Late last season and into the playoffs Danny Amendola seemed to earn an increased role in the New England offense and inside the circle of trust of Tom Brady's top targets.
Tuesday afternoon – with Julian Edelman not in attendance on the Patriots training camp practice fields behind Gillette Stadium – Amendola was once again a favored target of the New England quarterbacks.
Returning from a day off on Monday, Bill Belichick's team took the field in full pads for an afternoon workout under sunny skies and warm temperatures.
Edelman, who looked to have maybe gotten a little shaken up late in Sunday's practice, was on the practice field early on Tuesday but exited just as early to the indoor practice facility and did not appear for the rest of the two-hour session.
[wysifield-embeddedaudio|eid="345351"|type="embeddedaudio"|view_mode="full"]Amendola took his usual reps mixed in with the top pass catchers and, as he's been all summer, was quite productive. That was especially true late in the workout when he beat Tarell Brown for a touchdown from Tom Brady and shortly thereafter beat Bradley Fletcher for a score from Jimmy Garoppolo.
Amendola has easily been – along with Edelman and Rob Gronkowski – one of the top three pass catchers on the practice field this summer. As he proved last year, he now seems quite comfortable and ready to be leaned on either as a complementary weapon or to fill the void if a guy like Edelman is out of action.
Beyond Amendola's nice day, here are one man's blogservations of a beautiful afternoon on the Patriots practice fields:
Check out our favorite photos from day five of Patriots Training Camp at Gillette Stadium on Tuesday, August 4, 2015.
--Six players (Matthew Slater, Brandon LaFell, Dane Fletcher, Chris White, Ryan Wendell and Chris Jones) remain on PUP. Three players (Matt Flynn, Caylin Hauptmann and Alan Branch) remain on NFI. Those nine obviously missed practice once again.
--Tyler Gaffney, Marcus Cannon, Joe Vellano and AJ Derby were absent from the practice field. Vellano left Sunday's practice early, while Cannon is a new absentee.
--Edelman was not on the field for very long and then missed the entirety of the workout after an initial appearance.
--Dont'a Hightower remains in a red, non-contact jersey while rookie Xzavier Dickson shed the protective attire for a traditional blue jersey.
--Fletcher and Branch put in pretty intense workouts early on over on the Revs practice field. Flynn spent some time on the stationary bike before watching the bulk of the practice with the rest of the offense. Belichick has said the veteran backup is close to a return to the practice field.
--Wide receiver Brian Tyms was carted off the field after taking a big hit from cornerback Robert McClain in a breakoff tackling drill. McClain actually put forth a pretty, form tackle lifting the receiver up and driving him to the ground with his shoulder. Tyms remained down for a while before leaving on the cart with what appeared to be an upper body injury.
--For the second time in camp this summer there were scouts from the Canadian Football League in attendance at the practice.
--Brown has changed his number from 9 to 31, although he said it's not necessarily his final choice. He's working on some deals at this point for more preferable number.
--The Patriots signed four players on Tuesday, all were at the practice. That included fullback Eric Kettani, linebacker Cameron Gordon, linebacker L.J. Fort and defensive lineman A.J. Pataiali'l. Kettani spent time with New England from 2009-12, most on the practice squad as an undrafted rookie out of Navy. Gordon was on the Patriots injured reserve list last year.
--Offensive lineman Harland Gunn, awarded to the Patriots off waivers from the Falcons on Monday, was on the field taking part in his first practice. He wore No. 70 and worked at guard.
--With the new additions the Patriots have an L.J., an AJ and an A.J. on the roster. So there's that.
--Listed as a safety and getting reps as a linebacker, undrafted rookie Brandon King also continues to get a lot of special teams work in small group action with Joe Judge. Tuesday that included some interior punt rush drills. King was also working with Matthew Wells, Dickson and Nate Ebner, who took reps as a personal protector for the segment.
--Fans greeted Tom Brady with a group rendition of "Happy Birthday" a day after the quarterback turned 38 on the team's day off.
--The wide receivers and defensive backs did some early 1-on-1s in the red zone. Malcolm Butler blanketed Aaron Dobson on one rep. Darryl Roberts did a nice job on Tyms. A bit later Dobson was well covered by Daxton Swanson and the receiver dropped the ball. Butler confidently gave the incomplete signal with his arms after shutting down Tyms.
--Gunn had to do a penalty lap.
--The offense and defense did an interior running drill yet again. One notable rep saw Jamie Collins pop and knock down Jonas Gray, maybe a bit late. Nate Solder came to his back's defense and got into it ever so briefly with the linebacker. That's a good sign for the left tackle as a potential leader of a new-look unit that could be looking for guys to step up in that area after losing captains Logan Mankins and Dan Connolly over the last two summers.
--Rookie Geneo Grissom has had a pretty quiet camp so far, but he did have a nice 1-on-1 victory over Chris Barker in drill work.
--By the way, we do have to issue a belated Happy Birthday. No, not to, Brady. Rather to Barker, the offensive lineman he also celebrated Monday by turning 25. No one sang for him during practice.
--Brady and Garoppolo took their usual spots on the opposite field during the special teams segment focused on kickoff return. Brady worked with Rob Gronkowski, Scott Chandler and Aaron Dobson in one area while Garoppolo worked with a group of assistant coaches giving him secondary looks in another part of the field.
