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Sat., Feb. 24, 2018 12:00 AM to 11:59 PM EST
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Edelman shining, Hall of Fame drill and more Patriots Day 5 camp blogservations
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Julian Edelman went from an injury concern and pass-catching afterthought to a 100-catch performer last season. And if the first five practices of the summer are any indication the still-young receiver has plenty of playmaking growth left in him.
With the players returning from a day off, the morning two-plus hour session on the sunny, warm practice fields behind Gillette Stadium saw the coaches seemingly turn up the expectations just a bit. It was a pretty physical and at times boisterous workout.Rob Gronkowski and Darrelle Revis are seen as the keys to the New England season. It just so happened that trio was on the field working together on a drill on Tuesday morning while the bulk of the team was focused on kickoffs for a special teams segment.
Gronkowski was working with Brady, as a small group of top receivers generally do during special teams work, when Bill Belichick brought Revis over to the mix. At that point Revis gave the tight end a three-quarter speed or so coverage look during a few breaks in his routes. Brady also gave Gronkowski some specific instruction on how he wanted things run.
Not only could Revis give Gronkowski a unique look in coverage as one of the top corners in the game, he might also be able to give the big target some tips on how he might beat the smaller, more talented coverage players that teams could throw at the soft-handed human mismatch.
Regardless, the visual of the three working together was a three-man image to illustrate the potential theme of the new New England season. Even Patriots owner Robert Kraft stopped by the drill to say something to Brady. Mix in the nearby Belichick and Hall of Fame talents at owner, coach, quarterback, tight end and cornerback were all within about 10 yards of each other on one practice field in Foxborough.
That's a pretty neat image for Patriots fans to digest.
Anyway, here are one man's blogservations from the practice field on a nearly perfect day for football practice:
--Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard was on the field in full pads and uniform for the first time as he comes back from offseason knee surgery. While he's now off PUP, Dennard took part in drills and some group work but no team or real contact action. He spent a late portion of practice working with the rehab group while team action took place on the other field. He made a nice jumping pass defense during a one-on-one drill early practice and was pretty physical hitting the one-man sled at another point. He seems to be hitting the field at a pretty high level of health.
--Defensive tackle Tommy Kelly was also in full dress, including practice pants, for the first time. The veteran had been wearing pads at practice of late. Like Dennard, and much like what Rob Gronkowski has done to date, Kelly took part in drills but not team or contact action.
--Those not practicing included Aaron Dobson (foot/PUP), Matthew Slater (PUP), Jeremy Gallon (PUP), Dominique Easley (knee/NFI), Christ Martin (NFI), Deontae Skinner (NFI), Jemea Thomas, Michael Hoomanawanui and Dan Connolly. Hoomanawanui and Connolly were both new addition so the list of absentees and were not seen on the field. The rest of the group, other than Martin, did rehab work during the practice.
Beyond Dennard, Daxton Swanson also returned to action. The undrafted rookie corner has missed time while away from the team dealing with the death of his father.
--With Connolly absent, Marcus Cannon took the bulk of the reps in his stead at right guard in a group that included Nate Solder, Logan Mankins, Ryan Wendell and Sebastian Vollmer. Cannon has played primarily tackle to this point in his career, but the idea of moving him to guard has been percolating around for the last couple years. It will be interesting to see if these reps lead to something more down the summer road.
--Rookie center Bryan Stork appeared to suffer an injury early in practice. He went to be looked at in the middle of the practice fields and did not return to action. At some point he left the practice field altogether.
--Josh Boyce had his right knee looked at and taped during the middle of practice. He returned to the field to catch a touchdown during a group drill, but did not finish the rest of the workout. He did speak with the media after practice, though he appeared to still be moving with a slight limp.
--With Stork absent Braxston Cave got a lot of reps at center with a group that included Jordan Devey at left tackle, Josh Kline at left guard, Jon Halapio at right guard and Cameron Fleming at right tackle.
--Kline continues to take reps as an extra, oversized tight end at times in team action.
--Former Patriots offensive coordinator and current Kansas head coach Charlie Weis was in attendance at the practice. He spent time catching up with his former coworkers on the coaching staff. He also had a long chat with Edelman late in the workout.
--Former New England center Dan Koppen watched the practice and spent some time chatting with Weis.
--Marcus Forston got some reps in group and team action at the defensive line next to Vince Wilfork. Sealver Siliga has been taking many reps in the spot early in camp, and did so again on Tuesday.
--The receivers worked on another drill with a ball being thrown directly over their heads, but this time it was while they ran away from the passer at a slow speed. Brandon LaFell noticeably struggled picking up the ball in his line of vision in the drill, to the point where one rep went over his head and fell to the ground while he was still looking to the sky searching for the ball that he never did see.
