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Tom Brady shines, defense dominates and other Patriots camp blogservations from Washington
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As the Patriots hit town in Richmond at the Bon Secours Training Center for joint workout sessions with the Redskins No. 12 showed himself easily the best quarterback on the field. He led the New England first unit in a variety of segments against the top Washington defense and looked poised, accurate and decisive. He consistently hit his short throws, including an impressive no-huddle segment, finding a nice rhythm at various times with Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola and Brandon LaFell.
By comparison young star Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III looked indecisive, inaccurate and pulled the ball down too many times in the face of oncoming pressure from the Patriots front. In fact, all the other quarterbacks on both sides were less than impressive in the two-plus hour, full pads workout that took place under bright skies and warm, humid conditions.
While Brady was showing his veteran skills against the Redskins defense, New England's own defensive unit was making like difficult on RGIII and the rest of Jay Gruden's Washington attack. Vince Wilfork was a formidable force up the middle against the run, while Dont'a Hightower and the linebackers got involved with the pass rush with some regularity.
As far as a first taste of competition against a different team in an unfamiliar environment, Bill Belichick's squad put forth an impressive opening effort.
--Rob Gronkowski was not on the practice field and reportedly did not make the trip to Richmond with the Patriots. The tight end has been practicing on a limited basis to open camp and has yet to take part in any team drills or contact action. So it makes sense that he would not be taking part in the competitive situations in practice this week and instead might stay back in Foxborough to continue to work toward a full-go.
--A total of 12 players did not take part in practice for the Patriots. That included Aaron Dobson (foot/PUP), Jeremy Gallon (unknown/PUP), Dominique Easley (ACL/NFI), Chris Martin (unknown/NFI), Deontae Skinner (unknown/NFI), Jemea Thomas, Tyler Gaffney (knee), Brandon Bolden, Cameron Gordon, Michael Hoomanawanui (leg), Bryan Stork and Gronkowski.
Those players at Monday's practice but working out of with the rehab staff included Skinner, Alfonzo Dennard, newly-signed linebacker James Morris and Matthew Slater.
--Jake Bequette pulled up a little lame early in practice and was attended to by the training staff. He then also spent time working with the rehab group.
--The Bon Secours Training Center is located in the heart of an urban environment in Richmond. There is a new building built next to a pair of practice fields as well as a small "drill field." The grass on the fields is very moist and wasn't in the greatest condition.
The fans were located on one side of the field and in areas on both ends. The bulk of the crowd was at field level, as was the media. It offers a close-up and unique perspective, but certainly makes it difficult to follow the action on the two fields at times. The setup doesn't seem nearly as functional or ideal as what the Patriots have at Gillette Stadium, really for anyone involved.
Also worth noting that the Redskins issued tickets through a lottery for the practices, which were free of charge. But fans are charged -- $5 or $6 depending on what signs you believe – for parking at training camp. That's another difference from daily New England camp life in Foxborough.
--Upon arriving out on the practice field itself, Belichick spent time chatting with former Redskins quarterback Joe Theisman. Another former Washington Super Bowl-winning passer, Doug Williams, was also on the sidelines.
--One of the first things that caught the eye on the practice field was the field goal uprights. There were nets tied to the uprights that actually caused them to bend in a bit at the top. Stephen Gostkowski later had an attempt hit the upright during practice, although theorizing whether the netting and bending were an issue could only be speculation.
--One strange note on Redskins jersey numbers is that DeSean Jackson is listed as No. 11 but wears No. 1 in practice. Cornerback DeAngelo Hall is listed as No. 23 but practices in No. 2. Not sure if it's a diva thing or what but I don't care for it. Feels like a "Look at me" move.
--Roy Finch was back on the practice field after getting banged up a bit in last Friday's practice at Gillette. The rookie back was tackled into a group of players on the sideline that night, stayed down for a while and then limped around afterwards. He was back as a full go in practice on Monday with no apparent limitations or injury.
--Brady wore his large knee brace for the workout, the one he wears on his left, reconstructed knee during games. I don't recall him wearing the brace previously this summer in practice. You may recall that he got his knee rolled up on and gave Patriots Nation a scare last summer in joint practice action in Foxborough.
--James White and Finch were the first returners taking reps in kickoff return action. They were followed by the duo of Brandon LaFell and Josh Boyce and then Derrick Johnson and Travis Hawkins.
--It's worth noting the middle blocker in the three-man wall in front of the returners on kickoffs. The first rep there on Monday went to Marcus Cannon, followed by Chris Jones and then Josh Kline. It's a role obviously filled by big, athletic types.
--Stevan Ridley unveiled matching Batman cleats and gloves for the practice.
--Paul Perillo made the observation, one that I agree with, that RGIII is bigger in person than what he looks on TV.
--Justin Jones continues to be an intriguing but raw tight end prospect. The tight end got off to a slow start when he caught just a single ball in three chances during the square drill prior to practice. But he closed in impressive fashion when he made a nice adjustment on a Jimmy Garoppolo throw down the right seam in 11-on-11 action, holding onto the ball as he took a decent hit on the way to the turf.
--Taylor McCuller wore a white No. 48 jersey out to practice. He took part in early drills with the running backs and tight ends. The undrafted rookie out of West Texas A&M, who continues to be listed officially as a linebacker, then saw action on both sides of the ball during 11-on-11 work late. He donned his blue No. 48 for work at linebacker and then quickly returned to the white jersey for reps at fullback. He was a busy, and presumably tired, guy.
