NEPD Contributing Staff
The pads went on Saturday and with it the “official” start of Patriots training camp has begun. Competition was ramped up and with a lot of jobs on the line so were emotions. With the new CBA teams are only allowed a handful of full pads practices.
With a lot going on throughout the day here are 15 things that were learned throughout the day, as well as things that stood out in Foxboro.
1. Among the players not spotted on the field today were Logan Mankins, Sebastian Vollmer, Daniel Fells, Markus Zusevics, Nate Ebner, Jeremy Ebert and Nick McDonald who are on the PUP list. Brian Waters was still a no show and Bradon Spikes was out on the field in full pads but, was held out of team drills once again. Alfonzo Dennard who left practice yesterday and did not return, didn’t practice today. He was spotted on the field in shorts and a T-Shirt. Myron Pryor also made his first appearance wearing just a T-Shirt and shorts.
The first serious injury of camp may have been to Justin Francis who was carted off with a possible knee injury. Remember prior to the draft his “legs” were red flagged and that’s a major reason why he went undrafted. Francis’ condition was not updated by the Patriots. (UPDATE: According to ESPN Boston’s Mike Reiss, Francis was only cramping up and avoided serious injury.)
2. Chandler Jones looked much more impressive in pads and full team drills today. He showed good power to speed rush moves and beat Nate Solder with a bull rush on one occasion. His initial punch is very good and he is able to recoil and get free. It’s early but, he has flashed the pass rush potential that Bill Belichick had hoped when he traded up for him in the first round of April’s draft. Jones also showed off his fluidity by dropping into the flat to cover a running back out of the backfield. Based on what we saw today, Jones will be on the field early on. Tomorrow, I will keep a close eye on Trevor Scott and try to compare his progress to that of Jones.
3. I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but Brandon Lloyd is continuing to “wow” people in attendance. He made the one of the plays of camp to date with a spectacular catch over Sterling Moore who had very good coverage. Lloyd showed off his body control and hands in tight coverage. His rapport with QB Tom Brady is already light years ahead of were Ochocinco was at any point last season.
4. Donte’ Stallworth continues to struggle with drops. He had another one today. Coach Bill Belichick spoke highly of Stallworth yesterday specifically his maturity and development as a route runner. But, with such a deep receiving corps, it’s going to be tough for Stallworth to make the team.
5. On the flip side Julian Edelman continues to look great as a receiver. His routes, hands and even his mannerisms are like that of Wes Welker. Edelman especially looks good catching the ball down the middle of the field and making moves after the catch. He is definitely the most elusive player on the team and has no trouble making tackles miss, even in tackling drills. It might be time to give him a legitimate shot at slot receiver during the game time.
6. The defensive line continues to have it’s way with the offensive line in team drills. On a number of occasions the QB running the play would have been sacked before getting the pass off. With such a talented offense it’s going to be imperative that Mankins, Vollmer and Waters return for the offense to meet it’s potential. The interior duo of Vince Wilfork and Kyle Love really has been disruptive. Fanene also showed his impressive playing strength easily blowing through the opposing OG into the backfield on one or two occasions.
7. One offensive lineman that stood out in run blocking drills was Marcus Cannon. His mobility and quickness for a man of his size is special. On three separate occasions a running play was ran off tackle and each time he was able to turn his man and seal off the edge. With the depth at tackle so limited, Cannon’s performance will be closely scrutinized.
8. Jermaine Cunningham rotated in at DE and showed power and quickness when rushing the passer. He was able to turn the corner on OT Nate Solder two plays in a row, which impressed me. It was nice to see a healthy Cunningham out there. However, when Cunningham knew the play was going away from him, he toned it down and went half speed. Developing consistency is going to be the key for Cunningham. It seems as thought Bill Belichick and the coaching staff still have high hopes for the kid. It’s now or never for Cunningham.