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Eagles fly in, flags fly around and other Patriots Tuesday camp blogservations

Posted Aug 12, 2014

Chip Kelly and the Eagles arrived for joint practice in Foxborough, as did crew of NFL official who were all too happy to throw flags throughout the afternoon workout.

Chip Kelly brought his Eagles to the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium Tuesday afternoon for a pretty energetic joint workout with Bill Belichick’s Patriots. It’s the second straight year the two long-time coaching acquaintances have brought their teams together for training camp action, following up a very productive series of workouts last August in Philly.

Tuesday’s action took place in front of a massive crowd that actually overflowed onto the ramps of Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, fans enjoying the show under partly cloudy skies with mild temperatures thanks to cool breeze.

The two-and-a-half-hour session was obviously in full pads and saw plenty of work on the passing games for both teams, with the first and second units of each squad seeing plenty of battle time against the opposition. There was also some “opportunity” time for the younger players to show their stuff and try to prove their mettle against a foe wearing a different color jersey.

In addition to the Eagles visiting, a crew of NFL officials was also in attendance for the workout. And as was the case last Thursday night for the preseason opener in Washington that meant plenty of flags were being thrown throughout the practice. It started in early 1-on-1 drills and continued right through group and team action. The crews of officials met with the media earlier in the day and forecast that something in the range of 20-plus penalties was likely to be the norm through the preseason schedule as players and officials get used to the new rules and points of emphasis, but that the flags would probably become fewer once the regular season starts.

Beyond the flying Eagles and flags, here are one man’s better-late-than-never blogservations from the emerald green hill beside the Patriots practice fields:

--A total of 14 Patriots did not take part in the workout. That included Tavon Wilson, Tyler Gaffney (knee), Kanorris Davis, Cameron Gordon, D.J. Williams (leg), Michael Hoomanawanui (leg), Jerod Mayo, Ja’Gared Davis, James Anderson, Bryan Stork, Chris Martin (NFI/unknown), Jeremy Gallon (PUP/unknown), Chris Jones (ankle) and Sealver Siliga (hand).

Wilson, both Davises and Anderson were on the field in shorts and holding their helmets. Stork spent time on the elliptical machine during practice on the far end of the field.

Two players who returned to action were Ryan Mallett and Brandon Browner. Mallett had missed the last two practices since the preseason game, while Browner was absent on Monday after seemingly sitting out the latter stages of Sunday’s session.

--Rob Gronkowski was not wearing the large brace on his surgically repaired left arm that he’s been donning since breaking the arm multiple times last fall/winter. He still is not taking part in team or contact drills, but was drive blocking a teammate holding a pad in early practice action without the brace.

--Aaron Dobson and Dominique Easley were in full pads for the first time, a day after coming off PUP and NFI respectively to take part in a workout in shorts.

--Bill Belichick walked onto the practice field talking on a cell phone, which seems more interesting now that we’ve learned that the team reportedly finalized a pair of trades on Tuesday. New England reportedly sent second-year defensive back Justin Green to the Cowboys in exchange for Dallas defensive tackle Ben Bass. Bass is a 6-5, 294-pound defensive lineman who entered the league as an undrafted rookie in 2012 and has played in two career games. He’s currently battling a hamstring injury.

New England also reportedly sent a future draft pick to the Packers in exchange for former second-round defensive end Jerel Worthy. That deal is contingent on Worthy passing a physical, which is notable given that he’s dealing with a back injury and was on the non-football injury list to open camp in Green Bay after failing his physical. Worthy was the 51st overall pick out of Michigan State in 2012. He dealt with a torn ACL to close out his rookie year and played in just four games a year ago while recovering from the injury.

The two trades add depth to a defensive line that’s been hit by injuries of late to both Chris Jones and Siliga, having also lost Armond Armstead to retirement earlier this offseason. It also could be insurance for guys coming off injury like Tommy Kelly and Dominique Easley, as well as for the fact that Wills Smith has done little to stand out in his first camp in New England coming off his own ACL injury.

Could be that Belichick was finalizing one of the deals when he was walking onto the field to get to work on his daily practice duties. As he always says of his players, the more you can do…

--Stevan Ridley broke out his fluorescent green cleats for the practice action against the Eagles.

--The Patriots flip flopped their practice jersey colors, with defensive players now wearing white jerseys and the offensive guys wearing blue. Probably helps to differentiate in practice work against the Eagles, with the Philly offensive players wearing dark green and the defenders in white.

--A couple random notes from the Eagles side of the practice field early on: The ball boys wear stripped jerseys that make them look like officials…or Foot Locker employees. And the offensive linemen use bags in drills that have player’s numbers on them.

--With all the many bodies on the two regular practice fields, New England’s specialists warmed up down the hill on the Revs practice field.

--Taylor McCuller spends a lot of time with the running backs and tight ends now, but the converted linebacker is asked to play a look linebacker in some of those drills for his offensive teammates.

--Darrelle Revis blanketed Jeremy Maclin in an early 1-on-1 while Kyle Arrington had a nice pass defense on rookie Jordan Matthews. On the other field, Julian Edelman easily beat Bradley Fletcher, while Danny Amendola beat Nate Allen for a would-be touchdown. Malcolm Butler had a nice interception on a ball to rookie Quron Pratt, while Logan Ryan picked up a pass interference call on one of the many flags in the segment.

--Alfonzo Dennard took part in the 1-on-1 drills, but is still not seeing action in team drills.

--Both Patriots owner Robert Kraft and Eagles owner Jeffrey Laurie were in attendance. The two spent some time chatting between the two practice fields.

