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Blogservations: Garoppolo sits it out
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The media got its final look at the Patriots before next month’s start of training camp on a steamy Tuesday morning in Foxborough as Bill Belichick sent his troops through one more round of OTAs on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium.
The hot and humid conditions didn’t seem to have much of a negative impact on the proceedings, which featured more work on the running game than previous sessions allowed. The lack of contact obviously made evaluating such drills difficult, but Tom Brady and the pass catchers also got time to get plenty of work in.
Unfortunately that wasn’t true for all the Patriots quarterbacks. Jimmy Garoppolo was present and accounted for but did not take part in the practice. At the close of last week’s mini-camp, Garoppolo skipped some reps late in the final practice and then did his conditioning work on the side when the rest of the team close the workout with several sprints on the hill that leads to the lower practice field.
During Tuesday’s OTA Garoppolo spent plenty of time on the stationary bike, nursing an apparent lower body injury, and didn’t take any reps during the two-plus-hour session.
Jacoby Brissett followed Brady during a late hurry-up drill and suffered through some predictable ups and downs. He had some problems with his accuracy throughout the morning but also was victimized by some bad drops by receivers, most notably a pair from DeAndrew White. Drops aside, Brissett didn’t always appear comfortable in the pocket and at times his throws seemed to get away from him.
The bigger story was Garoppolo, who impressed in limited duty in place of Brady a year ago only to be sidelined by a shoulder injury after less than a game and a half of work. There were reports that indicated Belichick was disappointed that Garoppolo couldn’t answer the bell in Weeks 3 and 4, forcing the rookie Brissett to take the controls. Various outlets have speculated if Garoppolo is tough enough to withstand the rigors of full-time NFL life physically, and missing some time during spring camps won’t do much to dispel those fears.
Beyond the quarterbacks there were some other developments on Tuesday and here are one man’s blogservations from the OTA practice.
-Assistant special teams coach Ray “Bubba” Ventrone was the first member of the team/coaching staff on the field. Ventrone, who looks like he could still play, ran several sprints across the practice field wearing long sleeves in the sweltering mid-90s temperatures.
-The video screens from Lyvve Coach were once again missing on Tuesday. The Patriots used the instant replay technology during Days 1 and 3 of mini-camp but on Day 2 and again on Tuesday they were missing.
-In addition to Garoppolo there were some other notables in various stages of participation. Kony Ealy, Lawrence Guy, Alan Branch and rookie offensive lineman Andrew Jelks were not spotted at practice. Ealy left the practice field early on the final day of mini-camp, walking back toward the locker room about midway through the session without any apparent discomfort and unaccompanied by any medical personnel. No word on the reason for his early departure and absence on Tuesday. Guy missed the final two days of mini-camp and must be dealing with some sort of injury. Also, Dont’a Hightower, Malcolm Mitchell and Duron Harmon did plenty of conditioning work. Harmon took some reps during the practice but the other two were limited to running on the lower field.
-Cornerback Malcolm Butler was back on the field and in uniform after missing the last day of mini-camp. He lined up alongside Stephon Gilmore with the first group and enjoyed a very active day. He was quite active throughout practice and came up with a couple of nice plays in coverage, He was tight against Brandin Cooks in a battle that will no doubt be worth watching next month in training camp but still couldn’t prevent a flawless back shoulder throw near the sideline from Brady.
-Brooks Ellis, a rookie linebacker out of Arkansas, was the first player on the field. He was trailed slightly by fellow Razorback Deatrich Wise.
-Julian Edelman received some extra attention during practice from the medical staff but appeared fine. He was his normal slippery self, running routes and catching plenty of Brady’s passes. He spoke to the media after practice and stressed the importance of turning the page to 2017.
-Spring camps are not designed for players like Elandon Roberts. The second-year linebacker is a physical player who has demonstrated his desire to run through people rather than around them. During mini-camp he got under White’s skin with a harder-than-it-needed-to-be bump, and on Tuesday he seemed to draw the ire of the offense once again with his penchant for contact.
-The defensive players clad in blue once again were forced to run a pair of laps during a drill when they failed to have the proper personnel in place. As was the case last week, rookie defensive lineman Josh Augusta struggled to complete the running.
-Most of the special teams work the media has been privy to thus far has been centered on the punting game. On Tuesday that changed to the kickoff team. While the drill seemed to focus on coverage, it did offer a look at the returners. During the first round the returners included White, Will Likely, Andrew Hawkins and David Jones. Later during the second set of reps James White, Dion Lewis, DeAndrew White, Cyrus Jones and Danny Amendola took reps. Jones dropped his first attempt and drew the ire of running backs coach Ivan Fears.
-Former Eagles and 49ers head coach Chip Kelly was on hand for Tuesday practice. Kelly spent several minutes speaking with Belichick, who has always been considered Belichick's friend.
-Ryan Allen spent some time late in practice punting along the back line of the end zone, Normally that’s a job for Stephen Gostkowski, who frequently attempts several kicks from the back of the end zone during practice and tries to knock some off the uprights. Allen seemed to keeping himself loose.
-Patrick Chung is one of the most competitive defensive backs in the Patriots secondary. He locked horns with Rob Gronkowski during one rep and camp away on the short end of the stick despite some excellent work. Gronkowski caught the short flip from Brady but the safety didn’t take too kindly to that fact and soon dragged him to the ground.
-The offense worked on a lot of down-and-distance situations, alternating in and out of various plays such as first-and-10, second-and-seven and third-and-three. The offense usually converted on each play but part of the drill involves creating the situations.
-Eric Rowe was also part of the secondary at times and on at least one occasion he matched up with Gronkowski. The lanky corner trailed on a crossing route and ultimately allowed the completion but it was an interesting battle considering Rowe’s 6-1, height.
-The players once again closed with some sprints up the conditioning hill.
-In addition to Edelman, D.J. Foster, Matt Lengel, Rob Ninkovich and Brissett spent some time with the media.
-Gostkowski followed each of the hurry-up drills with some field goal work. First he attempted a handful of kicks after Brady’s drive then he followed Brissett’s work in the two-minute drill by kicking in the opposite direction.
-The Patriots will complete their OTA work this week but Tuesday’s was the last practice open to the media. The next time we will get a look at the team will be the start of training camp late next month.