BOSTON -- Training camp clichés are, by their very nature, clichés. But around this time of year, and especially in this part of the country, that's about all we have to work with. And lately in New England, it's all been about getting better every day, stacking days together, working on communication. Progress. Improvement. Coming together. Getting better. Every day.
In Mac Jones' own words, there's a need to improve the operation by just 2 percent in order to get the Patriots' offense really humming at a high level.
It sure seems like Thursday night -- with the Giants in town, with the lights on, with the stadium filled with fans, with a full officiating crew (an active officiating crew, at that), with TV cameras and commercial breaks -- was a prime opportunity to try to get better. Instead, it was a night to watch.
Doesn't that feel like a missed opportunity?
These are, quite obviously, no longer the good old days. When Tom Brady was on the sideline and Josh McDaniels was on the sideline, the offense could basically coast on autopilot through the summer without an issue. Two or three new guys would learn what they had to learn, some joint practice sessions could reinforce the teachings with game-like reps, and the unit would be good to go come September.
Anyone that's spent even five seconds following this year's training camp knows that things are ... different now. Under the guidance of Matt Patricia and Joe Judge, the offense has been unable to string anything together in 11-on-11 drills. Reporters who have seen a lot of training camp in their lives have given alarmed reports of just how disjointed the entire operation has been.
In that regard, perhaps it would have been best to leave the starters off the field on Thursday, lest they fail spectacularly in front of an enormous audience and/or get somebody -- namely, the quarterback -- hurt.
Yet that cannot be a reason for a professional football team to keep its offense from playing in the preseason opener. Not being ready for the first preseason game -- that is to say, a starting unit of professional football players not being able to properly run 10-12 football plays in a football game -- simply cannot be a reality for an NFL team. It's not.
Yet for Mac Jones, DeVante Parker, Hunter Henry, Damien Harris, David Andrews, Kendrick Bourne, Mike Onwenu, Nelson Agholor and a slew of other offensive starters, those reps will have to wait. This night was about Brian Hoyer, Bailey Zappe, Kristian Wilkerson, Kevin Harris, and Lil'Jordan Humphrey.
These also aren't the days where teams have four preseason games to get ready for Week 1. Last year marked the shortening of the preseason to three games, thereby limiting the opportunities to get real, live reps before the games actually count. The upcoming joint practice sessions with the Panthers and the Raiders will be helpful, certainly. But Thursday presented a similar opportunity for growth and experience for an offensive unit that could probably use it.
On the other side of the field on Thursday, Daniel Jones, Saquon Barkley, Kenny Golladay and other key offensive players played for the Giants. It could have been similar to a real football game for a little bit. Alas.
Ultimately, the fate of the 2022 New England Patriots season did not hinge on a dozen potential snaps together on Aug. 11. Everybody knows that. It just felt like an opportunity to get better, which is what the Patriots talk about every day of the summer. They don't seem to be in position to be punting too many of those away.
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