]()After a solid opening to training camp in the morning, the Patriots weren't nearly as crisp in their afternoon work, which featured the players in helmets, shoulder pads and shorts.
Head Coach Bill Belichickexpressed his displeasure periodically during the practice, once ordering the entire offense to run a lap midway through a team period, and then finishing things with some conditioning run. Once that was over, the coach ordered several individuals to do some additional sprints. Belichick then convened the entire team for a lengthy chat before dismissing the players.
The practice was quite ragged, particularly in the passing game. Right from the start during drills several passes fell to the turf with most of the receivers having trouble holding onto the ball. At one point, receivers coach Brian Daboll didn't even throw a pass to Reche Caldwell because the receiver failed to run the proper route
When the team period began later, things didn't get much different for the offense. Receivers continued struggling catching passes and getting open and the quarterbacks had trouble getting on the same page with their targets.
All of this seemed to exclude Troy Brown. With Brown, Deion Branch and rookie Chad Jackson all missing the opening practice of training camp, Caldwell was the best Patriots receiver on the field during the morning workout. His reign at the top lasted a little more than four hours.
Brown returned to work during the afternoon and more resembled a polished 23-year-old rather than the 14th-year veteran he is. After a couple of early practice drills where the normally sure-handed receiver dropped a couple of passes from Daboll, Brown turned back the clock to 2001 or 2002.
Whether it was one-on-one drills against defensive backs or seven-on-seven team drills, the Pats elder statesman simply could not be covered. Each of his numerous catches seemed to draw a louder applause of appreciation from the adoring fans on hand in Foxborough.
After the morning practice, Belichick explained that the players that weren't in uniform were held out for different reasons and those recovering from injury were in various stages of rehab. Belichick even said some of the missing players could return as soon as the afternoon.
Evidently Brown fell into the latter category, as he was the only one who sat out the morning to suit up for round two. And judging from his performance his absence was likely little more than a scheduled rest for the 35-year-old wideout.
That also might explain the absences of Matt Light and Benjamin Watson, each of whom missed the afternoon workout. In addition, the 10 players listed on PUP plusGarrett Mills and Daniel Graham remained out of action.Wesley Britt took Light's place at left tackle with the first group while rookie David Thomas got some extra work in place of Watson.
Who's hot: The defense – Whether it was due to poor offensive execution or simply superior defensive play, the boys in the blue shirts dominated most of the afternoon. Several pass plays during the team period were knocked out of sync by the constant push of the defensive line, and the coverage people did a pretty good job of blanketing the receivers – except for Brown – for the most part.
Who's not: The receivers – Again with the exception of Brown, and first-year wideout Rich Musinski, this group struggled most of the afternoon. Reche Caldwell had a couple of drops, evening doing the Willie Mays Hayes pushup thing after one of them, and John Stone also had trouble holding onto the ball. Mike McGrew even left the practice fields with trainers for a while when he appeared to get shaken up but he did return later in the workout.
Play of the practice: Musinski, a first-year receiver out of William & Mary who spent time in Patriots camp last year, made a terrific move to beat Ellis Hobbs with a stutter step stop and go route. Musinski beat Hobbs badly on the play despite some obvious clutching and grabbing and made the catch deep down the right sideline. Hobbs showed his frustration by knocking the ball out of Musinski's hands well after the play was over.
Several players worked on returning kicks before practice while catching balls out of the machine. Laurence Maroney,Kevin Faulk, Hobbs, Willie Andrews, Matt Shelton and Stone all worked on catching the kicks with one hand while holding onto another football in the other. After several reps they switched it up by tossing the ball in the air while they caught the kick and then catching the second one as well. … Faulk was back fielding punts later in practice when rookie linebacker Pierre Woods departed from NFL protocol by burying him with a heavy hit during the non-contact drill. Making matters worse, Faulk was waving his hand over his head signaling for a fair catch. … Recent-signee Keron Henry certainly looks the part of a pro receiver at 6-1 and 222 pounds. From a physical standpoint he certainly stands out among the Patriots mostly diminutive receiving corps, but when it came time to run his routes and catch passes, he had his troubles holding onto the ball. However, his size may give him an opportunity to carve out another niche on the team: special teams. He and Stone worked with Brad Seely on a drill for gunners during the early part of practice. ... As was the case during mini-camp last month, Belichick spent a lot of time with the linebackers and was extremely vocal in his teaching. With such an inexperienced group, and withMatt Patricia in his first year coaching that position, perhaps Belichick feels that is an area that needs extra instruction and attention.