Skip to main content
Carolina Panthers

What to watch in joint practices with the Patriots

Christian McCaffrey

CHARLOTTE — This might not be the same Patriots team of legend.

But there's still Bill Belichick, and he still coaches the Patriots, which will make this an interesting week of work for the Panthers in two days of joint practices followed by Friday's preseason game at Gillette Stadium.

These kinds of weeks always become a yardstick for teams — such as last year when the Colts got their attention on the first day by roughing them up a little bit — and there are things about this Patriots team that will provide an interesting test for the Panthers

Here's a look at what we'll be paying attention to during these sessions:


It's effectively another two days of training camp, only with other people.

The Panthers will practice Tuesday and Wednesday from around 9:45 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. against the Patriots, using a couple of fields to split the work. We'll have all the live updates here on, and you'll also be able to live stream the press conferences after each session.

These practices create a competitive environment, but you're able to get good work without the danger of getting your quarterbacks hit since they'll all be in red jerseys.

"To me, the joint practices are in some ways better than the games, because you get so many situations" Panthers head coach Matt Rhule said Monday. "Coach Belichick, to other coaches, he's the master of situational football, so they'll get a bunch of things thrown at them this week, and they'll have to adapt and adjust, and react to different defenses.

"It's unbelievably invaluable for our guys, we're excited about it."

Players will have some time off in the area on Thursday, before heading into Friday night's game, but it creates another five-day bonding opportunity which is always valuable this time of year.


In football, as in physics, everything's relative. The Patriots haven't won a playoff game in the last three years.

In a lot of places, that wouldn't be cause for alarm. But up there, people are sort of freaking out after being spoiled during the peak of the Tom Brady-Belichick era.

That happens when you win six Super Bowls, but they are in a different place now. They went 10-7 and made the playoffs last year, but this isn't the same team a lot of people were used to watching.


Of course, much of the focus will be on the quarterbacks, with the Panthers still deciding between Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold, while Mac Jones gets his feet underneath him going into his second year. Rhule said his two quarterbacks would likely continue to rotate with the ones, as he specifically wants to see each of them in some two-minute situations (which the first offense didn't get in last week's game).

The Panthers passed on Jones last year during the draft, after coaching the Alabama quarterback at the Senior Bowl. Time will tell if that was the correct choice (it didn't help that the eighth overall selection, Jaycee Horn, missed most of last year with a foot injury). The Patriots took Jones 15th overall, and he started every game for them as a rookie.

Jones might not have the kind of top-end physical traits teams look for in a first-round quarterback, but he was an efficient player last year, and made the job his own in New England in short order. They helped him last year by adding the new Rob Gronkowski (sort of) in tight end Hunter Henry, who caught nine touchdowns in 2021, and they did a better job of protecting Jones over the second half of the season. They traded for wide receiver DeVante Parker this offseason to give Jones a downfield weapon, and the early returns have been promising.


The Panthers spent a lot of time and energy this offseason working on their offensive line, and it's going to be tested this week.

In terms of pass protection, they're going to have to slow down Matt Judon, who came in last year with 12.5 sacks, and second-year defensive tackle Christian Barmore, who can be disruptive inside.

But as importantly will be how they block against an always-solid Patriots run defense (the Panthers gained just 78 yards on the ground with 3.4 yards per carry against them last year, with Christian McCaffrey in the lineup). The fact the Patriots work out of a 3-4 base defense, compared to the 4-3 the Panthers practice against every day, will also create a different look.

This week will provide a good indication of whether the Panthers have made the progress they are hoping for on the offensive line.


Rhule said after Monday's short pre-flight workout that other than a few strains, they came out of last week's game at Washington pretty well on the injury front.

A number of players who have missed time in the last week for either injury or personal situations were back on the field Monday, including Terrace Marshall Jr., Keith Taylor Jr., Stephen Sullivan, Dennis Daley, and Derrick Brown.

Rhule said the plan was to have everyone on the roster travel, since there are the normal complement of meetings each day in addition to the practices.

View the best photos of Carolina's 23-21 win over Washington in the first week of the preseason.

Related Content