The Patriots continued their offseason work in Foxborough on Tuesday with the media on hand to watch for the second time this spring. The overall vibe of the practice was quite similar to last week's with Bill Belichick spending much of his time with the offense and both Joe Judge and Matt Patricia usually close by as well. But that's where the similarities ended.
For starters, the team did its conditioning runs before practice rather than at the end as is traditionally the case. Then the workout ended after about an hour, which is about half the time the team normally spends on the field.
In terms of what took place, there seemed to be more installation going on than last week with the offense and defense spending the hour working on separate fields rather than going against one another. There was some focus on the running game at times with Patricia communicating with Mac Jones often during that period, appearing to provide the plays for the quarterback. The plays were run against a scout look on both fields.
The brief nature of the workout coupled with the emphasis on learning didn't offer as many noteworthy aspects as last week, but here are some things that caught my eye on a picture-perfect afternoon in Foxborough.
*There were some changes in terms of attendance as Adrian Phillips and Lawrence Guy were among a group of players on hand who weren't spotted last week. There looked to be about a dozen or so others not spotted including Matthew Judon, James White, Raekwon McMillan, Isaiah Wynn, Trent Brown, Davon Godchaux, Jabrill Peppers and N’Keal Harry. Judon, Wynn and Harry also missed last week's practice.
*With both Wynn and Brown not spotted the offensive line included Yodny Cajuste at left tackle and Justin Herron on the right side. Herron was the right tackle last week when Brown took Wynn's spot on the left side. The interior remained the same with Cole Strange, David Andrews and Mike Onwenu from left to right. Andrews is still recovering from offseason shoulder surgery but was more involved during this lighter workout than last week when James Ferentz took most of the reps.
*The pre-practice conditioning was quite a change for a team that generally wraps up the work day with runs on the far hills or with full-field sprints. The players spread out across both fields and ran a series of long conditioning runs ranging from 40-100 yards. Matthew Slater, Cody Davis, Brian Hoyer, Devin McCourty and Nick Folk ran together as a group, slightly separated from the rest of the pack both in timing and proximity. Not sure why that was the case but it caught my attention.
*The receivers worked on two-man route combinations early on with a tight end often lined up on one side with a receiver on the other. The tight ends would run what amounted to a post-up near the goal line while the receiver ran a shallow cross underneath. The idea seemed to be for the tight end to create space for the racing wideout coming across. There was no contact on the plays but the results amounted to natural rubs that allowed the plays to succeed. The timing on such concepts is important and it was no surprise to hear Judge calling out instructions during the drill.
*Defensive backs Jonathan Jones and Adrian Phillips were among a half dozen players who spoke to the media after practice. Both talked about the potential for versatility in the secondary with the abundance of safeties on the roster. Jones tweeted about the idea of positionless football earlier in the offseason, and Phillips was asked about the practice. "I think you need to start off by learning a specific role first," said Phillips, who missed last week's work while at home with his young son. "You don't always know exactly what everyone else is doing, but once you do learn that then it can make you a lot better when that versatility of being able to be interchangeable comes in." With Phillips, McCourty, Peppers and Kyle Dugger it's easy to envision some combinations where the safeties become linebackers in various situations.
*The offense worked on the running game for a while and one constant during the period was Damien Harris. He typically finished his runs by racing all the way to the end zone from about 60 yards out. Harris did so with some enthusiastic screams as he celebrated by himself.
*Matt Groh spent some time chatting with Robert Kraft in between the practice fields while the players did their conditioning runs.
*There was some sloppiness in the passing drills early on as several catchable balls were dropped. J.J. Taylor, Malcolm Perry and Ty Montgomery all saw passes slip through their hands during one particularly rough stretch for the pass catchers. Montgomery once again went through position drills with the receivers.
*In addition to Jones and Phillips, DeVante Parker, Malcolm Butler and rookies Cole Strange and Tyquan Thornton spoke with the media after practice. Thornton turned in the best line when asked if any teammates ever challenge the speedster to a race. "A lot of guys ask me to race, but not after I ran the 4.2." The good-natured rookie delivered the line with a smile and drew some laughs from reporters.
*The Patriots mandatory three-day mini-camp kicks off next week from June 7-9. The practices are open to the media but closed to the public. It will be interesting to see if any of the missing players will choose to remain out and therefore be subjected to fines.