Check out our favorite photos from the Patriots organized team activity on Thursday, June 4, 2015 at Gillette Stadium.
The Patriots wrapped up their second week of organized team activities (OTA) Thursday morning on the practiced fields of Gillette Stadium with their third workout of the week.
The sixth OTA the team has completed was just the second open to the media. It once again took place in helmets, shorts and shirts, with players forgoing jerseys or, for the most part, differentiable numbers of any kind.
The practice ran from approximately 11:00 to 12:45 under partly sunny skies and relatively warm conditions.
Overall the defense seemed to get the better of the bulk of practice action in both group and team segments, with a lot of passes hitting the ground or even ending up as interceptions. Jimmy Garoppolo, in particular, struggled a bit with slow reads, balls thrown behind intended targets, late throws and turnovers.
Still, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick sounded relatively comfortable with the progress his team has been making.
"I think we're getting a little bit better each day, just try to keep building on our base and a good foundation," Belichick said just after the workout. "We have a lot of guys working different positions, different groups. It's not really about that. It's about everybody getting an opportunity to learn what's going on and execute it and us trying to build our overall system, which we'll continue to do that next week. It's a four-day week, so hopefully we're ready to build into that and just keep pushing ahead."
Here are one man's blogservations of the OTA practice from a field away of players working out without numbers – which is to say take each observation and leave room for a margin of error:
--A count at the start of practice stretching numbered 31 players in blue shirts (defense) and 41 players in gray shirts (offense), for a total of 72 OTA attendees. That's two less than last Friday's OTA that was open to the media, one fewer on each side of the ball.
--Players not seen on the field continued to include linebacker Jerod Mayo, linebacker Dont'a Hightower, tackle Sebastian Vollmer, cornerback Malcolm Butler, wide receiver Brandon LaFell, defensive end Chandler Jones and others. Guard Ryan Wendell was seen walking off the practice field just as the media arrived.
--Jamie Collins was on the field and seemingly participating fully after missing last Friday's sessions.
--The secondary and linebackers defended a lot of throws in 7-on-7, red zone work and team action. The group forced numerous incompletions and turnovers. It is common this time of year for the defenders to be ahead of the passing game given the timing and accuracy needed in that area, and from afar it's always hard to tell when it's a case of a strong play for the defense or poor offensive execution.
--LeGarrette Blount ran a pair of laps during the workout. The first came in group action while the latter was during a team segment. The cause of the laps was not obvious, though generally laps are punishment for some infraction.
--Early in practice the linebackers did an interesting group drill working on tipped interceptions. The first player would tip the ball up, a second would make the play and a third would block a large dummy mimicking his role in aiding a return by taking out the nearest offensive player/would-be tackler.
--Head video man Jimmy Dee recorded the quarterbacks' drops and mechanics with a field-level camera in early group drills.
--Ryan Allen spent much of the early part of practice working on plus-50 punting. He didn't seem overly pleased with many of his reps, including one shanked boot that landed right at the 20. During much of the action kicker Stephen Gostkowski worked as a mock gunner trying to down the ball and prevent it from going into the end zone. He actually gave a nice fist pump to celebrate successfully batting a ball back before it crossed the goal line.
--Rookie Joe Cardona continued to handle the long snapping duties, although one other unknown player also took some reps. That player worked off to the side with assistant special teams coach Ray "Bubba" Ventrone.
--Kickoff return was the special teams focus of the workout. Danny Amendola and a player believed to be Tyler Gaffney were back deep for the first reps on returns, the latter serving as more of the up back and blocker. Ventrone has a unique way of focusing on the work of his returners, actually lining up behind them and then sprinting to follow them up the field and through the hole as they make the returns.
--Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels continued to wear a headset throughout the workout to communicate with his quarterbacks.
--In a non-football observation, there are plenty of unique hairstyles among the group of New England players. Undrafted rookie receiver Chris Harper has an Akeem Ayers-like blonde top of a fauxhawk style. Many players, like Aaron Dobson, seem to really be letting their hair grow out. And undrafted rookie Zach D'Orazio has long hair that flows well pass his helmet.
--For the second media availability, tight ends Rob Gronkowski and newcomer Scott Chandler spent plenty of time working together. That included drill time with the duo on the side field joined by Tom Brady and position coach Brian Daboll. There is clearly the potential to have some interesting "Twin Towers" formations with the two. Chandler had a much better practice than he did last Friday, when he dropped a few easy catches. He made a very nice contested catch down the sideline from Brady in a hurry-up drill late in the session. He still seems to be getting comfortable with some of his route combinations with other players, including Gronkowski, but the big-bodied pass catchers certainly could be a tough tandem for defenses to deal with down the line.
--Dion Lewis and newcomer Travaris Cadet also got reps in the kick return game.
--Julian Edelman was slow to get up after one play, grabbing his groin as he limped off. But he returned to few reps later and seemed none the worse for the wear.
--Gostkowski worked on his field goals first on the side field with Cardona and Allen and later to close out the practice as a unit against the scout team.
--Not sure if it's worth noting or not, but during the team two-minute segment late in practice Brian Tyms was on the far field with the Brady-led offense while Dobson worked with the Garoppolo-led unit on the near field. This was a segment where Garoppolo really struggled with multiple interceptions, though he was hurt also by drops, including by Dobson.
--Jonas Gray looks notably bigger than he was a year ago, when he was already a rather thick back. He appears to be much thicker through the legs. Gray is looking forward to his "clean slate" this season. The back had a really bad drop in early practice group action with the ball bouncing off his chest. Unlikely that a lot of pass-catching chances are in his future.
--Beyond Belichick, those meeting with the media after practiced included Gaffney, Gray, Blount, Devin McCourty, Bradley Fletcher, Cadet and many others.
--New England's next OTA session open to the media is next Thursday, June 11.