--New England's defense once again utilized a lot of odd-man fronts against Washington. That 34 look had Vince Wilfork over the nose with Tommy Kelly at left end and either Chris Jones or Will Smith on the right. The linebackers included Jerod Mayo and Jamie Collins on the inside with Dont'a Hightower and Rob Ninkovich on the outside. Chandler Jones actually saw time at both end and linebacker in these segments. The same, in other groups, was true for rookie Zach Moore.
--Jones also spent time with the DBs and linebackers during 7-on-7 action. At that same time Ninkovich was down working on pass rushing with the defensive lineman. Jones is certainly seeing more time at linebacker and playing on his feet, both in drills and team action, than we've seen previously.
--Redskins wide receiver Aldrick Robinson toasted Tavon Wilson for a long touchdown down the left side in 1-on-1 action. In general the Washington receivers got the better of the New England defenders during the 1-on-1 work, one of the few areas on the day in which the Redskins came out on top.
--During early group action on defense, Kyle Arrington lined up at safety next to Devin McCourty. A rep or two later, Jones subbed in for Ninkovich up front, while Wilson came on for Arrington.
--Robinson was at it again for another long touchdown in group action, this time a bomb down the right sideline that beat the coverage of Malcolm Butler and Harmon on a throw from Kirk Cousins.
--Both teams worked on some of their non-traditional kickoffs, including free kicks, pooches, squibs, line-drives and onside.
--Buchanan also saw time with the LBs and DBs during 7-on-7 action.
--There were plenty of eyes on the matchup of Darrelle Revis and Jackson throughout the day's various drills. For the most part Revis had tight coverage on the first-year Redskins playmaker. Jackson did have a couple catches on sideline plays. Being on field level, it was interesting to hear the DBs and WRs chat after every snap.
--While there was another team on the field, Brandon Browner remained his usual physical self in coverage. The big DB had his hands all over his man on each snap. It will be interesting to see how many flags Browner earns in preseason action and when the crew of officials arrives in Foxborough to work the joint practices with the Eagles next week. Illegal contact by defensive backs and pushing off by receivers is a point of emphasis for the officials this season. That could be a problem for the overtly physical Browner.
--Chung dropped a would-be interception off RGIII when his tight end slipped down.
--During some 1-on-1 pass pro drills Nate Solder had a really tough time with Brian Orakpo, while Dan Connolly did a really nice job on Clifton Geathers.
--The offensive line in front of Brady was regularly the returning five from last year -- Solder, Logan Mankins, Ryan Wendell, Dan Connolly and Sebastian Vollmer. Josh Kline got a couple reps working in for Mankins. Vollmer actually took some reps at left tackle with the second group. Vollmer also saw a rep as an extra tight end, with Marcus Cannon filling the void on that snap at right tackle.
--Mallett struggled in early drills. He threw a pick-six to Bacarri Rambo and saw another would-be interception dropped by the Redskins defender. He also badly overthrew a few deep balls.
--Kenbrell Thompkins and Hall got together for a few words after the Patriots receiver caught a slant and took a big pop from the veteran cornerback.
--After RGIII completed a pass to Jackson with Revis in coverage on the far sideline one Redskins fan yelled, "My man's catching balls all over your island, Revis!" Not sure I agree with that biased assessment.
--Jones and Hightower have been very energetic and celebratory throughout camp. The two 2012 first-round picks celebrated a Hightower pressure of RGIII with a hip bump in the middle of the field at one point.
--Brady's first play of team action saw him take advantage of Ryan Kerrigan in coverage to find a crossing Edelman for a completion. He then found Amendola and Edelman again with ease, beating Hall.
--Mallett did a nice job stepping up to find Jones with an absolute bullet, the young tight end hauling it in with impressive hands.
--Brady and RGIII spent some time chatting between the two practice fields while the teams were working on field goals.
--There actually seemed to be more standing around between drills and with players not involved in certain drills than is generally the case during practices, especially joint practices. There also wasn't quite as much energy on the field as we've seen in past joint practices.
--Boyce, who actually went to high school with RGIII, also spent time involved in some friendly banter with the Redskins passer.
--Chung was lined up next to McCourty for team action late in practice.
--While his day wasn't great overall, RGIII made a nice throw to Jordan Reed that got over Revis and in front of the safety on the play down the right side.
--Other than a LaFell drop, Brady got things running pretty well in a no-huddle look against the Redskins top D. He hit a completion to LaFell, had a couple runs by Shane Vereen and then found D.J. Williams for a nice play crossing down the field. He then had another completion to LaFell and one to Amendola.
--New England's second defensive grouping in the team action had Nate Ebner and Harmon at safety. Also notable that Moore and Buchanan were the outside linebackers.
--Brian Tyms had an up-and-down series working with Mallett in team action. He made a nice catch on bullet on one snap but then had a pretty bad drop one play later.
--Ja'Gared Davis limped off with an apparent leg injury during the 11-on-11 action.
--Hawkins came up from the secondary to lay a big hit on Redskins rookie running back Lache Seastrunk on the right sideline.
--Garoppolo had his issues early in the 11-on-11 work. He stepped up through pressure only to fling a bad pass over the middle on the first snap. He then hit Redskins linebacker Akeem Jordan in the hands with his next throw, although the defender dropped the ball.
--Wilson Van Hooser had a bad drop in the late third-team action.
--Gruden and Belichick, who watched the bulk of the late 11-on-11 work near each other, shook hands to conclude the practice.
--Those Patriots meeting with the media after the workout included Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo, Devin McCourty, Darrelle Revis, Rob Ninkovich, Chandler Jones, Marcus Forston, Chris Jones and others.
--The Patriots and Redskins will practice again on Tuesday, but the session will begin at 1:35 in the afternoon. Tom Brady is expected to address the media after the workout, while Belichick will once again hold a pre-practice press conference. Read