It was a busy two days in the shadow of Lambeau Field
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GREEN BAY, Wis. — Overall, the Patriots should consider their joint practices with the Packers a rousing success.
New England and Green play mostly played to a draw Wednesday, although you could make arguments for either team having a slight edge. But there was no such debate about Thursday’s practice, which saw the Patriots dominate the Packers on both sides of the ball — especially on offense.
It was an inspired performance for Bill Belichick’s team, one that saw numerous skirmishes, one ejection and nonstop trash talk. And it should have the Patriots feeling good about themselves as they prepare for Saturday night’s preseason game at Lambeau Field.
Here are three studs and three duds from eventful joint practices between the Patriots and Packers:
QB Mac Jones
Jones played well Wednesday but his performance was undone by sloppy play late and consistent pressure from Green Bay’s front seven. He finished the day 18-of-26 with three “sacks” and two dropped interceptions.
But Thursday saw the third-year quarterback turn in one of his best practices since joining the Patriots. Jones completed 14 of 17 passes while taking five sacks and throwing zero interceptions. Most importantly, he completed multiple deep passes, including a show-stopping 50-yard touchdown to DeVante Parker to finish the day. There is no doubt that this is his team right now.
WR DeVante Parker
JuJu Smith-Schuster has the highest ceiling of any receiver on the roster, and Demario Douglas (nine catches on Thursday) looks like the real deal. But right now, Parker is New England’s best and most reliable receiver.
The veteran wideout caught eight of 10 targets for four TDs, including three on Thursday. He caught bombs, made leaping grabs in the end zone and showed good physicality over the middle of the field. With perhaps the exception of Hunter Henry, Parker is Jones’ most trusted target.
S Jabrill Peppers
This is as much about what Peppers did off the field as what he did between the lines. The veteran safety was solid both days, primarily playing in the box but also seeing time in Devin McCourty’s old spot. He rarely makes any key mistakes.
But Peppers is on this list for the energy he brought to Thursday’s practice. Constantly talking trash to Packers players and hyping up his Patriots teammates, Peppers was the emotional core of an intense, breakthrough day for New England. He’s a huge part of the identity this team is trying to forge.
Honorable mentions: Matthew Judon, Keion White, Demario Douglas, Rhamondre Stevenson, Jack Jones, Josh Uche, Hunter Henry, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Kayshon Boutte
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P Bryce Baringer
What’s going on here? The sixth-round rookie was excellent in the first two weeks of training camp, making any talk of a punter competition totally pointless. But he’s struggled mightily ever since last week’s preseason loss to the Houston Texans.
Baringer’s woes continued in Green Bay, with nearly all of his punts failing to register hangtimes over four seconds. He also continues to have issues with coffin-corner kicks. Consider this: Corliss Waitman took the first three punts Thursday, a potential indication he’s passed his rookie counterpart.
TE Matt Sokol
Sokol wasn’t terrible, but he wasn’t good either. More than anything, he was just kind of invisible. That’s not what he or the Patriots need with Mike Gesicki potentially looking at an extended injury absence. Sokol, who struggled against the Texans, should be first up to take Gesicki’s reps at tight end. But we left Green Bay more impressed with Anthony Firkser, who caught three passes for one touchdown on Thursday (all from Bailey Zappe).
CB Christian Gonzalez
The rookie first-rounder gets high marks for rebounding Thursday with multiple pass breakups and sticky coverage. But he scuffled the previous day, giving up a 50-yard boundary pass to Christian Watson and a 20-yard pass over the middle to Romeo Doubs during a two-minute drill. To be fair, Gonzalez appeared to be in zone coverage both times, so it’s not like he got burned. But his reads were off, and cornerbacks coach Mike Pellegrino was heated after the Watson play.
Honorable mentions: Adrian Phillips, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Isaiah Bolden, Bill Murray, Atonio Mafi