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Numbers for all! Day 2 Patriots camp blogservations

New England returned to the sunny practice fields wearing traditional jerseys with numbers on them on Friday.

Check out photos from Patriots Training Camp at Gillette Stadium on Friday, July 31, 2015.

In many ways the second day of Patriots training camp was a lot like the first.

Bill Belichick's team again took to the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium in front of a packed house of vocal, supportive fans.

The two-plus hour workout took place under sunny skies and warm temperatures, much like a day earlier.

And the workout took place without pads as the defending Super Bowl champions got in their second day of non-contact work that's mandated by the CBA.

But there was one major and obvious difference. For the first time this offseason, the 70-plus players practiced wearing jersey's with their numbers on them instead of the usual non-descript blue and gray t-shirts.

It was a nice addition to the helmets-and-sweats attire that made life much easier on the fans and media in attendance when it came to keeping track of the action on the lush green field.

As for that action, the biggest takeaway of the day was the fact that the offense struggled a bit in the passing game or, conversely, the pass defense for New England was a bit better. Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo each had many plays in which they were slow to find open targets in group and team action, No. 12 even having to pull the ball down to run on a number of occasions. When they did throw it, too many balls hit the ground, especially for Garoppolo.


Beyond the focus once again on the passing game, here are one man's blogservations of a field full of football players finally wearing numbers! --

--Beyond the guys previously placed on PUP (8) and NFI (4), the only guy not practicing or at least seen on the field was rookie tight end AJ Derby. PUPers like Dane Fletcher, Matthew Slater and Dominique Easley were on the field at various points but not practicing. The same was true of NFIers Matt Flynn, Alan Branch and LeGarrette Blount.

Blount did not run conditioning work with his running back mates late in practice as he did a day earlier. Wonder if he might have been saving himself for a second shot at the conditioning run, which he reportedly failed on Wednesday to land on NFI.

--Sebastian Vollmer was on the field with his helmet and jersey but did not seem to take part in any group or team work. Marcus Cannon has been getting the bulk of those reps at right tackle.

--Veteran cornerback Derek Cox appeared to be doing a traditional penalty lap relatively early in practice. But the first-year Patriot did not take a left at the end zone to jog around the far practice field but rather took a right and went down the steps back into Gillette Stadium by himself. He did not return to the field.

--Linebacker James Morris was back on the field and practicing fully a day after limping off and missing the second portion of the opening day's workout. But linebacker depth took another potential hit on Friday as rookie D.J. Lynch limped off the field with trainer Joe Van Allen, who accompanied him back to the locker room with what appeared to be a lower body injury.

--Along with guys practicing in numbers, there were a couple notable numbers. Veteran cornerback Tarell Brown is No. 9, although that will change at some point when he makes the team. Jake Bequette is now wearing No. 85, signifying his switch from defensive end to tight end this offseason.

--There was a fun special teams drill right in front of the media tent early in practice. The drill had players run around a large circle placed on the ground while picking up tennis balls before turning up field toward the end zone. There, kicker Stephen Gostkowski would bounce a soccer ball high in the air the would-be gunners would attempt to down near the goal line. It was a focus on footwork and keeping the ball in play that we saw a year ago as well.

--It was certainly good news that linebackers Jerod Mayo and Dont'a Hightower didn't begin training camp on PUP. It's even better news that on Friday the linebackers, along with Jamie Collins who's been nursing his own minor issue, were all on the field and taking part in 7-on-7 drills. Collins also did work in team action. Mayo and Hightower may not be full health or even ready for full pads action that will begin on Saturday, but they are seemingly on an upbeat health path. That said, Mayo does run with a noticeable limp that shows up more in conditioning sprints than field action. And Collins seemed to flex his leg and reach for his right hamstring a few times, possibly an indication that's what he's been dealing with at times this offseason.

--Collins dropped and did a set of pushups after dropping an interception in early practice drills.

--Brady once again got loud cheers and a few chants from the adoring crowd of Foxborough fans.

--Robert Kraft once again made an appearance at the practice. The owner received a nice hand from the crowd and returned the acknowledgement.

--Steve Belichick, a coaching assistant and son of Bill, worked at times as a quarterback for the scout team working with the defensive front.

--Fletcher and Easley did some time on the step machines at the far end of the field. Fletcher later left the field to return inside Gillette Stadium and walked by the media tent with a pretty good limp.

--Jonathan Krause dropped a punt and bumbled it around the ground serving as a scout punt returner.


--During the punt segment Garoppolo went to the far field with a group of receivers that included Rob Gronkowski, Scott Chandler, Michael Hoomanawanui, Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce as well as tight ends coach Brian Daboll and Bill Belichick. The receivers worked on getting off the line for fades and slants in the end zone as Daboll gave a scout look as a DB while Belichick watched on and coached the group up. The head coach also talked to Garoppolo a couple times during the session.