[wysifield-embeddedaudio|eid="345376"|type="embeddedaudio"|view_mode="full"]--During the kickoff return work James Develin was once again back deep serving as the up back or blocker for returner Danny Amendola. Another group had Travaris Cadet as the returner with McClain as the off man.
--Harvard men's basketball coach Tommy Amaker was in attendance for the practice session.
--Ernie Adams is a man of mystery the Patriots football research director. He attends every practice and watches seemingly every bit of action. Tuesday, he was notable because he dropped his practice play sheet and had to chase it across the field in a light breeze.
--Grissom, guard Shaq Mason and Trey Flowers worked as the three blockers in front of the kickoff returners.
--During early 7-on-7 reps Butler and Brown took spots on the outside at corner with Logan Ryan working in the slot. Devin McCourty and Duron Harmon were in the safety spot with Jerod Mayo and Collins at linebacker. McClain then replaced Ryan for some reps working with Butler and Brown. The next set of reps saw Swanson and Jimmy Jean on the outside with McClain in the slot and Patrick Chung and Jordan Richards at safety. Jonathan Freeny and James Morris worked at linebacker. Safe to say there are a lot of moving pieces in the back end at this early point in the process.
--Flowers took a penalty lap for jumping early in a 1-on-1 drill with the offensive linemen.
--The ball boys continue to use large paddles to recreate the long arms of pass rushers in passing drills, and once again got a piece of at least one throw on Tuesday.
--Garoppolo threw an interception past Jimmay Mundine that hit Nate Ebner in the chest for the turnover.
--The backup's receivers didn't help him though, as a subsequent throw on a quick drag route zipped right through Chandler's hands.
[wysifield-embeddedaudio|eid="345371"|type="embeddedaudio"|view_mode="full"]--The early group in 11-on-11 nickel work for defense had a front line of Jabaal Sheard, Malcom Brown, Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich from left to right, with Collins and Mayo at linebacker. The secondary consisted of Butler and Brown at corner with Ryan in the slot. Chung and McCourty were at safety. Fletcher and Roberts came in next on the outside, while Harmon and Richards were next up at safety.
--Without necessarily counting, it looked like Garoppolo took a much higher percentage of the reps in most drills on Tuesday. Things had bene pretty balanced between he and Brady through the first four workouts in camp. May have been just a day to dial it back a bit for Brady.
--Brady did have his own bad interception in 11-on-11 work when a short in-cut throw for Josh Boyce was undercut by Butler for the pick. The pass never had a chance to get to Boyce. Butler celebrated by seemingly pointing the ball at Brady. The two Super Bowl heroes have been going at it a bit in practice the first few days of summer work.
--With Cannon absent Cameron Fleming took right tackle reps opposite Solder. The next group of linemen included, from left to right, Chris Barker, Josh Kline, David Andrews, Gunn and Jordan Devey. Barker seemed to struggle at left tackle, at one point getting pushed back into Garoppolo.
--Willie McGinest, who'll be inducted into the Patriots team Hall of Fame in a ceremony at the Hall at Patriots Place presented by Raytheon on Wednesday night, was on the field for the latter part of the practice. He spent some time chatting on the field and then was introduced to speak to the team by Belichick at the conclusion of the workout.
--There was a slow period of teaching/walk through late in practice. The entire session was a bit shorter and less intense than the first two days of hitting.
--Even with fewer reps, Brady had a couple different plays where he failed to find an open target and had to either pull the ball down or throw it away.
--Rob Gronkowski had a drop on a throw that was slightly behind him from Garoppolo. It was notable because it's such a rare occurrence for No. 87.
--The defensive dominated a late goal line segment. On one snap both right guard Tre' Jackson and right tackle Fleming were very slow to get off the ball on the snap.
--Gronkowski seemed to get his right arm banged up on a goal line play. He left the drill and took a knee behind the offense where he had a short chat with trainer Jim Whalen. He did not do anything the rest of the day, sitting out a late hurry-up drill. He was flexing the arm but declared himself fine after practice.
--Zach Moore blocked a late field goal (it looked like it may have been a scripted block). The second-year defensive lineman jumped completely over the line of blockers to get the ball.
--The PAT/FG block team also worked with Butler and McClain trying to get to kicks off the edge.
--McClain, Chung, Amendola, Jonathan Krause and Roberts worked catching Ryan Allen punts at the end of practice. McClain badly misjudged one in the wind that was picking up at the time as a weird weather pattern began to move through the area.
--After Collins finished his usual work with linebackers he came over and also fielded a punt. He caught it easily and made a couple jukes to mimic a return. He looked every bit as athletic and normal in the role as any of the other more traditional return types. Another example of his freakish athletic ability.
--Gordon worked all alone with a one-man sled for a long time after the end of practice in his first day back in New England.
--Cadet also was one of the last players on the field.
--Garoppolo was also on the field very late. The backup walks off each day icing his shoulder and arm, not something that Brady generally does out on the field.
--Those players talking to the media after practice included Gronkowski, Tarell Brown, Bryan Stork (he's just working to get better, if you wondered), Devin McCourty, Rob Ninkovich and others.
--The Patriots will practice inside Gillette Stadium on Wednesday night at 7 p.m. in a ticketed event that will follow the induction ceremony for McGinest and Houston Antwine's induction into the Hall.