The Patriots officially announced the signing of Eric Decker on Friday evening. By Saturday morning, the veteran wide receiver was in pads and on the practice fields.
Decker, donning the No. 81, took part in his first practice with his new team and all things considered made a pretty positive first impression. Although he did not take part in any competitive drills, he looked sharp catching the ball and running his routes.
The ninth-year veteran looked like he had fresh legs as he took part in the wide receiver drills at the start of practice. He then ran smoothly when catching balls from the quarterbacks, including Tom Brady, as the workout continued. Decker mostly watched when there was an opposition of any kind, whether it was in one-on-one, seven-on-seven or any full team periods.
Mike Lombardi, who was part of the Patriots organization from 2014-16 as a special assistant to the coaching staff, tweeted recently that Decker had lost speed and had trouble dealing with press coverage. He added that it would not be a surprise to see Decker cut before the start of the season.
Based solely on an admittedly small first impression, Decker ran well and looks like he has the ability to something to the receiver depth chart.
Low intensity reps
With more than a week of training camp now in the books, one thing has become apparent: the intensity and tempo in practice has been lacking. Whether by design (that certainly looked to be the case on Saturday) or not, the Patriots have not have many days when things seemed to be performed at a high level.
While there have been a few instances where the hitting has been noticeable – goal line, Oklahoma drills, one-on-ones with the offensive lines and defensive lines – but those periods have been few and far between. Linebacker Elandon Roberts was asked about the lack of tackling at practice and whether that had a negative impact on players as they prepare for the start of the season.
"You get paid to tackle but at the same time you can implement a lot into it," Roberts said. "If I'm running at a running back in the open field, and I can't tackle him, I'm going to work on my fundamentals. I'm going to get in a great position so when I do tag him off I know I was in a great position and I would be able to make the tackle."
Roberts was also asked his thoughts on the NFL's controversial new helmet rule, which already has caused confusion after just one preseason game. The linebacker initially said he would simply keep his head up when tackling, but then he was asked if he watched the Hall of Fame Game between Chicago and Baltimore in which several seemingly routine tackles were flagged.
Roberts paused for several seconds when asked what he thought of the calls.
"You got me," Roberts said, clearly not wanting to offer his true feelings on what is sure to be a controversial topic this season.
The Patriots will be off on Sunday and whatever is planned for Monday will not be open to the public or media. After nine practices, six of which have been conducted in full pads, the players were eager for some rest.
"We definitely need a day off," Roberts said. "Get my body right, go back and watch the practices on my own time to see what I did. Everybody has their own routine. I'll probably come in to see the trainer, get another lift in and probably jog a little bit."
Defensive end Trey Flowers agreed. "It's cool," he said. "[Belichick] understands how hard we work and how much we put into it. You still have come in a get your body right and prepare well and stay on top of everything. It's camp."
Flowers missed some practice time on Friday and had been sporting a bandage covering a cut on his head, but was back on Saturday. He was in full uniform and retreated to the rehab field at the start of practice but returned shortly thereafter.
"It was just a bang-bang play down there on the goal line," Flowers said of the cut while explaining that his missed time on the field wasn't for anything serious.
Buy: Eric Decker – It wasn't against any defense and it was just one day but the veteran wideout looked fresh, ran well and caught the ball effectively in his first day in Foxborough.
Sell: Julian Edelman – Edelman has had a strong camp but Sunday was not his best. He had several drops and the wideout was frustrated with himself as a result.
Play of the Day: It was tough to find many candidates on a day that featured very little competitive drills but Danny Etling's throw to Ryan Izzo down the slot qualifies. Izzo reached back with one hand to grab the pass, then absorbed an accidently hit from safety A.J. Moore and held onto the ball as he hit the ground.
The PUP list is down to the three with Jonathan Jones (Achilles), Cyrus Jones (ACL) and Nate Ebner (ACL) still relegated to rehab work. Marcus Cannon, Sony Michel, Jason King and Marquis Flowers were not spotted on Saturday. Jeff Howe of The Athletic tweeted out that Flowers was absent due to the birth of his child.
Kenny Britt and Malcolm Mitchell were in full pads but did mostly rehab work. Mitchell joined Matthew Slater, Ebner and the two Joneses on the rehab field while Britt did some receiver drills. Britt appeared to come up lame trying to catch one pass and, as was the case on Friday, was sort of in and out of practice the rest of the way. He walked around the fields, chatted with Robert Kraft and even spent time with some children (presumably his family) but didn't take part in any competitive drills. He also went to the rehab field.
Ty Law and Rob Ninkovich were at practice. Law chatted with safeties coach Steve Belichick as he watched the workout.