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Wednesday Patriots mini-camp blogservations

Check out our favorite photos from Patriots mini-camp on Wednesday, June 17, 2015 at Gillette Stadium.

Another day of practice work in shorts and t-shirts in Foxborough means another day of focus on the passing game and the quarterback position.

While it's hard to ascertain much from a good portion of the non-contact, no-pads work on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium, the passing game is one area where success and failure are at least somewhat obvious. The ball either ends up in the targets hands or it doesn't.

Wednesday afternoon there was probably too much of the latter for the liking of Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels, even considering that the current work is far more about teaching than evaluation.

The New England passing attack struggled off and on for most of the two-hour session. Jimmy Garoppolo, in particular, found some tough sledding. The second-year backup had far too many snaps that resulted in him having to pull the ball down, scramble, get sacked or throw incompletions than would be preferred.

Tom Brady also had his struggles at times, as did a number of targets including a handful of drops for Brian Tyms.

One guy who didn't struggle in the passing game was All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski. The playful pass catcher was his usual productive and lighthearted self. That was especially true with the music blaring in a red zone segment when he was matched up one-on-one opposite safety Devin McCourty. Gronkowski easily hauled in consecutive touchdown throws from Garoppolo. He then celebrated each with hip gyrations, dancing and spikes to the tune of House of Pain's "Jump Around."

Beyond the passing struggles and Gronkowski's ever-expanding playful domination here are one man's blogservations from a practice field away of players not wearing numbers:

--A very unofficial count at the start of practice came up with 40 offensive players in gray t-shirts and 35 defensive players in blue. The total of 75 was one less than the opening day of mini-camp. Those not seen included, among others, Jerod Mayo, Dont'a Hightower, Brandon LaFell, Ryan Wendell and Sebastian Vollmer.

--That drop in attendance could have been the result of tight end Scott Chandler's absence. The veteran was held out of the final stages of practice on Tuesday after suffering an issue seemingly in his rib cage area.

--It can be hard to differentiate fourth-round rookie guards Tre' Jackson and Shaq Mason when they are getting reps sandwiched around Bryan Stork. One thing that makes that somewhat easier is the yellow knee brace the Jackson wears on his left knee.

--For the second straight day Garoppolo got a lot of reps on offense working with the likes of Gronkowski, Julian Edelman and Brian Tyms. Brady more with Danny Amendola, Aaron Dobson and some of the more inexperienced tight ends.

--During early no-huddle, hurry-up action Brandon Bolden was the lone back in the group working with Brady. He ran the ball and caught a couple passes, at times lining up wide in the action. Much has been made about the competition at running back, and especially for the passing back role, but Bolden often gets overlooked. It would not be all that surprising for Bolden, who's been primarily a special teamer the last couple years, to see his role dramatically increase on all three earlier downs this season. He is a favorite of the coaching staff and has impressive versatility.

--Tyms not only is getting good run on offense with Brandon LaFell out of action, but also seems to be getting a lot of practice reps as a gunner on the punt team. That was true Wednesday both during drill work and in team punting action. As a receiver lower on the depth chart, adding a key role in the kicking game such as gunner would be a huge boost to Tyms' roster stability.

--Veteran Matt Flynn continues to get limited reps and often works with the scout team while Brady and Garoppolo are elsewhere on the field. Despite his career experience, Flynn's role on the practice field doesn't look much different than the one former practice squader Garrett Gilbert held earlier this spring in OTAs.

--With Monster Jam set to hit Gillette Stadium once again this Saturday night, the loud roar of monster truck engines was heard at various times throughout the mini-camp practice.

--The quarterbacks and receivers focused on high-pointing the ball on fades in the back left corner of the end zone during one group drill segment.

--The airspace over the Gillette practices fields was quite active. First a news helicopter spent a big chunk of time circling early in practice. Later a military helicopter made a couple circles of the area, with some sharp banking before it flew off into the distance.

--Brady had vocal praise for Deon Lewis after a completion to the diminutive back in one drill.

--It didn't seem to be a lingering issue, but Joe Cardona got his foot stepped on by a would-be rusher after one snap in group work. Cardona continued to snap the rest of the practice, though.

--Jackson did a penalty lap at one point.

--The far practice field included portable play clocks set up under the goal posts for the first time this spring.

--Tyms and Dobson have been two of the very few players wearing any attire with numbers at times this spring. Wednesday Tyms actually had Dobson's No. 17 shorts on.

--Flynn got some extra, one-on-one time with coaching assistant Jerry Schuplinski at one point in the session with Brady and Garoppolo working elsewhere with McDaniels.

--With Chandler not on the field, Michael Hoomanawanui joined the "Twin Towers" work with Gronkowski and Brady in the end zone of the near field working on low red zone plays. The Hooman had a nice one-handed catch in the back right corner of the end zone on one snap.

--During the team punt segment the Ryan Allen-led unit ran on the field in a hurry-up situation as might occur in a game.

--After Bolden took the hurry-up, no-huddle reps with the Brady group, Lewis filled the role behind Garoppolo.

--Garoppolo continues to look to Tyms often. That wasn't all that successful today, though. Tyms fumbled after hauling in one deep ball down the left sideline then had a bad drop on a well-set-up back-shoulder fade shortly thereafter.

--There was a good amount of work on the running game in team action, with LeGarrette Blount getting plenty of carries to work with.

--Brian Daboll did his favored drill dropping the ball over the head of his tight ends from behind. For the record, PFW has tried the drill in our Gillette offices and it didn't go very well.

--During the punt session the scout punt returners seemed to have a little trouble dealing with the wind and had to run around a bit to get under the kicks.

--Nearly the entire offense, led by Brady, had to take a penalty lap at one point for not having the correct personnel on the field for a rep of a drill. Belichick was not happy.

--Garoppolo threw an interception to McCourty when the safety cut in front of a throw in the right flat that may have been a pick-6 in game action.

--Fred Davis has been getting decent reps in OTAs and mini-camp. One note, the veteran former Redskins star does appear to have a slight hitch in his giddy-up as they say, possibly a lasting memory of his October 2012 torn Achilles.

--Jake Bequette has looked like a defensive lineman transitioning to tight end plenty, but he did make a nice catch crossing the middle in traffic on a zipped ball from Brady in team work.

--Ever the competitor, Edelman was extremely upset and took his helmet off in disgust after ball went through is hands on the right sideline.

--There was a small post-play scuffle in team action late in practice. Second-year center Stork appeared to be the middle of the pushing and shoving. He did not have a helmet on, so it's possible it was knocked off in the fracas.

--Belichick met with the media after practice, as did Bolden, Bequette, Stork, Tyms, Dobson, Malcom Brown, Dominque Easley and others.

--The Patriots have cancelled the final day of practice on Thursday, June 18th so there will be no media availability. The starting date for the 2015 training camp will be announced soon. 

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