FOXBOROUGH — As the Patriots prepare for Friday’s preseason game against the Carolina Panthers, practice will have a different feel than it did the last two weeks, when they held joint workouts with the Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles in the days preceding those games.
For cornerback Darrelle Revis and his teammates, it’s slowly starting to feel more like the regular season.
“This week there’s more emphasis on more of a game week during the regular season,” Revis said before Tuesday’s practice. “Guys just getting into that mode and as a whole, getting into that mode of a regular-season game.
“More emphasis on game-planning type scenarios, all three phases — offense, defense, and special teams — going through those and preparing like this is Week 1, Week 2, regular-season game.”
For the secondary, that game-planning means breaking down quarterback Cam Newton and the rest of the Panthers offense.
Carolina’s Kelvin Benjamin has drawn a lot of attention this preseason. For starters, it’s hard to overlook the rookie receiver, who goes 6 feet 5 inches and 240 pounds.
The former Florida State star is emerging as a key target for Newton, who has been tested with adjusting to an almost entirely new group of receivers.
But Revis hasn’t locked in solely on Benjamin.
“We’re still going through that process now of game-planning, still have to look at film and see what the Panthers are doing on offense,” Revis said.
“We look at all the receivers. We can’t just point out Benjamin. We’re looking at the whole corps, and continue to keep doing the best we can by game-planning to find out what’s best for us to play the right defenses.
“It really doesn’t matter who lines up on the other side at receiver. We’re still in preseason, but at the same time, like I said, we’re taking this time to focus on game-planning.”
The Patriots will see a much different group of receivers than they did last season against the Panthers, who parted ways with three of their four leading pass catchers.
They released veteran Steve Smith and decided to not to re-sign current Patriots receiver Brandon LaFell. Together, Smith and LaFell combined for 113 catches, 1,372 yards, and 9 touchdowns in 2013.
They also opted not to bring back Ted Ginn Jr., who hauled in 36 catches for 556 yards and 5 touchdowns.
The Panthers retooled the receiving corps with Benjamin and 11-year veteran Jerricho Cotchery, who spent the last three seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Patriots are plenty familiar with Cotchery, who spent his first seven seasons with the New York Jets.
Revis, who played with Cotchery in New York from 2007-10, had plenty of praise for his former teammate.
“He’s a great receiver,” Revis said. “Smooth type of runner, can run every route in the route tree. I saw him playing last year a lot with the Steelers. We kind of fell off, but at the same time it will be good to see him and shake his hand and say, ‘What’s up?,’ because I haven’t seen him in a while. I’m looking forward to that challenge.”
After Friday’s game, the Patriots will have just one preseason game remaining, against the New York Giants, and then it’s time for the regular-season opener against Miami.
Yet even for Revis, an eight-year veteran, the excitement never stops brewing as the season approaches.
“The butterflies, they’re coming back, and you get anxious and really excited to start the season back,” he said. “This is a great game we play and guys are ready. We’re ready to go and have to continue to keep on pushing and get ready for that first week.
“I think a lot of guys are very excited about this year and we have to go out and prove every week.”Anthony Gulizia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @gulizia_a.