For the first time since 2011 (NFL lockout), the New England Patriots will not hold joint practices with a preseason opponent.
There seems to be no distinct reason for this decision. The Patriots have held joint practices with both the Washington Redskins and the Philadelphia Eagles in the past, and Bill Belichick has a good relationship with Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera. New England has held these joint practices in Foxboro, as well as conducted them in neutral sites like West Virginia. However, this season the team decided not to partake in these practices, instead choosing to spend the entirety of the preseason on their own.
Joint practices are certainly not mandatory, but they have proven beneficial in the past for a variety of reasons. The first is that it shakes up the routine for players and provides them with new competition. As any player would tell you, competing solely against one’s teammates can get tiresome, and players may not always put their best effort in. Practicing against opposing teams provides a refreshing change of pace and renewed level of attention as players compete against new opponents in individual and team drills.
In addition, joint practices allow teams to scout opposing players up close. This provides teams with a plethora of opportunities, such as scouting future opponents, making player comparisons with other teams, and even looking for potential trade or signing options. Belichick is a clear fan of the last strategy, as he has signed or traded for a number of players who played for teams that the Patriots held practices with. For example, Jonathan Casillas, Tim Wright, LeGarrette Blount, Akiem Hicks, and Aquib Talib are all players who the Patriots picked up after having witnessed them up close during joint practices.
The Patriots are not necessarily at a disadvantage by not participating in joint practices. However, it has been an effective strategy for the team in the past, and it seems odd for them to change up the routine this year. However, Belichick will likely have a number of other tricks up his sleeve to prepare his team for the 2018 season.
Until next time – B$