--Easley took part in the 1-on-1s with the Philly offensive line, but it was hard to see his success from afar and with players blocking the view. Still, that action is a good sign for the rookie first-round pick as he works to full health from the torn ACL that he suffered early in his final season at Florida.

--Some of the first-year Patriots getting the call on the initial kickoff team during the special teams segment included Darius Fleming, James White and Brandon LaFell.

--McCuller had a nice pop on Eagles kick returner Damaris Johnson that sent the tiny player tumbling to the turf.

--The Patriots were in a 3-4 look for 7-on-7 action, meaning one of the two outside linebackers would feign a rush and not be part of the coverage on each snap. At one point in the drill Chandler Jones fell on his butt while dropping into outside coverage. Clearly he’s still a work in progress in that area, something he didn’t do over his first two NFL seasons.

--During New England’s turn returning kicks the return men were pairings of Josh Boyce/Matthew Slater, James White/Roy Finch and Shane Vereen/Travis Hawkins. Interesting to note that Marcus Cannon remains the top middle-blocker in front of the returners, followed by Josh Kline.

--Finch obviously had ball security issues on returns in his debut in Washington. He also seems to make too many stop cuts on returns, including on kickoffs when the main goal is generally to hit it up as fast as possible and change direction on the fly.

--Joe Vellano continues to take reps at right defensive end in 3-4 fronts, with Tommy Kelly on the left side and Vince Wilfork over the nose.

--With Mayo absent from practice, as well as Anderson, Dont’a Hightower slide inside next to Jamie Collins with Rob Ninkovich and Chandler Jones on the outside.

--Nickel situations saw a lot of Darius Fleming coming in at linebacker with Kyle Arrington as the fifth defensive back. Kelly and Vellano were the guys coming off the field.

--One of the more popular parts of practice with young fans at camp is when the kickers kick field goals into the crowd on the hill at the end of one of the fields. Youngsters, and the occasional fish-out-of-water adult, attempt to catch the balls to throw back to the field. Tuesday the same kid dropped a pair of balls and didn’t seem too happy with himself. To be fair, the balls were coming as a rapid pace with three different kickers getting their work in.

--Dennard continues to get limited reps in group/team work, but did show impressive hustle to chase down running back Henry Josey after a would-be long run.

--Nate Solder continues to take plenty of reps as an extra blocking tight end. As such, Marcus Cannon saw a lot of reps at left tackle on Tuesday and Solder actually took time at that spot with the second unit. Dan Connolly continues to take the bulk of the reps next to Logan Mankins at center with Josh Kline at right guard. Ryan Wendell works with the second group at center.

--Butler took reps with the top defense, switching in at left corner for Revis.

--Rookie Jemea Thomas is working up to speed after missing time. The versatile youngster took some reps working in the slot.

--Tom Brady hooked up with Kenbrell Thompkins to beat Cary Williams, the Eagles corner who had plenty of bad things to say about joint practices and the Patriots in recent weeks. The former Raven didn’t seem to be much of an issue on the practice field for the most part and changed his tune in comments after practice.

--Patrick Chung took the bulk of the snaps next to Devin McCourty. The returning veteran seems to be making a real push to be the starting strong safety. He’s certainly the most proven veteran in the mix as well as the most physical hitter.

--Based solely on a comparison of joint practice results, the Eagles certainly seem to have a much better defense than the Redskins. A week ago Brady and the Patriots aerial attack carved up Washington with ease. That was not the case for Tuesdays workouts as Brady found the coverage much tighter, the yards more difficult to earn and even had to pull the ball down without finding an open receiver on a couple occasions.

--Brady had one deep ball down the right sideline that fell incomplete with both LaFell and Amendola in the near vicinity. It certainly looked like one of the receivers was in the wrong spot as the play just didn’t appear to come off correctly.

--Brady hit Edelman on the right side by the goal line in the red zone. The receiver stopped and tried to cut back and actually tumbled into the end zone while an Eagles defender was being called for a horse collar foul.

--Brady and Vereen had a miscommunication on a crossing route in the end zone. Brady’s pass fell incomplete and he then went up to the passing back to show him what he was supposed to do on the play.

--Mallett ran the second unit without any seeming limitations after missing two days of practice.

--Brady hit James Develin on the goal line for a touchdown pass. The fullback continues to show impressive hands and athleticism as he gets more chances to be a part of the offense.

--Jake Bequette and Michael Buchanan served as outside linebackers with the second defense, dropping into coverage on occasion.

--Jimmy Garoppolo had a couple nice completions with Derrick Johnson. With his touchdown-teammate from the opener Brian Tyms getting more reps with the higher groups, Garoppolo may have found a new favored target.

--Eagles tight end Will Murphy had one of the worst drops/examples of stone hands that I’ve seen in a while from an NFL player. Wow.

--Nick Foles found Darren Sproles (yes, that rhymes) for a completion down the left side with Hightower trailing behind in coverage. The linebacker has said he hates chasing little backs in coverage and this was another example of him struggling in that role.

--After being challenged by Giants president and CEO John Mara, Belichick, Kraft and the entire Patriots team took the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge at the conclusion of Tuesday’s practice.

--Players speaking with the media after the session for the Patriots included Darrelle Revis, Logan Mankins, Aaron Dobson and many others.

--The Patriots and Eagles will return to the practice field Wednesday morning at 9 a.m. for another joint workout. Due to weather forecasts for poor conditions, the workout is not open to the public. The media will be in attendance. The team’s next public practice session will be next Monday with the time to be announced later.

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The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed on the PFW Blog represent those of individual authors, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions or policies of the New England Patriots organization, front office staff, coaches and executives. Authors' views are formulated independently from any inside knowledge and/or conversations with Patriots officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.

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