While there were no fights or major injuries on the final day of Patriots mandatory mini-camp Thursday in Foxborough, there were still plenty of tidbits to be observed on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium.
Atop that list was the performance put forth by oft-injured fourth-year wide receiver Aaron Dobson. Dobson caught the ball extremely well throughout the two-hour session, including a number of contested catches down the field, as he put together maybe his most impressive practice in his time in New England.
After one impressive touchdown catch from Tom Brady, the quarterback sought out his receiver for some congratulatory words and a hug.
Dobson spoke with the media after the third mini-camp session and admitted it was good to get the quick pat on the back from Brady and acknowledged that his main goal this year is to stay healthy after missing most of the last two seasons to injuries.
Dobson’s performance came on a day when there was a pretty consistent wind, which seemed to give players in the passing game and the kicking game issues at times.
Beyond Dobson’s big day, here are one man’s Blogservations from the bleachers next to the New England practice fields:
Check out some of the best images from Patriots mini-camp practice at Gillette Stadium on Thursday, June 9, 2016.
--Fifteen players were absent from the mid-day workout. The only new addition to the list was tight end Michael Williams, who left practice early on Wednesday with what is now being reported as a torn ACL in his left knee. Three players who did not practice on Thursday – Brandon Bolden, Malcolm Mitchell and Clay Harbor – were back on the field today. The full list of Thursday’s absentees is as follows: Julian Edelman (foot), Logan Ryan, LeGarrette Blount, Duron Harmon, Dion Lewis (knee), Nate Ebner (rugby), C.J. Johnson, Tre’ Jackson (knee), Josh Kline, Shaq Mason, Sebastian Vollmer, Nate Solder (bicep), Danny Amendola (knee), Williams (knee) and Rob Gronkowski.
--The weather for the Thursday session was windy, mostly sunny and pretty cool.
--After being kicked off the field following a practice fight a day earlier, center Bryan Stork and undrafted rookie defensive lineman Woodrow Hamilton were back at practice.
--While Stork and David Andrews wear tight, very short shorts because they are centers and the extra cloth could affect the snap, the veteran running back Bolden and tight end Martellus Bennett were wearing more fashionable but tight shorts on Thursday.
--Josh McDaniels was a very vocal attendee for the third straight day of mini-camp. The offensive coordinator was loud all week in dealing with players, expressing both happiness and displeasure at various points. Early on in practice on Thursday McDaniels erupted with the latter after Chris Hogan didn’t run a screen the way the coach wanted it in some pre-practice work with the offense.
--Interestingly, when the offense breaks up into groups McDaniels and tight ends coach Brian Daboll generally stick with the Brady-led veteran units, while Dante Scarnecchia, Jerry Schuplinski and others are with the younger players.
--Worth noting that many of the blue bags are numbered, not just big No. 64s. The one-man sled is No. 70 while the hand-held blue bags are No. 93.
--Early in practice the quarterbacks and running backs were working on outside handoffs when Bill Belichick stopped the work as Brady was about to take the rep. The coach had wandered over to the drill, one of many going on all over the field, and clearly had a coaching point he wanted to impress upon the guys giving and taking the handoffs. When the reps picked up again, Belichick expressed clear pleasure with whatever minor adjustment the players made under his direction.
--Jordan Richards took the bulk of the reps as Ryan Allen’s personal protector in punt work, although Hogan also rotates through at the spot.
--Wide receivers coach Chad O’Shea is very creative in his group drills with his players. One today included the players running around small cones very closely aligned to essentially run a figure-8 before catching the ball.
--Bolden, James White, Donald Brown and rookie D.J. Foster once again spent a decent period of time working with the quarterbacks on their route running.
--On two separate occasions the entire group of wide receivers did push-ups together at the conclusion of group drills working with the defensive backs.
--Sammy Morris and Troy Brown were on the field again helping a coach role. On one occasion Brown worked as a press corner with the wide receivers as they tried to get off the line. Brown obviously brought a unique perspective to the drill as not only an elite wide receiver during his career, but also a part-time slot cornerback.
