Saturday's practice in rainy Foxborough was the de facto close to the first part of training camp. New England's ninth practice – seventh in full pads – was the final one before the Jacksonville Jaguars come to town for three days of joint workouts ahead of the preseason opener next week.
Bill Belichick explained on Friday how the work with Jacksonville affects the rest of camp since it's difficult to continue the installation process with another team on the field.
"I'd say the biggest difference would be if we were not practicing against another team, we would continue to install things next week, so we'd continue to add things to our daily routine," the coach said before Friday's practice. "When you practice against another team, I think you're better off just going out there and running what you know. So, there won't be a lot of new installation next week for Jacksonville. We'll run what we've practiced through tomorrow and try to do it that way."
"If we weren't practicing against them, then we would continue to add things next week. But, we also would have to commit time to getting ready for the game next week, so running scout teams and running Jacksonville's plays against us, whereas when you practice against the team, that is the preparation. It kind of kills two birds with one stone there."
Belichick also talked on Friday about the need to introduce situational work into the daily mix. That process was in full effect during the intra-squad scrimmage but it continued in earnest on Saturday. Down-and-distance, clock situations, field goals with the clock stopped and running, two-minute drill, onside kicks, free kicks and just about every other scenario in between highlighted Saturday's work.
There was a lot of full 11-on-11 work on display with both offense and defense working off cards at times, as well as against each other under normal circumstances. The defense continued its strong play this summer and appeared to get the better of things, although with a lot of running game work and no real tackling going on, it's tough to gauge that sort of evaluation at times.
With the Jaguars set to hit town on Monday, here are one man's observations from the Patriots ninth practice of training camp.
Check out our favorite images from Patriots Training Camp at Gillette Stadium on Saturday, Aug. 5, 2017.
-The attendance list was a bit shorter on Saturday with just Matthew Slater missing practice. LB Dont'a Hightower and DT Alan Branch are still on PUP while rookie OL Andrew Jelks remains on NFI, but they continued their work on the lower field rehabbing. RB Mike Gillislee, TE James O'Shaughnessy, S David Jones, T Nate Solder and WR Cody Hollister were all in uniform but went to the lower field for their work. Solder missed the last two days of practice while Hollister had been out since July 28.
-There was more good news on the injury front. WRs Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola and Malcolm Mitchell remained on the regular practice fields throughout practice. That trio had been rehabbing on the lower field in recent days after stretching and positional drills. Amendola and Hogan actually took reps in full team action while Mitchell watched the proceedings after the early drills. S Duron Harmon also saw some action in 11-on-11, his first reps in several days. Also, G Joe Thuney, who left Friday's practice early with a member of the training staff, returned and took part fully in Saturday's workout.
-LaAdrian Waddle and Cameron Fleming both took reps in Solder's place. Waddle was the left tackle to open practice and Fleming rotated in periodically. At one point RT Marcus Cannon served as the extra tight end with Waddle and Fleming manning the tackle spots. In accordance with the rules, Cannon then left the field for the next play before returning in Fleming's spot at right tackle on the next snap.
-Rob Gronkowski was guilty of a false start on one of the first plays and had to run a lap. Even the mental error did little to quell his enthusiasm as the tight end had a jump in his step as he made his way around the field.
-There were five geese flying over the action at one point, not only missing one of their normal members but also failing to form a tight V shape that is normally seen. This of course caught the attention of Andy Hart, and therefore it makes its way into the blogservations.
-Dwayne Allen enjoyed a nice day, catching several balls from Tom Brady down the seam. He showed soft hands and nice body control on a couple of them, making adjustments on the ball and catching the ball effortlessly. He was moving well and looked to be capable of forming a nice tandem with Gronkowski.
-At one point during practice Malcolm Butler went to the stationary bike in between reps. The problem was the seat was too high for the 5-11 corner and his feat couldn't reach the pedals. He was forced to make the necessary adjustment to the seat before continuing.
