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Monday Patriots practice observations

Posted Aug 5, 2013

New England got a slew of very game-specific situational work done Monday before boarding a plane for Philadelphia.

FOXBOROUGH – Bill Belichick’s team took to the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium for slightly shorter workout in which the Patriots focused on almost every imaginable game situation before getting on buses later in the day to head to Philadelphia for a week of work against Chip Kelly’s new-look Eagles.

In his morning press conference Belichick said New England was “looking to pull things together” in Monday’s practice after the team had the day off on Sunday. That’s exactly what the players tried to do dressed in helmets, shells and shorts for the one-hour, 45-minute session which took place under bright skies and somewhat cooler temperatures at what might be best described as a high-speed, walkthrough pace.

The Patriots went over everything from run-on field goals and punts to end-of-half razzle-dazzle plays and Hail Mary’s over the course of the session. Afterwards many players talked about how much they were looking forward to heading to Philly work against another team. New England will practice against the Eagles on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday before the teams get together for the preseason opener on Friday night.

But before moving things to the City of Brotherly Love, here are one man’s observations from the sun-soaked practice fields of Foxborough:

--Those players not seen on the field for the morning practiced included Ras-I Dowling, Marcus Cannon, Rob Gronkowski (PUP, arm/back), Jermaine Cunningham and Armond Armstead (NFI, infection).

Mark Harrison was on the field in sweats, and did his usual running work on the Revs practice field. That Revs practice field was a bit busy with some soccer players practicing, the sprinklers watering the grass and a number of Patriots getting some rehab work in under the watchful eye of the training staff.

Nate Ebner was on the field in jersey and helmet after missing a couple workouts, but was limited in his participation and did mostly rehab work on the Revs practice field.

Matthew Slater went to ride the stationary bike early in practice.

Michael Jenkins was on the field in a jersey but without a helmet. He rode the bike early but did not take part in the practice after suffering an apparent leg injury on Friday.

Dan Connolly was on the field in helmet and jersey but continues to remain sidelined.

Kevin Haslam was in a jersey without a helmet and did rehab work.

Tyronne Green was in jersey and helmet but did not take part in the practice.

Jake Ballard returned to action and took seemingly regular reps in the workout after missing a couple practices.

--It wasn’t the hottest day of camp, and apparently not hot enough for Justin Francis’ liking. The second-year defensive lineman wore a hooded sweatshirt under his jersey/shells and joked afterwards that sometimes you have to push yourself a little bit extra.

--Former Patriots guard Joe Andruzzi was on the field. He’s held a role with the team’s strength and conditioning staff at various times in recent years.

--Devin McCourty returned to his red, non-contact No. 32 jersey after wearing a regular blue jersey for the scrimmage on Saturday. Despite the name of the jersey, it hasn’t appeared to limit anything that the defensive captain has done this summer.

--In one of those things he’ll likely never see in a game, Stephen Gostkowski took some field goal reps through a set of practice field goal posts that were quite crooked. Didn’t seem to bother him, though, that the posts missed their morning V-8s!

--New England filled a pair of open roster spots Monday morning by re-signing rookie free agents offensive lineman Matt Stankiewitch and long snapper Mike Zupancic.

--The almost continuous changing of the guard on the right side continues, as veteran tackle Will Svitek took the reps with the first unit throughout Monday’s action. He’s at least the fifth different guy to work with the group through the first week-plus of camp. Connolly has yet to practice as he works back from shoulder surgery. Cannon, Green and Zusevics have all gotten banged up in practice and were not taking part on Monday. Interestingly Svitek had primarily been rotating with Sebastian Vollmer at right tackle early in camp, as the returning starter works back to health after offseason knee surgery. Vollmer took all the reps next to Svitek today.

--One random observation on Svitek: the veteran was the only guy on the line in a three-point stance during some early group work on Monday. Not sure what to make of this. As a tackle it’s likely he has plenty of reps in a two-point stance, but today he chose the three-point approach even while left guard Logan Mankins and the rest of the unit were in two-point stances. Or, maybe this is just a look for a particular play. Either way, Svitek is showing continued versatility beyond his expected swing tackle role.

--Early in practice the first units on both sides of the ball worked some walk through reps on one field while backups went head-to-head in some opportunity reps in the field in front of the fan bleachers.

--Patriots owner Robert Kraft walked on the field during the practice and signed autographs for some lucky young fans.

--As things ramp up toward being in regular season form, New England unveiled new scout-team beanies/helmet covers for Monday’s workout. The look squad was uniformly in red, where as previously in camp the Dirty Show Team wore a hodgepodge of mismatching colors on their helmets.

--Julian Edelman got a lot of special teams work, moving around the kickoff return formation depending on what the kickoff team was expected to do. He showed nice hands to haul in one onside kick, unfortunately he also dropped a punt return attempt at one point.

--Leon Washington and Kenbrell Thompkins were the deep return men for a series of kickoffs.

--After watching from the sidelines for the last couple workouts, Alfonzo Dennard was back manning the right cornerback spot more often on Monday. Though it wasn’t the most competitive practice, it was more work than we’d seen from Dennard in previous days.

--Zoltan Mesko got some situational work in of his own. First he handled a couple free-kick situations, then he kicked from the back line of the end zone in a tight punt situation.

--Adrian Wilson is getting plenty of looks as the “money” player in sub situations – a linebacker-like role nearer the line of scrimmage.

--Brandon Bolden was also more active than we’d seen him the last few practices. Bolden had been working plenty of rehab running late last week, but was back working with the running backs on Monday. On the flipside, Shane Vereen seems to have been a bit limited in his work the last couple workouts, even though he’s been on the field and dressed for practice.

--Zach Sudfeld hauled in Hail Mary attempt in group work with the offensive line on one field early in practice. He then got some specific coaching on the play from offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. Later, during a team drill against the defense, Sudfeld came down with another Hail Mary attempt. Sudfeld actually had quite a few catches on the day in the up-tempo walkthrough.

--As he’s done all of camp, Aaron Dobson once again showed strong hands with a nice TD catch in the end zone, even if it wasn’t the most competitive of practices. He, too, was on the receiving end of a number of Brady throws. In fact, it seemed like most of No. 12’s tosses went to either Dobson, Sudfeld or Amendola.

--Conversely Josh Boyce had another show of suspect hands. He bobbled a few too many throws early in camp and then seemed to improve late last week in that area. Monday he dropped a pass right at the goal line that was supposed to be a sure touchdown. His hands have been too inconsistent this summer, especially in comparison to what Dobson has done. Speed kills, but so do dropped passes.

--Ryan Allen once again got reps working as the holder for Stephen Gostkowski field goal attempts late in practice, something we’ve seen a few times now this summer. Zupancic also got work on the snaps in the drill. Allen threw a TD pass to R.J. Mattes on a simulated bad snap situation on one field goal attempt late in the practice. Mattes showed surprising hands on the throw from the left-handed punter who was running to his left.

--Jake Bequette, Vince Wilfork, Justin Francis and a couple other Patriots met with the media after practice as they got ready to board buses for the airport.

--The Patriots will next practice with the Eagles on Tuesday in Philadelphia, then again on Wednesday and Thursday.

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