In the sweltering desert heat of Southern Nevada, the Las Vegas Raiders and the New England Patriots pushed each other to get better Tuesday morning.
Bill Belichick and the Patriots traveled to Las Vegas for a couple of joint practices ahead of the preseason finale. McDaniels, the Pats former offensive coordinator now spearheading the Silver and Black, brought a few guys from New England with him including offensive coordinator Mick Lombardi, offensive line coach Carmen Bricillo, fullback Jakob Johnson and running back Brandon Bolden. It was a peaceful and productive reunion between the teams and a welcome look to go up against different players.
Patriots.com team reporter/producer Tamara Brown traveled with the team to get a glimpse of the intriguing joint practices and met up with Raiders.com to give her assessment. Here are a few observations from Tuesday.
First impressions of the Raiders' facilities
Since arriving to Las Vegas, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has had nothing but nice things to say about Intermountain Healthcare Performance Center. Tuesday morning, he even called it "the Taj Mahal of football facilities."
"It's a great environment, looking forward to being in the stadium," Belichick said. "Of course, we come back out here in the regular season, but it certainly looks like they're ready for football. Their stadium looks good, facility looks good and they got a good team – and a good coach and a good staff."
Patriots' secondary getting baptized by fire
Adams and Renfrow gave the likes of Jalen Mills, Jonathan Jones and Shaun Wade a run for their money during practice, making tough grabs from their QBs.
Having a stellar receiving corps to go up against in practice every day has made the Raiders secondary better throughout Training Camp, as multiple coaches have noted. Brown believes that these two days against Adams and Renfrow will do the same for the Patriots young defensive backs.
"We knew this was going to be a true test for our DBs coming in here playing guys like Hunter Renfrow and Davante Adams," she said. "It's truly a great week for them to really see where they are and learn and get better. When you're going up against that speed, athleticism and star power – it's tough."
Both defensive lines shine in practice
A position group of both teams looked good at in practice was the defensive line.
As for New England, their defensive line looked impressive as well. They played against the run effectively with Davon Godchaux and Christian Barmore, not to mention Matthew Judon, coming off the edge creating havoc. The play of the Patriots defensive line has been the highlight of Training Camp for Brown thus far.
"We really saw the value in that defensive front," Brown said. "Facing Judon for any guy on the Raiders side is a great opportunity to face what I would say, and Bill [Belichick] has said this too about Davon Godchaux, he's one of the best linemen in the country. Judon is a great player as well, Pro Bowler. So that line has only gotten stronger. Really impressed with the defensive line so far."
What to look forward to for Wednesday
I want to see how the Raiders offensive line continues to hold up against the Patriots. There's no set starting O-line yet for the Silver and Black, as the big men in the trenches are still competing for their spots. With the young talent the Patriots' front seven possess, they'll bring out the best in an offensive line still trying to forge its identity.
For Brown, she told me she's most interested to see the the adjustments the Patriots defense makes to combat the Raiders receivers, and wants to see the unit be "more competitive" overall.
"I know regardless, they're going to come away from this week feeling great that they were able to go up against one of the best wide receivers in this league," Brown said about the Patriots defense. "This is only one step of what it's going to be like throughout the entire season, especially Week 1 when [the Patriots] are facing [Miami Dolphins'] Jaylen Waddle and Tyreek Hill.
"So getting these reps in now against one of the best duos in the league, it's only going to help them down the road once the season actually starts."