The second day of rookie mini-camp wasn't much different than the first as the 26 wide-eyed youngsters looking to stick with the defending Super Bowl champs went through the paces at Gillette Stadium.
Two of the eight draft picks – safeties Guss Scott and Dexter Reid – could factor prominently into the teams immediate plans. Bill Belichick selected both last weekend because they displayed tremendous versatility and played a ton of football at a high level of competition. He also called their names with an eye on the future.
Both Scott, a third-round pick out of Florida, and Reid, a fourth-rounder from North Carolina, are very experienced players and performed well in various systems and formations. Both were pacesetters for their college programs, acting as quarterbacks as the last line of defense for their units. Those are traits Belichick found attractive.
"They both played a lot of different positions within the safety position," Belichick said. "They played those coverage positions, they played down in the box, they played high, they played with split safeties and they played middle of the field type responsibilities. They blitzed Guss but he really played what amounted to the corner position in subpackages. They had a lot of different responsibilities and it seems like they are picking things up pretty well."
The future Belichick is watching regarding the two players revolves around one of last year's draft picks – Eugene Wilson. The former Illinois star was arguably the team's rookie of the year in 2003, starting the season as a cornerback but making the switch to safety in the aftermath of the Lawyer Milloy release.
Wilson opened the season at cornerback in the loss at Buffalo but started alongside Rodney Harrison in Philadelphia in Week 2. He had a strong showing against the Eagles, and with very few exceptions, never looked back. He was one of the team's key defensive performers and was a mainstay throughout the season.
But as good as Wilson performed at safety, there has to be some consideration given to moving him back to corner, which is a tougher position to fill. That's where Scott and Reid enter the picture. It's far too early to determine whether either is ready to stake a claim to a starting position, especially with the rookies running around in shorts and T-shirts.
"All communication on defense starts in the middle and works its way outside to the perimeter to the outside linebackers to the corner but it has to start inside with the safeties and the middle linebackers," Belichick said. "That just goes with the position. You can't play that spot and not be verbal and not communicate with your teammates or it will break down the defense eventually."
Those words would seem to indicate safety is a tough spot for a rookie. For Scott and Reid this weekend is just the first step in what will be extensive training over the coming months. Scott's progress was stunted almost immediately by an apparent injury that kept him on the sidelines for most of the weekend. He spent Saturday's afternoon session riding an exercise bike.
Reid, wearing the No. 2, was active throughout the drills patrolling the secondary in 7-on-7 passing drills. He seemed to struggle during a1-on-1 tackling drill, taking poor angles on a couple of occasions. But with no pads or contact, judging such and exercise is tough.
"I think mentally [safety] probably is [the toughest position for a rookie]," Belichick said. "There is a lot more responsibility at safety. From a responsibility standpoint safety is tough because it is not only what the position does and it is not just taking directions from somebody else but it is also making decisions, making adjustments and being the last line of defense. A mistake at safety is probably going to cost you more than a mistake at nose tackle will."
In addition to the safeties, Belichick also added cornerback Christian Morton in the seventh round. He was Wilson's teammate at Illinois but had a tough time in his final two years with the Illini. He's a little taller than most of the Patriots corners at 6-0, and he showed a physical style lining up against receivers in the passing drills.
Belichick indicated on Friday that his plan was to add some defensive backs to the roster so it was obviously no coincidence that he selected three in the draft. He's had as many as 10 among his 53-man active roster in the past, but last year he kept only eight.
That lack of depth went largely unnoticed until Harrison and Wilson went down in the second half of the Super Bowl and Carolina's Jake Delhomme ripped through the depleted secondary. It's clear Belichick doesn't plan on letting that happen again.
"They expect a lot out of their rookies," Scott said. "There's an opportunity to play. It's really up to you what you do with it."
Many fans were concerned when the draft came and went and the Patriots selected nary an offensive lineman. With Damien Woody and Mike Compton lost to free agency, the Patriots starting five features two undrafted players – Tom Ashworth and Joe Andruzzi – plus former second-rounder Matt Light and fifth-rounders Dan Koppenand Russ Hochstein .
After having success with that lineup last year in the postseason, there's a feeling the Patriots can simply plug guys in up front and have that continue. Just don't count Belichick among them.
"You're always trying to do that," Belichick said. "I don't think you can really count on beating the bushes to find [offensive linemen] out of nowhere. There aren't many tackles in the league that aren't high draft choices. There are exceptions to the rule, but very few.
"I think we have a number of young players on the line. We will give them a chance and put them out there and see what they can do. We also have Wilbert Brown, Gene Mruczkowski, Steve [Neal] and Koppen. Those guys will be in the mix in addition to a couple of younger people that didn't play much last year that we signed like [Jack] Fadule and [Tim] Provost." …
Scott and defensive tackle Louis Gachelin sat out practice and spent the afternoon riding the exercise bikes. Scott also missed most of Friday's workout. … Linebacker Eric Alexander went down during a 1-on-1 tackling drill and missed the rest of the practice. When the team came together for a 7-on-7 passing drill, defensive line coach Pepper Johnson took Alexander's spot at left inside linebacker alongside former Harvard star Dante Balestracci. … Fifth-round pick P.K. Sam continues to show excellent hands during drills. He also displayed some toughness and a willingness to go after the ball in traffic, making a couple of impressive grabs on high passes in coverage. … Sam and fourth-round pick Cedric Cobbs struggled handling Cody Scates' kickoffs in the strong Foxborough winds. The pair rotated with wideout Michael Jennings as the deep men returning kicks.