Head Coach Bill Belichick promised on Monday morning that his team would turn the intensity up a notch this week and that was evident when he brought his players inside the bowl at Gillette Stadium Monday night for their second full pads practice of the day.
"I think it's a big week for us in terms of making a good step," Belichick said. "These next few days are really important ones for us. I think the players had a chance to get a little bit of recovery time yesterday physically. And we're going to go out there and we're going to hit it pretty hard this week, starting today.
"I thought we had some good contact this morning, did quite a bit of work on the running game, and tonight we are going to get in some more situational things where we'll start doing first, second and third down, down-and-distances, a little bit of two-minute and that type of thing. The situational football is going to start picking up a little bit too this week, so that by the time we get to the end of the week, we'll start our preparations for Giants, in terms of familiarizing ourselves with their schemes."
With more than a week before the preseason opener, this will be the toughest week of practice for the players, as the team has 13 scheduled workouts between July 28 and Aug. 4.
As Belichick promised, the 7:30 p.m. Monday practice held before more than 12,000 season ticket holders and Foxborough residents featured a lengthy team session focusing on situations. The offense held a slight edge on the night.
In fact, quarterback Tom Brady began the full squad work by completing his first six passes and 7-of-8 overall. Offensive coordinator Charlie Weis threw several different personnel groups and formations at the defense, an approach that has become his staple. The first offense ran 12 plays, eight of them passes. Of the 12 plays, Weis threw 10 different formations at the defense.
Rohan Davey ran the next offensive group with J.R. Redmond as his back, and the second defense played the offense to a relative draw with rookie Dan Klecko accumulating what would have been a sack if hitting the quarterback were permitted.
Speaking of Klecko, it's obvious that Belichick is moving his undersized defensive lineman around trying to find the position where he can create some quickness mismatches. Klecko worked out with the linebackers during individual position drills and then played inside linebacker, outside linebacker, nose tackle and nickel rush end during the team portion.
When Damon Huard came on to run the offense, he had Mike Cloud as his running back, and Cloud broke the first play for 18 yards with a nifty inside cut and followed that with a 7-yard gain. Huard's unit was eventually stopped on third down from near midfield, which is when the focus switched from down-and-distance situations to the red zone.
On a first down play from the 20, cornerback Leonard Myers made a nice break on a Huard-thrown ball near the goal line, but dropped the interception. Two plays later, Huard found wideout Kerry Watkins for a 15-yard touchdown.
After that score, the defense started to gain momentum, stopping Brady's group and Huard's group on back-to-back situational drives. The defense suffered a scare on a deep ball from Brady down the middle of the field when safety Rodney Harrison dropped a sure interception and fell awkwardly to the ground. He was slow to get up and helped by the trainer as he limped around, but returned to action after missing just one play.
With Davey back at the controls in the red zone, the defense stepped up again, holding the offense to a three-and-out failure before the focus changed to goal line and two-minute work. The first goal line defense included a front of Mike Vrabel, Bobby Hamilton, Ty Warren, Jarvis Green, Richard Seymour and Anthony Pleasant with Rosevelt Colvin, Roman Phifer, Ted Johnson, Rodney Harrison and Lawyer Milloy also on the field.
That group stopped Antowain Smith short of the goal line on the first play, but then Tom Brady hit his favorite red zone target, tight end Christian Fauria, for a touchdown. Smith then punched one in as the first offense scored on 2-of-3 tries.
Davey came in with the next group, but J.R. Redmond was stopped well short of the goal line on two rush attempts and Davey lofted an incompletion under pressure to go 0-for-3 in close.
The defense nearly came up with two stops during two-minute work, but could not deliver a knockout blow on either occasion. Brady led the offense from his own 40 to the 2-yard line with :02 left on the clock. A false start penalty against Adrian Klemm pushed the offense back to the 7, but Brady, operating out of the shotgun, hit Troy Brown for the 7-yard score as time expired.
Davey then came on and led the offense on a similar drive, moving to the 7 thanks to a series of completions down the middle to Fauria that covered 41 yards. Facing a second-and-goal from the 7 with :03 to go, Davey fired a completion to rookie Bethel Johnson for the touchdown.
Camp Notes: The practice opened with some live full-speed kickoff and punt return team work. Bethel Johnson and J.R. Redmond were one kick return tandem with Deion Branch and Kevin Faulk the other. Branch had the night's best return, taking one back across the 40. Johnson was never able to find a seam to demonstrate his speed. … Branch and Faulk joined Troy Brown and Dedric Ward as the punt returners and both punters -- Ken Walter and Dan Pope -- hit some bombs. … The individual position drills featured the running backs picking up blitzing linebackers; wideouts and tight ends battling one-on-one against corners and safeties; and defensive lineman pass rushing against their offensive counterparts. Patrick Pass and Redmond looked decent in handling the rushing linebackers. Dan Koppen more than held his own in pass protection, standing up projected starting nose tackle Jarvis Green on one play. The biggest play for the receivers came when David Givens ran past rookie corner Asante Samuel for a long completion. … The following players missed the workout: wide receivers David Patten, Scott McCready and Chas Gessner; linebackers Tully Banta-Cain and Willie McGinest; offensive linemen Joe Andruzzi and Kenyatta Jones; cornerback * tis Smith; fullback * Fed McCrary; and running back Antwoine Womack. … Cornerback Ty Law did some light positional work, but wore sweat pants and shoulder pads rather than full pads. He did not participate in the team portion of practice. … Quarterbacks coach John Hufnagel worked on footwork within the pocket with the Brady, Huard, Davey and Kliff Kingsbury.