The Patriots took only one player on the first day of the draft when they picked Brandon Meriweather with the 24th overall selection. On Saturday at the team's rookie mini camp, the versatile defensive back showed off the physical skills that made him a first-round selection.
One day after being officially introduced as a Patriot at a press conference with Robert and Jonathan Kraft, Meriweather took the field for the first time. While there wasn't a lot to go by, Merriweather was smooth in his backpedal and displayed good change of direction in drills. He also showed some leadership skills, barking out assignments to other players on the field and pointing to where they should line up.
Meriweather's journey to New England was a difficult one but he's put the past behind him and is happy to be a Patriot. An hour after he was drafted, Meriweather's phone rang. He wasn't taking any calls at the time because he was so excited but Meriweather made an exception for this person. The call was from Vince Wilfork, Meriweather's close friend and former teammate at the University of Miami.
"We talked about everything. He pretty much told me about everything," Meriweather said about the conversation. "He told me about how good a family the Kraft family is and how smart of a coach Coach Belichick is. He pretty much set me up to be successful. That is one thing I love about Vince. He wants everyone to be successful and that is a great thing about him."
While Meriweather and Wilfork have been close since their time together at Miami, the young safety said he looks forward to learning from all the Patriots veterans, particularly Rodney Harrison.
"I plan on getting with and learning from the veterans," he said. "I think Rodney [Harrison] will be a great person that I can get around and he can help me out with all the media and all the people in town, where to go and where not to go. I think since he has been here long enough and he is a future Hall of Famer. I think that is someone I need to get around and learn from."
Meriweather looked impressive during his first outing as a Patriot. And while he still has a long way to go before he puts his stamp on the defense, Meriweather came to New England already admiring his new team.
"I would say that they are a dynasty. They are a great team," Meriweather said in response to what he thought about the Patriots before they drafted him. "They are probably one of the best, if not the best team, every year to compete for the Super Bowl. They pretty much have a great establishment. They have great coaches, great players. They have no selfish players. That is a class act program."
After Saturday's practice, Meriweather is now officially part of the program.
-The Patriots didn't have enough players on hand to participate in 7-on-7 drills, so they spent the practice stretching and doing positional drills.
-The Patriots had four players in for tryouts. Receivers Chris Dunlap (Georgia Tech) and Chris Baker (Rutgers), running back Chris Vincent (Oregon) and safety Denny Poland (Air Force) all did their best to impressive the coaching staff on Saturday.
-Hall of Famer John Hannah was present to get a look at the Patriots new crop of players.
-One of the bright spots on Day 1 was center Mike Elgin. The seventh-round draft pick performed well in all the drills. Despite being the smallest offensive lineman on the field, Elgin displayed the most power in strength drills. Elgin plays with tremendous leverage and really uses his hands well. He's a guy to keep an eye on in the coming months.
-While it was a good day for Elgin, the same can't be said about sixth-round selection Corey Hilliard. The young offensive lineman needs to get much stronger and get into better shape before training camp rolls around. Hilliard had a lot of trouble with the blocking sled and drew the ire of Patriots coaches throughout the day. It got so bad that Hilliard needed to excuse himself from practice because of poor conditioning.
-Bill Belichick spent a lot of time working with the linebackers. After a drill, Belichick would give some individual instructions to each player and even showed off his arm by tossing a couple of nice spirals to Oscar Lua.
-Matt Gutierrez threw the ball with good velocity and was accurate for the majority of practice. Gutierrez was particularly impressive throwing out
routes towards the sideline. Being the only quarterback in camp, Gutierrez is taking all of the snaps under center.
-Justin Rogers played defensive end at SMU but looked good in space during his first day at linebacker. Rogers appears to have the physical skills that are needed to make a successful transition to outside linebacker.
-Running back Justise Hairston had trouble catching the ball out of the backfield, dropping a number of passes. Even when Hairston did hang onto the ball, he bobbled it a little before making the reception. That's something Hairston will need to work on if he plans to win a roster spot.
-Linebacker Justin Warren spent most of practice on the sideline riding a stationary bike.
-Belichick said at his press conference that players sometimes aren't in football shape when they arrive at camp because they're too busy preparing for all the tests given at the NFL Combine and their pro days.
"I think it's a poor decision by the player personally, but that's what they decide to do," Belichick said about players training for specific tests. "We don't have control over that. But I think a football player should train to play football, not train for the broad jump. I understand teams come in to test them for broad jump, but if a guy jumps 9'4 or 9'6, I don't think that's going to affect his draft status. But I think his training and his conditioning, his strength, his explosion, the things that he does on the football field, in the long run will be a lot more beneficial to him than working on a 20-yard shuttle. It's not my decision, but I would never advise them to do that."