NEPD Staff Contributor
In what was a little bit of a surprise, the Patriots were back in full pads for the second straight day. With a day off coming on Monday, Coach Belichick decided to put his players through the most physical practice to date.
Who was out on the field and what stood out on Sunday? Continue reading to see what went down at Gillette on Sunday.
1. (Attendance Report) – Logan Mankins, Sebastian Vollmer, Daniel Fells, Nick McDonald, Nate Ebner, Myron Pryor and Jeremy Ebert did not practice again today. All of those players remain on the Active/PUP list and can come off at any point in training camp. Mankins and Vollmer were both outside in T-Shirt and shorts riding the elliptical machines. Mankins at one point ran across the field to join the team and didn’t have a noticeable limp. Jake Ballard and Brian Waters weren’t anywhere to be found again today.
Tracy White left practice yesterday with an undisclosed injury and was not out on the field today. Alfonzo Dennard was spotted on the field in a T-Shirt and shorts for the second straight day. Justin Francis, who yesterday was carted off the field with what looked like a serious injury, was in full pads today and participated in all the drills. It was good news for the Patriots that Francis avoid any injury at all. I’ll have more on Francis later.
2. Injury Report – Jamey Richard left the field with a trainer. The trainer was holding Richard’s helmet, so it might be a concussion related issue. Richard was really struggling in practice up to this point, working primarily as the back up center. Rob Ninkovich and Visanthe Shiancoe, both were unable to finish the practice session. Both players walked off the field at the end of the day, with no assistance and no limp. It looks like whatever their ailments were, they were minor.
(UPDATE: The Boston Globe’s Greg Bedard reports that Richard indeed did suffer a concussion. This leaves the Patriots dangerously thin at interior OL.)
3. It hasn’t taken Chandler Jones long to work his way up into the first team defense. Even before Ninkovich went down today, Jones was getting first team reps at Right DE. Jones is used out of both a 2-point most of the time, but on a couple of occasions he was in a 4-point stance. I am still impressed with how he looks coming off the edge. He looks strong, quick and sudden. Once he learns how to use those long arms even better, he will be a factor on the Patriots front seven.
4. Rob Gronkowski had an uncharacteristically poor day catching the ball. Gronk had three separate drops, two of which were pretty bad. One of the drops glanced off his hands and was intercepted by Safety Patrick Chung. Approximately three to four minutes while the Patriots were in their goal line offense Gronkowski dropped a soft pass in the end zone from Tom Brady, which would have been an easy touchdown. There is no reason to be concerned about Gronkowski, but today wasn’t his best day catching the ball.
5. Everyone is still waiting to see when Ron Brace will make his presence known along the defensive line. Based on what I have seen up to this point we could be waiting a long time. Brace is currently running with the 3rd team defense and still has the same bad habits we saw early in his career. Brace stands up straight when firing off the ball and gets blocked too easily. The only time he see’s time with the first team is in goalline situations.
6. While Stevan Ridley has continued to look good throughout camp, he struggled in pass protection 1 on 1s. On one occasion Ridley went to block linebacker Dane Fletcher and almost completely whiffed. Shane Vereen and even Danny Woodhead looked like the better pass protectors in this drill. Ridley is likely to see most of his work come on 1st and 2nd down and then will give way to one of Woodhead or Vereen in passing situations. Woodhead is a very competitive blocker for his size.
The highlight of the drill camp when LB Dont’a Hightower and FB Eric Kettani battled one on one. Hightower’s strength was on display and the battle got so physical that they ended up running into and knocking RB Coach Ivan Fears to the ground. It garnered a huge ovation from the crowd.
7. Tom Brady continues to have great chemistry with his “new” wide receivers. Brady and Jabar Gaffney look like they didn’t spend anytime apart connecting on a 60 yard post route which took Gaffney to the edge of the opposite end zone. Brady and Gaffney also seem to have very good chemistry on in-cutting routes, which they Patriots love to run. Brandon Lloyd continues to dazzle. He catches everything that is thrown to him and has been tough to cover one on one. The Brady to Lloyd combination torched Steve Gregory and Kyle Arrington two specific occasions today. Gregory bit on a play fake and Brady went over the top to Lloyd for a 60 yard touchdown strike.
8. Steve Gregory hasn’t looked like he is necessarily the answer to the safety struggles to this point. He has made some mistakes in coverage and is still trying to get adjusted to the defense. While it is still way too early to draw any conclusions it’s something to keep an eye one. It’s not hard to imagine that Tavon Wilson could be the starter earlier than anticipated. Coming out of Illinois Wilson was one of the better blitzing Safeties and we safe Wilson do some of that today.