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More Patriots OTA observations from afar of players not wearing jersey numbers

Posted May 29, 2013

The media got another look at Patriots OTAs on Wednesday. Here are some observations from the practice fields of Foxborough.

New England held its fifth OTA workout of the spring on Wednesday on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium, the second of which was open to the media. The workout once again took place in helmets and short/sweats, with players wearing numberless jerseys.

The weather was cloudy but dry until the very end of the session when a few rain drops fell from the sky and the temperature was comfortably in the high 60s.

As is generally the case in these pad-less sessions, the bulk of the work focused on the passing game on both sides of the ball in what was a relatively competitive session that saw the defense get its hands on a lot of passes.

So, here are one man’s observations from afar of an OTA session with players not wearing jersey numbers. Take them as they are intended, with every note to be read with an “ish” at the end!

--Based on collective media attendance work, 84 players currently on the Patriots 90-man roster were seen on the field for the workout. The six guys not spotted included Brandon Spikes, Rob Gronkowski (arm), Julian Edelman (foot), Brandon Bolden (ankle), Nick McDonald and Will Svitek. Spikes, Gronkowski, Edelman and Bolden were all absent from the media’s first look at OTAs last week.

Spikes continues to be absent from the voluntary OTA work, and reportedly will continue to work on his own until he’s expected to take part in the Patriots mandatory veteran mini-camp on June 11.

Rookie receivers Josh Boyce (foot) and Mark Harrison (foot) rode the stationary bike alongside rookie defensive back Duron Harmon early in the session before moving along to watch the workouts with their respective positional groups. Harrison actually carried a clipboard with him from the bikes and then as he watched the offense work.

Aaron Hernandez (shoulder), Dan Connolly (shoulder), Sebastian Vollmer (knee), Nate Ebner, Niko Koutouvides and Devin McCourty (shoulder) all did rehab work at various points during the practice rather than taking part in drills with their teammates.

--Former Patriots offensive lineman Joe Andruzzi was the one putting Connolly and Vollmer through the paces of their rehab running, timing the lineman as they worked. Andruzzi has worked in an assistant strength and conditioning type role with the team at various points in recent years.

--Brian Daboll, the former Chiefs offensive coordinator who’s officially listed as an offensive assistant in New England, continues to appear to be working with the offensive line group under the watch of Dante Scarnecchia. Daboll seems to be focusing his work with the tackles, and took a group of them to do drills together early in practice.

--Danny Amendola had another pretty impressive workout. He drew the vocal praise of offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels early in practice during group work with the quarterbacks. Later, he made a nice diving catch as he fought for a deep ball down the field to beat Alfonzo Dennard.

--As was the case last week, there was some work on the running game early in the overall pass-heavy session. There was a bit of a mix-up at one point as Tom Brady and LeGarrette Blount collided on a handoff attempt on a would-be goal line run.

--Punt return was the special teams focus of the day. Leon Washington was the first to take his reps at returner in both group and team return drills. He was followed by Amendola, Lavelle Hawkins and T.J. Moe.

--Washington has shown impressive burst early in camp, on both returns and in work as a running back. For a guy who had just 23 rushes and four receptions last season as a running back in Seattle, Washington has gotten a lot of reps on offense in OTA action. While Shane Vereen is certainly the presumed replacement as the top third down/change of pace back after Danny Woodhead’s departure, Washington looks like he could certainly still help out in that role based on two pad-less practices.

--Zach Sudfeld, the undrafted rookie tight end out of Nevada, is one of the easiest guys to keep track of on the OTA field thanks to his long blonde hair that flows well out of the back of his helmet. Maybe the Patriots quarterbacks feel the same way, as they seemed to be throwing to the rookie quite a bit on Wednesday. So far, Sudfeld looks pretty solid in his route running and catching the football. I just hope they don’t cut his hair, then he’ll be just another guy I won’t be able to figure out without a jersey number.

--Jake Ballard also got plenty of reps and caught a few balls, although he still seems to be running with a limp. This could also simply be his post-knee surgery gait.

--Michael Jenkins had another bad drop in group work with the quarterbacks, following up on a tough first OTA workout last week. Aaron Dobson also had a pretty bad drop in group action.

--Three Belichicks were on the field for the workout. Obviously Bill Belichick took his usual role overseeing the practice, spending time with both sides of the ball. Steve Belichick – an assistant coach – was in his regular role working with the defense. And youngest son Brian Belichick was in the house, spending some time serving as the scout team quarterback for the defense during some group work.

--Loud music played from the portable speakers on the field during team action on the far field. The playlist opened with some AC/DC before moving on to a few different U2 songs.

--Dobson made a nice jumping catch down the field over Dennard at one point.

--The defense showed a lot of competitive spirit and good breaks on the ball throughout the day. Dane Fletcher had a nice pass defense on Sudfeld. For the most part the defensive backs were all quite competitive in coverage.

--Fletcher seemed to be getting a lot of reps at middle linebacker as he returns from injury and considering that Spikes has not practiced this spring.

--One portion of practice involved a lot of timing throws and fade patterns with the quarterbacks lobbing the ball to a spot for the receivers. Washington made a nice sliding catch down the sideline in the drill, although he may have been out of bounds.

--Practice wrapped up with Mike Kafka leading an offense against a defense of mostly younger players similar to what is generally referred to as “opportunity” reps at the end training camp sessions. The veteran players were on the near field at that point doing some conditioning work.

--Neither Bill Belichick nor Tom Brady met with the media, but the list of players that did speak with reporters included Ballard, Logan Mankins, Tommy Kelly, Rob Ninkovich, Chandler Jones and Stevan Ridley.

--The media’s next chance to watch OTA action in Foxborough will come on June 4.

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