getting right down to situational work with their respective offenses and defenses, and this should continue. Watching Bill Belichick and Sean Payton (suspended for this season) talk and compare notes was something to watch as they stood beside each other and worked on facets of their game they each decided needed work.
I would expect Joe Vitt to do the same with Belichick and see a lot of Red-Zone and Two Minute Drill type of work. Both Drew Brees and Tom Brady saw a lot of work in these drills before giving way to backups. Then, unlike game situations, stand together on the sidelines and talk. Indeed, the players interaction with one another was really something to watch. Competing hard during drills and then standing side by side chatting easily the next.
One-on-One Drills, A Highlight-
The one-on-one drills especially with the RBs blocking the LBs on blitz drills was something to behold. The sound of pads popping could be heard all over the field. While these drills are a highlight normally anyway, going against an opponent, things got ratcheted up quite a bit.
Get there early and be prepared for huge crowds…but these practices are well worth the time. You won’t go away disappointed.
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