--The passing back role will be a battle to watch in camp, with second-year player James White and free agent Travaris Cadet top competitors. White got a lot of reps working behind Brady on Friday, while Cadet got more run with Garoppolo. Both players look good in shorts action, and Cadet certainly has some impressive burst. As the two look to increase their value to the team, White took some scout punt return reps while Cadet did a lot of work as a gunner for the punt team.

--Duron Harmon took a lot of reps as the personal protector for Ryan Allen on the punt team.

--Rookie fourth-round picks Tre' Jackson and Shaq Mason continued to get a lot of reps sandwiched around Bryan Stork on the line. In his press conference prior to practice, Belichick noted that the rookies have indeed gotten a lot of reps and "will get a lot of reps." Ryan Wendell's health is a wild card at this point, but the rookies appear to be getting run ahead of returning veterans like Josh Kline and Jordan Devey, who started games last season at guard. Mason continues to work at left guard with Jackson on the right side.

--The quarterbacks were once again hit with pads while throwing to receivers for the open field tackling segment.

--Jimmy Jean, an undrafted rookie with a chance to compete at cornerback, also got reps as a gunner.

--During 7-on-7 work ball boys held large paddles up in the air to simulate defensive linemen pass rushing and getting their hands into throwing lanes.

--Veteran Brandon Gibson had a solid day catching the football. The former Dolphin and Ram is another undersized inside receiver behind Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola. He's shown up a bit early in shorts action and his past production/experience are intriguing even if his skills replicate those of the returning veterans.

--As he did in New Orleans, Cadet caught some balls lining up out wide as a receiver in a few instances.

--This thought came as Garoppolo held onto the ball too long at one point in practice: He's a long way from being as slow/bad as Tim Tebow, but he's also a long way from being as decisive/good as Brady. Probably where he should be in his second training camp as a former Div. I-AA QB whose college didn't have a playbook. But the expectations will be greater than that if he's on a path to start the season opener for the Patriots.

--The defensive front showed its versatility against a multiple tight end look from the offense in team action. The front had flashy edge veteran Rob Ninkovich, Jabaal Sheard, Sealver Siliga, Antonio Johnson and Chandler Jones lined up with Morris and Collins at linebacker. Given the versatility of the guys on the end the front could be considered a 5-3, a 3-5, a 4-4 or any other combo. It's what Belichick loves to throw at fronts and this lineup didn't even make use of Mayo and Hightower.

--Also worth noting that Johnson, who had a strong spring of work as an 8th-year veteran addition, was working with the group. Malcom Brown also repped through the group in place of Siliga.

--Nate Ebner got some reps alongside Devin McCourty in the back end in team action.

--Rookie cornerback Darryl Roberts struggled in the morning session. He was chasing behind a number of receivers, including getting beaten badly by Edelman.

--Rufus Johnson – all 6-5, 280 pounds of him – took reps as a standup outside linebacker in team action. The same was true of rookie Geneo Grissom, used mostly along the line at Oklahoma but with his own impressive versatility. Johnson is indeed listed as a linebacker while Grissom is labeled a defensive lineman at 6-4, 265.

--Cameron Fleming is working a lot at right tackle, with the second group to take reps in most drills.

--A day after literally getting slapped around by Gronkowski, Tavon Wilson made a couple really nice plays in coverage of veteran tight end Scott Chandler.

--Rookie David Andrews takes a lot of the reps at center after Stork.

--Krause and rookie tight end Jimmay Mundine had to take penalty laps.

--Edelman was slow to get back to the huddle and bent over for a rest a couple times after a mid-range ball down the left side that was incomplete. Not sure if he was winded or a little shaken up. He continued to practice.

--Bradley Fletcher did a lot of pushups after practice as his defensive backs group got extra balls thrown at them.

--A day after Jets fans flew a banner over the practice field that said "Cheaters Look Up" a plane flew over at the end of Friday's practice that had a banner reading, "New England Aerial Ads Supports Tom Brady Go Pats." Good marketing by the company, even if the timing was off and the banner flew over after practice had just ended.

Sylvester Williams, DT - The big nose tackle is in the middle of a struggling run defense that ranks 29th in the NFL. He may also be lining up in front of a pair of backup, fill-in linebackers. Williams needs to come up big against a Patriots offense that’s likely going to try to be balanced with a healthy dose of LeGarrette Blount.

--Belichick was among those signing autographs after practice, including for a group of fans from the Edelman's JE11 Foundation.

--Those players speaking with the media after the workout included Dekoda Watson, Jonathan Freeny, Jake Bequette, Stephen Gostkowski, Ryan Allen, James White, Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich, Jerod Mayo and others.

--The team will return to the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium again Saturday morning at 9:15 for the third day of camp, what is expected to be a workout in full pads. The session is open to the public, but as always check for any last minute changes.

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