--James Develin had his sleeves rolled up to his shoulders for the third straight day. He was the only player on the field who seemed to take the “Sun’s out, guns out” approach this week.
--AJ Derby once again caught the ball well, even making a nice body adjustment on a TD catch from Brady in a drill early in practice.
--Foster got a lot of extra reps as a punt returner in practice, not in group work but when Allen was working on his punts on the side field. Unfortunately, Foster seemed to pull up lame with a leg injury later in practice while covering a punt as a gunner. He seemed to sit out the last portion of the workout due to the injury.
--Allen worked on plus-50 punting most of the day with mixed results. He didn’t hit the ball consistently and actually had one punt in team action caught outside the 20. Not his best work, though the windy day gave both he and the returners clear problems.
--The wide receivers and cornerbacks worked together on the goal line in one group segment in which two receivers went against two corners, with Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett handling the throwing. The bunch formation/motion combination routes seemed to give the coverage guys a lot of issues as the offense completed the passes more often than not. Hogan beat Malcolm Butler for a touchdown, Dobson beat Cre’Von LeBlanc twice, DeAndre Carter beat Cyrus Jones and Chris Harper beat Jonathan Jones. Butler and Cyrus Jones did work in conjunction to blanket the duo of Hogan and Nate Washington. The wide receivers all did push-ups after the final play of the drill, which was a Cyrus Jones interception in coverage on Washington.
--There was a little bit more work on the run game on both sides of the ball early in practice, before the passing game took over during the second half of the session.
--Belichick spent a lot of time talking to Michael Lombardi in between the two practice fields at various points throughout the workout.
--Robert Kraft made an appearance for the second half of the practice, his second appearance of the week on the practice field.
--For some reason Jabaal Sheard and Malcolm Brown swapped jerseys for the practice. Brown wore No. 93 while Sheard donned the defensive lineman’s No. 90. Sheard had his lower leg looked at by the training staff at one point, but finished the workout.
--Butler wore bright pink cleats at practice this week.
--Rob Ninkovich, Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins seemed to have a pretty consistent three-man rotation throughout the practice at linebacker.
--For the second straight day Cyrus Jones muffed a punt.
--Stork took the early reps at center, continuing to alternate days with Andrews in the middle of the first line to take reps in most drills.
--Loud speakers once again played music throughout much of the late-practice action focused on the passing game.
--Butler made a nice pass defense on a Brady deep ball for Mitchell.
--Returning to the practice field, Harbor had an up-and-down day. He mixed in drops with nice catches. His scouting report is that he has good hands and these early drops could be a mental issue at this point as he learns the new offense.
--While Brady was sharp despite the wind for most of the day, his backups weren’t as impressive. Each had too many balls hit the turf, falling incomplete and at times not even near a receiver. Garoppolo threw an interception to Hightower, while Brissett was picked off by rookie safety Kamu Grugier-Hill.
--As he returned his interception, Hightower tried to pitch the ball back to Devin McCourty only the ball fell to the turf for a potential turnover after the turnover. Not ideal.
--Most of the early reps at cornerback in practice had Butler and Justin Coleman on the outside with Cyrus Jones in the slot.
--Stephen Gostkowski spent a long time late in practice riding the stationary bike.
--Richards has gotten reps as the deep safety at times in practice.
--Brissett tried to hit deep balls to both Harper and Devin Lucien late in team action, but each fell incomplete and really had no chance to be caught.
--At the end of every practice, when the team gathers to stretch in position groups, Dante Scarnecchia has returned to his tradition of making his linemen line their helmets perfectly straight on a yard line. He checks it and players have to fix any imperfections, as Marcus Cannon had to today, before they get to their stretching.
--Harper, Carter and Lucien were once again the last players on the field after practice.
--Belichick spoke with the media after practice, as did Dobson, Shea McClellin, Terrance Knighton, McCourty and many others.
--The media’s next and final access to spring work in New England is scheduled for an OTA session on Monday at Gillette Stadium. That workout is closed to the public.