Defense was the name of the game when the Patriots took the field Thursday afternoon wearing shorts, helmets and the mini shoulder pads that have been a staple for the second of double session workouts this summer.
Defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel and secondary coach Eric Mangini went over a few schemes during the early part of practice, paying particular attention to the subpackages. The nickel and dime sets got plenty of work and looked solid throughout the steamy afternoon.
The nickel saw one slight change as Antwan Harris joined the starting four in the secondary. He replaced Victor Green. Up front, Bobby Hamilton, Richard Seymour, Anthony Pleasant and Willie McGinest provided the pass rush while Tedy Bruschi and Roman Phifer served as linebackers.
Whether the drills were designed for defensive work against a scout team offense or vice versa, Crennel's boys seemed to get the better of things. In fact, the second unit, which consisted of Tony Scott, Je'Rod Cherry, Chris Hayes, Ben Kelly and Daryl Porter in the defensive backfield and Ula Tuitele and Ratcliff Thomas as the linebackers dominated a 7-on-7 drill. Scott and Kelly in particular provided tough coverage and knocked away several passes.
The offense wasn't without its moments, however. Tight end Arther Love, who struggled catching the ball early in camp, has been coming on lately. He made one of the best catches of the summer during some down and distance work against the dime defense. He was running a route over the middle as a scout receiver and Rohan Davey tried to hit him between the hashmarks.
Davey's pass was high and well behind Love, but the second-year tight end jumped and twisted his body, reaching back with his hands and managing to hold onto the pass. His efforts drew a roar of approval from most all of his teammates.
Toward the end of practice, Tom Brady chucked a beautiful touchdown pass to rookie David Givens in the end zone. Givens got behind Jimmy Hitchcock on the play and caught the pass in the back left corner of the end zone.
Special teams coach Brad Seely also found time to work some of the defensive backs and wide receivers in the kicking game. Cherry, Kelly, Hitchcock, Tebucky Jones, Freddie "Boom Boom" Coleman, Givens and Jimmy Farris got some work as vice guys while they alternated between the gunner position.
The coaches likely kept a close eye on the wideouts work in this drill since special teams figures to be the deciding factor for roster spots. With the top four likely set in stone, the fifth spot will go to whoever performs best in these types of roles.
Offensive coordinator Charlie Weis was back on the field in the afternoon, buzzing around the huddle in his golf cart. He's becoming more and more vocal with each practice, offering encouragement to his troops. That can only mean the affable coach is feeling better as he recovers from his surgery. Belichick said he'd likely return to duty Saturday against the Eagles at Gillette Stadium.