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Training camp observations: Sat., July 27

Highlights from Day 2 of Patriots training camp 2013.

The steady rain and autumn-like temperatures from Friday were long gone when the Patriots went back on the practice field for Day 2 of training camp. Sunshine and 80-degree temps made for much more pleasant viewing and practicing conditions, and considerably more than the nearly 6,400 fans who turned up in the rain yesterday packed the stands this morning.

If you weren't one of the lucky ones to be here to watch the Patriots practice in person, here's what you missed:

…For the second straight day, the Patriots were without six players on their 90-man roster, the same half dozen as yesterday: TE Rob Gronkowski, OL Nick McDonald (who was rehabbing on the sidelines again), WR Julian Edelman, rookie WR Mark Harrison, first-year DL Armond Armstead, and rookie DL Cory Grissom.

…Gronk later made an appearance on the field in shorts and a t-shirt, watching 7-on-7 drills in the end zone closest to the fans' stands. An appreciative crowd recognized the big fellow and gave him several hearty cheers as he arrived on and departed the field.

…DB Devin McCourty continued wearing his red, no-contact jersey (given to a player who is still on the mend from a previous injury).

…The Patriots continue to employ a couple of members of the equipment staff during 7-on -7 and team period action, using large tennis-racket-style paddles to simulate the height and arm length of opposing defensive linemen. The ball boys actually got their faux mitts on a number of passes on Saturday, after only coming close to doing so on Friday.

…Second-year cornerback Alfonzo Dennard bounced back from a less than stellar performance the day before. He spent more time opposite Aqib Talib, after taking mostly second-team reps on Friday. Dennard also came down with a tough interception in a 7-on-7 play, then knocked down a deep pass by Tom Brady intended for rookie WR Aaron Dobson in the team period later.

…Dobson, however, continues to shine in his first professional camp. He is quickly becoming a favorite target of Brady by making very tough catches in traffic and along the sidelines.

…The offense seemed to focus quite a bit on deep passes Saturday and was having much success completing those passes against the Patriots defense. Which is good news, of course, for the O as it looks to incorporate several new, young receivers, but not so good for the pass defense, which has been a sore spot on this team the past few seasons.

…One play in particular epitomized the defense's day on Saturday. It happened in 7-opn-7 action, when backup QB Ryan Mallett lofted a deep pass for rookie Josh Boyce. Mallett's pass was slightly underthrown and Tavon Wilson appeared in position to make the pick, but the ball glanced off his hands and into the waiting arms of Boyce, who didn't even break stride as he wisely continued running his route. The play went for a would-be touchdown.


…The Patriots have started doing a new ball protection/forced fumble drill, similar to the old one, only with three defenders trying to knock the ball out of the offensive player's hands, rather than just one. QB Tim Tebow was the only signal caller who participated in the drill. Tebow also ran the blocking pad gauntlet while carrying the football, along with several other offensive skill position players. Perhaps this is an indication that he'll be asked to play at other positions at some point in training camp. Or it could just be that the coaching staff is cognizant of Tebow's penchant for tuck the football and running with it and they want to make sure he stays sharp in protecting the football.

…The team has added a new wrinkle in their equipment for quarterbacks. The passers began wearing helmets outfitted with small cameras on the side to record the action as the QB is in the pocket. This will give the coaching staff and the players a new, unique way to study the way a play unfolds and correct any mistakes the quarterbacks make.

…RB LeGarrette Blount had a much better day catching the ball out of the backfield than he did on Friday.

…Toward the tail end of practice, left guard Dan Connolly went to the back of the end zone to run conditioning sprints with McDonald. It's unclear why, but perhaps he sustained some sort of injury during practice that precluded him from taking part in the team work period.

…LB Brandon Spikes appeared to get shaken up at the end of practice during the final team work rep. He seemed to hit the ground rather hard and was slow to get up. Several teammates came over to check on him, but he waved them off. No trainers attended to him, either, but with his injury history, it's something to note and keep and eye on when the team gets back on the field tomorrow.



](/fan-zone/patriots-football-weekly.html)…Special teams focus was on the punt team Saturday. Incumbent Zoltan Mesko took the first few reps in each period before deferring to rookie Ryan Allen. The latter, however, had the stronger showing, with excellent hang-time and deep, arching spirals on most of his boots.

…Second-year man Nate Ebner saw plenty of action as the personal protector on the punt team, a job that used to belong to PatrickChung. Rookie Duron Harmon took reps when the second grouping took the field.

…Leon Washington, Danny Amendola, Lavelle Hawkins, and Boyce took turns fielding the ball for the scout punt return team.

…Owner Robert Kraft made an appearance on the practice field midway through Saturday's session.

…As dictated by the collective bargaining agreement, teams can't don full pads for the first two days of camp, but head coach Bill Belichick confirmed that the squad will be suited up to the max on Sunday. Practice begins at 9 a.m.

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