--It's interesting to watch the competitors at tight end do one-on-one drills with the pass rushers. James Develin seems to struggle a bit in these blocks, having far less success than he does when meeting defenders in the hole from the fullback position. Develin got beat pretty badly by Dont'a Hightower in pass pro Tuesday. Conversely, D.J. Williams did a nice job holding his own against Will Smith.
--Smith had to do a penalty lap in the drill, likely for jumping offsides, drawing the pretty loud ire of Belichick.
--There are a lot of different quarterback and receiver pairings mixed up in various drills and segments. One duo that seems to struggle to be on the same page together with regularity is Jimmy Garoppolo and LaFell. The timing/accuracy of their reps together rarely seems to look very good.
--There was a pretty entertaining one-on-one drill between the DBs and WRs early on. The highlight of the drill was Edelman's one-handed catch being Arrington. Brady also completed a nice throw to Edelman, who beat Revis pretty impressively. Logan Ryan got a pass defense covering Danny Amendola, but may have gotten away with a hold. LaFell beat Brandon Browner for a catch in the red zone. Josh Boyce beat Duron Harmon pretty badly for the score. Kenbrell Thompkins beat Devin McCourty as the receivers got the better of the drill as a group.
--Hightower has been very physical to open camp, coming up with a number of big pops in the running game during each of the three padded practices. That was the case once again on Tuesday.
--Ball security had been a focus throughout camp. A period with that focus on Tuesday included a ball carrier battling two defenders on the way down the field, one on each side of the runner. The ball carrier had to protect the ball from one while trying to stiff arm or otherwise fend off the other.
--During the kickoff return segment the first pair of returners included Boyce and Shane Vereen, followed by Roy Finch with LaFell and then James White and Travis Hawkins.
--Darrius Fleming got some reps at linebacker in a sub package working with Jerod Mayo and Jamie Collins.
--Logan Ryan continues to get a lot of reps at slot corner, many coming with Revis and Browner. During split-field team work late in practice Ryan was on the field with those players while veteran slot man Arrington was on the other field with younger players.
--One of the biggest plays of the day came on a deep ball down the right side with Brady hitting LaFell for a touchdown. The play beat cornerback Malcolm Butler off the line and then safety Nate Ebner failed to break up the deep play. It was a nice-looking completion but the coverage and level competition was less than stellar. Brady really enjoyed the play, though, doing a hip bump with Ryan Mallett and celebrating excitedly.
--The defensive front fielded a line that included Rob Ninkovich, Smith, Chris Jones and Chandler Jones at one point. That could certainly be an interesting group of pass rushers to throw at an offensive line.
--Ninkovich has taken a lot of reps standing on two feet in various sets and schemes to open camp. He does a lot of bumping and re-routing in those looks.
--For what it's worth, the play clock on the field is often reset to 18 seconds after every play and doesn't immediately start running. Not sure the exact thinking behind that altered play clock.
--Open field tackling has also been a regular part of practice each day. Tuesday's drill had a ball carrier and tackler lay on the ground on their backs about three yards apart. They each had to get up on the whistle and run/tackle as soon as possible. It was interesting seeing guys get up at very much varying rates of speed.
--The temperature and sun were probably the most difficult to deal with to date in camp. Some of the bigger guys seemed to get a little worn down as the workout wore on. Belichick did give a number of different water breaks throughout to, as he puts it, "Water 'em."
--Garoppolo threw a pick to Hawkins on a deep ball down the left side that the rookie passer pretty much threw up for grabs.
--During the goal line segment Brady worked on his long, hard counts.
--Mallett tried to roll right for a play in the goal line segment and actually hit Justin Jones in the hands, but the rookie couldn't hold on as he fell a bit awkwardly to the turf.
--Practice ended with down-and-distance and hurry up work split into two fields going concurrently.
--James Anderson continues to display the ability to run well in coverage, living up to his reputation as a "coverage" linebacker.
--Fleming and Halapio did some extra work after practice with offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo, working on their punch together simultaneously with a big dummy.
--Young backs Jonas Gray and Stephen Houston did some conditioning together to close out practice.
--The entire defense went to the hill behind the practice field to do conditioning work at the end of the session. The entire offensive line also did conditioning runs together on the main field.
--Those players talking to the media after practice included Rob Gronkowski, Tommy Kelly, Daxton Swanson, Ryan Wendell, Brandon LaFell, Brandon Browner and others.
--The Patriots return to the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium Wednesday morning at 9:45 practice that is open to the public. Read