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Garoppolo's reps, Mallett's absence and other Patriots Mini-camp blogservations

Posted Jun 17, 2014

Rookie passer Jimmy Garoppolo continued to get extra reps with Ryan Mallett sitting out New England's first day of mandatory Mini-camp action.

Many things looked very much the same as the media took in the action from the opening day of New England’s mandatory veteran mini-camp Tuesday on the fields behind Gillette Stadium.

As was the case during the three OTA workouts open to the media previously – and spelled out in offseason workout guidelines in the NFL CBA – the players were in shorts/sweats and helmets for the mini-camp practice, but still no jersey numbers. No pads. No contact.

Really the work, as Bill Belichick pointed out in his morning press conference, is a simple continuation of what was done during the 10 OTA sessions. The only difference is that the OTAs are technically voluntary while the mini-camp is technically mandatory.

Another more interesting similarity was the absence of backup quarterback Ryan Mallett from the mini-camp practice action. Mallett was also missing from the final OTA that was open to the media last week. The Boston Herald reported last Thursday that Mallett’s absence was excused.

The fourth-year backup passer was seen on the field early before practice before leaving the field. That would tend to imply he might be dealing with some sort of heath issue or working with the rehab/medical staff.

Regardless, the missing Mallett once again afforded rookie second-round pick Jimmy Garoppolo extra reps throughout the two-hour practice. There were ups and downs throughout the youngster’s day. The ups included a pretty deep ball to Jeremy Johnson on what Garoppolo said was a good read on his part. The downs included putting the ball on the ground on an apparent intended running play.

Garoppolo did show a nice, sharp arm in drills working with Tom Brady. In those short throws, and at least on this day, the youngster had much more zip on the ball. He and the veteran also spent a lot of time working on throws on the move, under pressure and off the wrong foot. That has been a consistent theme in drills throughout the spring.

It’s too early to make any competitive assessments, something Belichick made clear earlier in the day, but it’s certainly not ideal to have Mallett missing multiple spring workouts. Unless of course you’re a rookie quarterback looking for extra reps as you fight to begin your pro career. And that’s the case Garoppolo has found himself in the last two weeks.

Beyond the status of the backup quarterbacks, here are one man’s mini-camp blogservations from a field away of players not wearing jersey numbers:

--The two practice fields were freshly painted for the mini-camp practice. That included numbers as well as some non-traditional markings. There were red lines painted between the sidelines and the numbers, which could be a 5-yard marker for special teams work and other landmarking. There was also a red line across the end zone that looked to be around 3 yards from the back line. There were yellow lines panted across both fields at each of the 32-yard lines.

--Those players not seen at all on the practice field included Aaron Dobson, Dominique Easley, Alfonzo Dennard and Armond Armstead. Players that were limited and took part in rehab work included Rob Gronkowski. A very unofficial count saw 82 players on the field for pre-practice stretching and form running.

--The team announced the signing of undrafted rookie free agent defensive lineman Seali’i Epenesa during the midst of the practice.

--Tommy Kelly was on the field and taking a more active part in drills than he had to date this spring. The veteran is coming back from a torn ACL. He actually took part in some team drills on the defensive front on Tuesday.

-Logan Mankins left the practice fields prior to the completion of the workout. Kanorris Davis also seemed to get a bit dinged up during one drill.

--Brady had to change his cleats early in practice, going from a black pair to white while sitting down in the middle of the field between drills.

--Speaking of cleats, Stevan Ridley continued his flashy trend of footwear. Today it was a pair of black cleats with bright yellow on them. (They created quite a buzz. Not really. Just bee humor.)

--Brian Daboll brought a new spin to his work with his tight ends during positional drills. The coach stood directly behind his players and gently tossed a ball over their heads, forcing them to locate it quickly for the catch. Didn’t look overly difficult, but hadn’t seen it before on the practice field.

--Patriots owner Robert Kraft walked onto the field and watched the second half of the practice session.

--As is the case in many training camp and in-season practices, loud music was played over the practice fields to disrupt the communication and make life more difficult on the players during team drills. Obviously Bon Jovi got things started but the playlist varied from there, including some Neil Young.

--Nate Ebner looks noticeably bigger this spring. Primarily a special teamer over his first two seasons, the backup safety made a nice play on defense in the practice.

--Josh Boyce has been pretty impressive this spring as he looks to make major strides in his second season. The one black mark on his work has been inconsistent hands. He’s seemingly had a bad drop or two in the various practice sessions in front of the media.

--The running backs did a nice drill early that included running over bags, through a gauntlet of players with bags and then cutting off of Coach Ivan Fears’ cue. Not all made the cut successfully.

--James Develin continues to work primarily with the tight ends group and as a tight end in team segments. He saw plenty of action on the wing in blocking drills and also got open for a nice touchdown catch over the middle in 11-on-11 work. He looks to be a serious candidate for a roster spot as a backup tight end with fullback options. The more you can do…

--Director of Player Personnel Nick Caserio was taking his usual practice reps serving as an extra quarterback in various drills. The more you can do…

--Sebastian Vollmer continues to take the bulk of his reps at left tackle after Nate Solder. There also continues to be lots of movement inside on the line. Josh Kline seems to be getting a lot of opportunities to earn a backup role in the middle, maybe backing up all three interior spots. Going four deep with options Ryan Wendell, Bryan Stork, Dan Connolly and Kline, center may be the deepest, most competitive spot on the team right now.

--Stork once again had to run a penalty lap for some unseen offense early in practice. He’s run more than his share of laps this spring during the four sessions open to the media.

--During one special teams segment four defensive backs were grouped on the opposite field working by themselves. That consisted of cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner as well as safeties Devin McCourty and Duron Harmon.

--Ryan Allen spent the bulk of his day working on plus-50 kicks.

--Ebner generally works as Allen’s personal protector in team punting drills.

--There was a segment for open field tackling during special teams work, although it obviously doesn’t really live up to its name in non-contact work.

--Wide receiver Reggie Dunn and running back Roy Finch handled the bulk of the punt return duties. Dunn had a bad drop that would have led to his team being backed up at the 1.

--There was a segment focused on down-and-distance work, including down markers and sticks.

--At one point during practice monster truck engines could be heard in the Gillette Stadium distance. Gillette is hosting a Monster Jam show this coming Saturday and the big trucks are already in town. Later this week dirt will be spread inside Gillette to create a monster truck course.

--Garoppolo’s reps with the second group on offense didn’t go as well as one might hope. He had to pull the ball down a few times and threw a few passes that landed with no clear target in the area. Not easy for a young quarterback working with a varied group of young targets at this point, so it’s understandable and part of the development process.

--Rookie running back James White made a nice catch deep down the left sideline on a soft Brady pass that he ran under for what would have been a big play in a game setting. The youngster clearly has diverse offensive skills.

--Jimmy Garoppolo, Tommy Kelly and Duron Harmon were among the players meeting with the media after practice.

--The Patriots will return to the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium for another mini-camp practice Wednesday morning at 11:15. The session is closed to the public but open to the media.

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