5 things to watch for during Patriots-Titans joint practices

Ryan Hannable
August 13, 2019 - 6:01 pm
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A week after joint practices with the Lions before the first preseason game, the Patriots will hold two more joint practices with the Titans ahead of the second preseason game Wednesday and Thursday in Nashville.

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Like Matt Patricia, Titans head coach Mike Vrabel has a great deal of familiarity with Bill Belichick and the Patriots organization, so the practices ahead of the game make a ton of sense.

Tennessee blew New England out, 34-10, last November and it’s likely Belichick reminded his team of it before it got on a plane to Nashville.

Here are five things will be watching for over the course of the week.

Isaiah Wynn/left tackle position

Wynn participated in his first live contact drills this week at Gillette Stadium and seems to be in a position to do the same against the Titans. He’s penciled in as the team’s starting left tackle, but first needs to prove he’s ready to handle protecting Tom Brady’s blind side by performing well in these practices and games. How he holds up may be the most important thing to watch for from a Patriots perspective the entire week. Behind Wynn on the depth chart is Dan Skipper, who while did fine against the Lions, hasn’t been all that impressive in practices. Basically, the Patriots really need Wynn to perform well in the preseason so they feel OK with the position going into the season. 

Can any tight ends step up?

The Patriots aren’t close to finding a replacement for Rob Gronkowski, or even a combination of players to make up for his production. No one at the tight end spot has done much of anything to prove they deserve a spot on the team. With Benjamin Watson suspended the first four games, Matt LaCosse seemed to be next in line, but he suffered a reported ankle sprain against the Lions and doesn’t seem likely to do anything this week. The team even swung a deal for Falcons tight end Eric Saubert this week, which shows how desperate it is at the position. If any of Saubert, Ryan Izzo, Stephen Anderson and Andrew Beck flash this week, it means they have a pretty decent chance of making the team.

Wide receiver position battle

One of the most competitive positions on the entire roster is at wide receiver with a number of players fighting for the final spot or two. Rookie N’Keal Harry suffered an undisclosed injury against the Lions and is not expected to do much of anything this week. The same goes for injured players like Julian Edelman, Demaryius Thomas and Cameron Meredith, so this is a week for the backend players to make a case for themselves. Phillip Dorsett’s spot seems to be safe, but for players like Maurice Harris, Jakobi Meyers, Ryan Davis, Dontrelle Inman and Braxton Berrios, the increased reps will be huge in proving they are deserving of a spot on the team.

Does defense continue to impress?

Through the first few weeks of the summer, the defense has been the story. It’s dominated the Patriots offense and it carried over against the Lions. Some have bought up how much the Patriots are missing and it not being one of the better offenses in the league, but from our viewpoint the unit is legit and has the potential to be one of the best in the NFL. This week against the Titans is a week to prove just how good it is and dominate another offense.

Is there any tension between the two teams?

As was mentioned earlier, the Titans blew the Patriots out last season and then after the game, running back Dion Lewis sounded off against his former team. Given what happened then, the number of former Patriots on the Titans, temperatures expected to be in the 90s, it’s worth wondering if there will be a fight or two over the course of the two days. Vrabel also seems like a coach who wouldn’t mind a mix-up or two, especially against his former coach. While odds are there are no dust-ups, we wouldn’t be shocked if something were to happen.

Related: How Tom Brady wants to be like Patrick Mahomes