The Patriots held a late-morning workout in shells and helmets on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium on Tuesday.
The tempo of the practice wasn't nearly as high as has been the case of late, which may be understandable given the fact that it did not take place in full pads. Much of the team action consisted of the groups on both offense and defense working against scout teams running plays off cards, another aspect that lowers the competitive feel of practice.
As has been the case in recent days the offense once again struggled a bit with its timing and consistency in the passing game. At one point early in group work Tom Brady even punted a ball in frustration after a rep. Brady has let his frustration show quite a bit in recent days. No. 12 has also continued to spend significant time with his receivers showing them exactly how he wants routes run, right down to body control, head fakes and how he wants them to come in and out of their breaks.
Tuesday's workout also took place under cloudy skies with cool temperatures and rain showers fell a couple times during the session as the team continued to work toward Thursday night's second preseason affair in Tampa Bay against the young, upstart Bucs.
Beyond that, here are one man's observations from the practice fields:
–As has been the case for the last few days, 21 players did not participate in the practice. That group included Julian Edelman, Taylor Price, Brandon Tate, Ras-I Dowling, Shane Vereen, Kevin Faulk, James Sanders, Malcolm Williams, Eric Kettani, Josh Barrett, Christian Cox, Jeff Tarpinian, Brandon Spikes, Marcus Cannon, Ryan Wendell, Brandon Deaderick, Albert Haynesworth, Shaun Ellis, Jermaine Cunningham, Ron Brace and Mike Wright.
Players on the field watching in shorts included Edelman, Tate, Dowling, Vereen, Faulk, Sanders and Barrett. Faulk and Sanders actually carried their helmets onto the practice field with them, although they did not participate in anything.
A few other players walked through the practice field, including Brace and Deaderick.
Cunningham missed his second straight day after not finishing practice on Sunday. Edelman and Price have been absent since last Thursday's preseason opener.
–Chad Ochocinco jogged off the practice field and into Gillette early in practice. The receiver then returned wearing his shells (smaller, foam shoulder pads) over his jersey. Previously Ochocinco had not worn his shells during practices in which most other players were in such attire.
No. 85 did continue to wear his bright gold cleats that he debuted on Monday. Ochocinco seemed to have some extra energy early, doing some dancing during drill work with the rest of the receivers early in practice.
–After Brady punted the ball in frustration during early practice group red zone work, Ochocinco fell down when he got his legs tangled in an ensuing rep. Brady also had to pull the ball down on a roll out in the series, running for the would-be touchdown against a skeleton defense. He spiked the ball, although it was unclear if it was in celebration or frustration.
–Ochocinco feigned that he was going to dunk the ball through the goal posts after catching a touchdown from Brady in the drill.
–During kickoff return work Darius Butler, Sammy Morris and Jeremy Ross were back deep.
–In many of the segments during the day Brady and Brian Hoyer worked with the team offensive group while Ryan Mallett ran scout team reps for the defense.
–I noted in the past how it was interesting that Brady's top three targets have sequential jersey numbers with 83 (Welker), 84 (Deion Branch) and 85 (Ochocinco). The same type of thing exists with the 4-3 linebackers, a group that includes 50 (Rob Ninkovich), 51 (Jerod Mayo) and 52 (Dane Fletcher). Of course that could change when Spikes (55) returns from injury.
–Nate Solder continued to take early left tackle reps with an offensive line that also consisted of Logan Mankins, Dan Koppen, Dan Connolly and Sebastian Vollmer. Rich Ohrnberger rotated in with the group at time for Connolly, while Matt Light did the same at left tackle for Solder.
–At one point in team action with the top offense running plays against a look defense, Welker had to have his ankle re-taped. While he was sidelined, Matthew Slater took some reps with in a spread look that also included Branch, Ochocinco and Rob Gronkowski.
–Brady and Ochocinco had another deep ball, connecting down the middle for a long gain against a scout D.
–During most many of the three tight end looks in recent days undrafted rookie (and former lacrosse player) Will Yeatman joins Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez on the field. The former Notre Dame and Maryland player, who played for Charlie Weis at Notre Dame, is certainly making a bid to compete for the potential third tight end job on the regular season roster.
–The second offensive line group to get reps included Steve Maneri at left tackle, Jonathan Compas at left guard, Ohrnberger at center, Thomas Austin at right guard and Mark LeVoir at right tackle. It looked like Connolly also took some reps with the group at center.
–Things got a little ugly at one opint in team work, with the "Patriots" running plays against look teams. Both the offensive and defensive scout teams made personnel mistakes to the point where the entire defense ran a penalty lap, followed by the entire offense a few minutes later. Never good when you have to run penalty laps because your scout team can't correctly run plays drawn up on cards.
–Vince Wilfork and Kyle Love continue to hold down the tackle spots in the 4-3 defensive fronts. Next in line at the position on Tuesday were Myron Pryor and Gerard Warren.
–Running back Stevan Ridley participated fully in the practice. The rookie was attended to by trainers for a time period during Monday's practice. He returned to action in the bubble yesterday and didn't seem to be limited in any way today.
–Patrick Chung has struggled at various times in coverage in camp, especially matched up against Gronkowski. But the safety had a pair of interceptions on Tuesday. The first came from Brady and was intended from Branch. The second was from Hoyer and intended for Gronkowski.
–Chung, Brandon Meriweather and Sergio Brown rotated at the safety spot in many of the defensive sets. Brown is a second-year former undrafted player who seems to be making a bid for a bigger role with the team.
–In many some situations Eric Moore, Fletcher and Ninkovich leave the field, with an extra cornerback (many times Kyle Arrington), Gary Guyton and Mark Anderson coming on.
–Buddy Farnham, Branch and Welker all took punt return reps.
–Brady heated things up a bit in seven-on-seven in the red zone. He completed a touchdown to Branch, immediately followed by a score to Hernandez. He kept things rolling with scores to Ochocinco and Welker.
Mallett continued the offensive momentum in the drill, finding Hernandez and then Ridley for consecutive scores. That caused a young fan in the crowd to yell, "Play some defense!"
Hoyer rand the seven-on-seven scout look, and hit a touchdown to Carson Butler. He completed a throw to Farnham, but Mayo swatted the ball from his hands just after the catch. Meriweather then had a chance for an interception – a potential pick-six in a game – but dropped the ball.
–Coming off his interception in the preseason opener against Jacksonville, Farnham once again got some reps at safety in practice.
–Practiced close with some field goal work. Adding a little spice to the segment, Bill Belichick allowed both Welker and Ochocinco to attempt 34-yard field goals. Both players missed the kicks wide left. Fans may remember that Welker filled in as a kicker for the Patriots last year, and against the Patriots back when he played for Miami. Ochocinco filled in at kicker for the Bengals against New England.
–After practice Hoyer, Gronkowski, Branch, Mayo, Vollmer and a handful of other Patriots did interviews with the media.
–The Patriots will return to the practice field on Wednesday for a walkthrough at 1:00 pm. That workout is open to the public.