-During drills before the 11-on-11 work, James Develin made a terrific one-handed catch off an out-and-up pattern that he and the rest of the tight ends and wideouts were practicing.
-Ryan Allen and Stephen Gostkowski worked together on the opposite field for much of the first part of practice. Gostkowski was fielding punts, and at one point the kicker did his best Deion Sanders imitation and caught one in stride, broke up field and raced to the sideline for a "touchdown." Gostkowski was moving pretty well.
-In case anyone was wondering, "The Boys of Fall" once again kicked off the stretching.
-There was a lot of work on the running game with Brandon Bolden, LeShun Daniels, Dion Lewis and James White received plenty of carries, particularly Bolden and Lewis. On one carry Bolden bounced one outside to the right but kept the ball in his left (inside) hand. This was reminiscent of a carry he had last year in the preseason game against Chicago when did the same thing near the goal line. With the ball inside he was stripped inside the 5 and the Bears wound up recovering. Perhaps Bolden is only comfortable running with the ball in his left hand but it seems to be a dangerous habit.
-The second offensive line featured some changes. With Waddle and Fleming both working mostly with the ones, Max Garcia (left) and Conor McDermott (right) manned the tackle spots. Ted Karras moved to left guard and was replaced at center by James Ferentz while Jamil Douglas handled things at right guard.
-Eric Rowe got the majority of reps as the third corner. At times the Patriots sub package featured three corners – Rowe, Butler and Stephon Gilmore – as well as three safeties with Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung and Harmon.
-Chung appeared to get shaken up on one play when he was stepped on. He remained in for a couple of plays but was eventually replaced by Jordan Richards. Chung did return, however.
-Jonathan Jones came up with a terrific pass defense on D.J. Foster deep down the right sideline. Foster had a step initially by Jones showed great closing speed and made a diving deflection off a Jacoby Brissett pass. Jones also showed nice coverage against Hogan and prevented a completion during a two-minute drill.
-The special teams periods featured the punt team as well as kick return work. Lewis and White worked together as returners, as did the Jones boys, Cyrus and Jonathan. Jonathan Jones dropped one of his attempts but managed to scoop it up.
-On one of the onside kick attempts, Gronkowski tried to bat the ball out of bounds but failed to connect. Gostkowski's kick continued toward the sideline anyway and went out of bounds but Gronkowski's attempt was funny to watch. The big tight end recovered the next attempt without incident.
-There was a good amount of hurry-up work at the end of practice. Neither Tom Brady nor Jimmy Garoppolo was overly sharp in their two-minute drills, and both were held out of the end zone. Brady picked up two first downs with underneath throws, but couldn't get any closer. A pair of throw-aways followed by an incompletion to Brandin Cooks down the left sideline (Cooks was looking for a penalty on Gilmore) led to the field goal, which Gostkowski didn't actually attempt.
-Garoppolo followed a short dump to Amendola with a bomb to Devin Lucien, who hauled in the pass between Cyrus Jones and Nate Ebner. He was forced to retrieve a low Ferentz snap on the nest play, and followed that with a horribly thrown pass that Ebner picked off. The interception wobbled badly out of Garoppolo's hand, and with the rain falling steadily at that point it brought thoughts of his ability to grip the ball in adverse conditions.
-The quarterbacks then alternated snaps the rest of the way as Belichick changed up scenarios on the fly. There would be completions with the clock running that required the field goal unit to rush onto the field, followed by completions that necessitated a spike to stop the clock. Both executed these situations fairly well.
-Practice ended with the entire team moving toward the hill connecting the upper and lower practice fields for some conditioning runs.
-Amendola, Gilmore, Bolden, McCourty, Kenny Moore, Lawrence Guy, Trey Flowers and Dwayne Thomas were among the players who conducted interviews on Saturday.
-The Patriots have Sunday off and will be back at it on Monday at 9:30 a.m. when the Jacksonville Jaguars will be on hand for the first of three days of joint practices in Foxborough. Monday and Tuesday's work will be open to the public. Please check with Patriots.com for all the latest updates to the training camp schedule.