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Mini-camp Blogservations: Rainy conditions slow down offense

Check out our favorite photos from the Patriots mini-camp on Tuesday, June 6, 2017. 

It would be tough to imagine the Patriots conducting their mini-camp in worse conditions than those that greeted the 88 players in uniform on Tuesday. Unseasonably cold temperatures that hovered in the mid-40s were joined by a steady rain and occasionally blustery winds. If the calendar read March instead of June it would have been understandable, but the team managed to work through the less-than-ideal environment.

"We've got a lot to work on, so today will give us another step there in that preparation," Bill Belichick said before practice got underway. "Dealing with a little bit of weather, which is good. We can always use that, so I'm looking forward to having a good day out here today."

Belichick reported that all players were on hand for the first of three mandatory mini-camp sessions but two players were not spotted on the field. Nate Solder and undrafted rookie tackle Andrew Jelks were not among those seen, but they weren't the only ones not participating.

Alan Branch, Dont'a Hightower and Malcolm Mitchell, all of whom were not spotted on May 25 during the lone OTA session open to the media, were in uniform but spent the day working on conditioning. Hightower and Mitchell rode stationary bikes during the pre-practice portion of the workout, and then joined Branch for some conditioning running on the lower field.

The sloppy conditions made for another difficult day for the pass catchers as several passes glanced off receivers' hands and quarterbacks had some trouble controlling both the snap and their passes. Still, it was an opportunity to view some on-field work and here are one man's blogservations from Day 1 of mini-camp.

-The practice field in the far rear featured a new addition in the end zone outside of the Patriots cheerleaders warehouse. Two video boards sat outside the end zone with the one of the right showing some replays of the events. The company is called Lyvve Coach and according to its website the technology provides instant live video from the camera to the coach. "Designed with the coach in mind, it is the world's first and most cost effective practice field replay system. Coaches gain a competitive edge that is unparalleled in the space of video analysis. Each play is automatically created and "loops" until the next play is executed. Video is displayed on a Sunlight readable 12-foot-x-7-foot mobile display." It was hard to tell how much the coaches were keeping tabs on the videos as it seemed like there wasn't much time to watch in between plays or drills but it is another avenue the Patriots are exploring in order to improve their overall operation.

-With Solder not on the field Cameron Fleming stepped in at left tackle in a group that including Joe Thuney at left guard, David Andrews at center, Shaq Mason at right guard and Marcus Cannon at right tackle. Fleming and the other tackles also spent time working on combination blocks with the tight ends early in practice.

-The conditions were so tricky that undrafted rookie running back LeShun Daniels dropped a flip from Ivan Fears during a pre-practice drill. The backs typically run through pads in a variety of ways before practice and Fears flips them a ball as they dart through. It may be the first time I've ever noticed the ball hitting the ground on such an occasion.

-There were a couple of minor scares during the practice but none seemed to be worth worrying about. Early on Patrick Chung and Ron Gronkowski collided and Chung appeared to be limping shortly thereafter. Gronk was fine and went about his business but Chung took a few minutes to shake it off. He returned quickly and participated in the remainder of the workout.

Later Chris Hogan was limping when he appeared to get stepped on and he took some time trying to walk it off. Tom Brady was speaking to him about a route that he had run earlier as the wideout tried to recover and Hogan soon returned for the duration of practice and was seemingly unaffected.

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-Early prediction: Brandin Cooks is going to be a fan favorite. Not only is the wideout a dynamic and dangerous weapon but he also appears to have the type of outgoing and infectious personality that will endear himself to the masses. Cooks has looked razor sharp in the two practices we've seen, and on Tuesday he got the better of Malcolm Butler with a double move working on two-man routes against a pair of corners. Later he caught a beautiful touchdown in 11-on-11 work as he snared Brady's pass over his outside shoulder while managing to keep his feet in bounds. After many of his catches Cooks likes to celebrate in various ways, often using the ball in some fashion. Few players are as happy as he appears to be that the league has relaxed its rules regarding celebrations, and the Patriots haven't had a player with that type of attitude in quite some time. Assuming Cooks is as productive when it counts, fans will no doubt love his enthusiasm.

-In the same drill that Cooks got the better of Butler, Stephon Gilmore showed nice coverage on Hogan on a deep ball. Gilmore got inside position and ran with Hogan, effectively taking away any passing lane Brady had on the play and the pass fell incomplete.

-At least five members of the Florida coaching staff braved the elements to watch practice. The cold rain had to be a harsh greeting for those making the trip up from the Sunshine state.

