FOXBORO – The Patriots held their annual in-stadium practice on Friday night. This session inside Gillette Stadium was for season ticket holders and Foxboro residents. The crowd saw a sneak peak of what’s to come this preseason.
The Pats held a simulation of a game on Friday night with the 'blue team' taking on the 'white team.' Players were in pads, but there was no contact and these drills weren’t really competitive. Instead, players simulated what it would be like to play in a game. That included a pregame routine. When the ‘game’ started there were officials on hand. Both teams simulated down and distance as the offenses went up and down the field.
The Pats projected starters were on Team Blue with Mac Jones as their quarterback. Jones' offensive line was Trent Brown (left tackle), Cole Strange (left guard), David Andrews (center), Michael Onwenu (right guard) and right tackle (Isaiah Wynn). He started the game with Damien Harris in the backfield with tight ends Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry as well as receivers Jakobi Meyers and DeVante Parker.
One big takeaway was that Matt Patricia was calling offensive plays for Jones and his offense. Joe Judge was on the other side of the field calling plays for rookie Bailey Zappe and the backups.
Considering Patricia called plays in this game simulation, it certainly seems like he’s the favorite to replace Josh McDaniels as the Patriots offensive play caller. This isn’t a surprise as Patricia has been the main play caller during full-team drills in training camp. Bill Belichick and Judge will certainly have their hands in the offense as well, but right now it looks like the Patriots former defensive coordinator, Patricia, will be the man in charge of the offense on game days.
Jones also played with receiver Kendrick Bourne and running back/receiver Ty Montgomery on Friday. Montgomery was used as the primary receiving back. The offensive line saw James Ferentz rotate in for Onwenu at right guard.
Ferentz playing at right guard was an interesting development. Backup Arlington Hambright had been rotating in at right guard, in place of Onwenu, earlier this week in camp. Onwenu is clearly the favorite to start at right guard, but the Patriots are rotating players on the starting offensive line at left guard, left tackle or right tackle.
One rookie plays snaps on the main defense
The Team Blue defense started with Henry Anderson, Lawrence Guy and Davon Godchaux as the defensive linemen. Anfernee Jennings, Raekwon McMillan and Ja'Whaun Bentley were the linebackers. The secondary had cornerbacks Jalen Mills, Terrance Mitchell, Jonathan Jones and safeties Devin McCourty and Adrian Phillips.
Josh Uche, Christian Barmore, Mack Wilson, Malcolm Butler and Marcus Jones also rotated in for the defense.
Jennings was the most noteworthy name in that starting group. The third-year outside linebacker was stepping in for Matthew Judon, who missed his second-straight practice. Jennings has had a solid training camp and looks like he could land a primary backup role on this defense. He sat out last season on the injured reserve after playing sparingly as a rookie in 2020.
Rookie Marcus Jones was an interesting name on the blue team. The cornerback didn’t start but played in the slot, which allowed veteran Jonathan Jones to move outside. It was interesting to see the Patriots third-round pick on the field with the projected starters. Jonathan Jones' move to outside – for a brief series – was also interesting.
Linebackers coach Steve Belichick called defensive plays for the white defense while defensive line coach DeMarcus Covington called defensive plays for the blue team.
... The most competitive part of practice happened on special teams with kickers Nick Folk and Tristan Vizcaino. Folk hit a 43-yard and 33-yard attempt. Vizcaino went 3-for-3 from 43, 33 and 33 yards.
Players not participating on Friday included Judon, Jabrill Peppers, Matthew Judon, Rhamondre Stevenson, Jahlani Tavai, Dalton Keene, James White (PUP list), Chasen Hines (NFI list) and Andrew Stueber (NFI list).
Two Patriots ejected for fighting
There was a brief fight on the field between Justin Herron and Josh Uche on Friday. Players and coached had to separate the two players as they locked up after a whistle. Uche and Herron were then kicked out of practice and exited for the locker room for their actions.
The fight happened just after the coaches 'simulated' a halftime. It's unclear why either were engaged with one another since there was no contact and plays were run at halfspeed.
It's standard for players having to leave practice due to fighting. The Uche-Herron kerfuffle marked the first Patriots player ejection this year.
Welcome to Day 9 of Patriots training camp.
Tonight marks the Patriots annual in-stadium practice. This session, which they’re calling Foxboro’s Friday Night Lights, is for season ticket members and Foxboro residents. It’s a ticketed event inside Gillette Stadium that will start at 7 p.m.
This practice will see the Patriots in their full uniforms under the stadium lights. Historically, it’s not the most competitive practice, but allows players to simulate what it’ll be like during a game. This will be the first time for Patriots newcomers to get a feel of what the home crowd will be like.
Damien Harris and Lawrence Guy will speak to the media after practice. The Patriots will be off on Saturday. Stay tuned as we’ll have you updated with everything that happens in tonight’s session.
This article originally appeared on The Providence Journal: Patriots practice at Gillette Stadium: Foxboro Friday Night Lights