-About midway through practice Duron Harmon went to the lower field with trainer Joe Van Allen, apparently due to an injury of some sort. He returned with Branch, Mitchell and Hightower but did not take part in the full team work.

-Jonathan Jones continues to be one of the more interesting stories of the spring. The media has been on hand for two practices and each one has featured Jones working as the third corner in the slot. He lined up with Butler (left) and Gilmore (right) and displayed tight coverage against Cooks on an attempted deep ball. Jones was right on Cooks' hip down the right sideline and was able to prevent Brady from hooking up with his new weapon for one of the few times during the practice.

The slot corner spot figures to be one of the few positions up for grabs heading into training camp. Eric Rowe could factor in as the third corner with Butler likely moving into the slot in that case. Or Jones could surprise and continue working with the starting group.

"Jonathan is one of a number of players that are in their second year that you usually see a level of jump from those guys because they've been through our system before and have a better understanding of what's in the league and other schemes and so forth," Belichick said before practice. "I think all those guys from our rookie class last year have all made good progress – definitely ahead of where they were last year."

-D.J. Foster is another Year 2 player who has been making plays this spring. He is one of the few players who seems unaffected by the weather in terms of catching the ball, and on Tuesday he made several catches on a variety of routes. He could join James White and Dion Lewis as versatile options in the Patriots backfield, perhaps even making Lewis expendable depending on his development.

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-Danny Amendola and Dwayne Allen haven't been as fortunate dealing with the rain. Amendola slipped on at least two occasions and struggled to catch the football. Allen has suffered at least a half dozen drops in the two practices we've seen, and the tight end showed some frustration on Tuesday. He got free to grab a touchdown down the seam from Jimmy Garoppolo, and as he fell into the end zone he fired the ball into the air and let out a scream. He was visibly upset with himself on a number of occasions.

-Andrew Hawkins is also dealing with the dropsies. The slot receiver had a few passes sail through his hands on Tuesday, one on a crossing route from Brady about midway through practice.

-The Patriots had an additional member of the coaching staff on the field – Belichick's youngest son Brian. The Boston Herald reported that Brian Belichick was moving from a scouting assistant to a coaching assistant, although his boss and father didn't elaborate much. "Just try to make our staff as efficient as possible," he said.

-Will Likely, an undrafted free agent corner out of Maryland who signed Monday, was on the field wearing a brace on his right knee. He suffered a torn ACL in mid-October but he was returning punts throughout the afternoon. He enjoyed tremendous success with the Terrapins as a returner, taking six back for touchdowns including four punts.

-Cyrus Jones was outstanding handling punts in the wet conditions. He struggled two weeks ago in that department but was flawless on Tuesday, handling every kick perfectly. Jones, Likely, Cooks, Amendola, Foster and Julian Edelman took some reps toward the end of practice and all seemed to handle the conditions quite well. Likely did drop one but was able to scoop it up quickly.

-Rookie Deatrich Wise took some reps dropping into coverage during drills early in practice. The defensive end wears two bulky knees braces and doesn't appear to move as fluidly as you would want an outside linebacker to, but Belichick is likely getting him introduced to various jobs in an effort to build versatility. Fellow rookie Derek Rivers was not seen in the same drill as he stuck with the defensive ends.

-The second offensive line consisted of Max Rich at left tackle, James Ferentz at left guard, Jason King at center, Chase Farris at right guard and Conor McDermott at right tackle.

-King and the quarterbacks struggled at times with the shotgun exchange as several were off the mark or mishandled. The entire offense ran laps twice and gathered after the second in an effort to regroup. There was at least one other errant snap and the group appeared poised to hit the road again but was spared by the coaches.

-A group of players practiced blocking punts at the end of practice. Among those in the drill were Shea McClellin, Rob Ninkovich, Rivers, Trey Flowers and Geneo Grissom.

-Jacoby Brissett showed some nice touch on a touchdown pass down the seam to James O'Shaughnessy to cap a hurry-up drive toward the end of the workout.

-The entire team ran some sprints on the conditioning hill before ending practice.

-Brandon King spent some time on the stationary bike late in practice.

-The steady rain didn't prevent several players from chatting with the media after practice. Rob Gronkowski drew the largest crowd but he wasn't alone. Foster, Garoppolo, Brissett, Thuney, Mike Gillislee, Ninkovich, Cooks and Hawkins all spent time with reporters despite the terrible weather.

-The Patriots will be back at it on Wednesday for the second of three scheduled mini-camp practices. The session is open to the media but will be closed to the public.

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