NEPD Editor: James Christensen
Mere minutes after Gil Santos and Tedy Bruschi were inducted into the New England Patriots Hall of Fame, current players took the field on day four of Patriots Training Camp.
Here are some observations on how the veterans and rookies looked during their first action in Gillette Stadium this year.
Prior to practice, Patriots linebackers coach Pepper Johnson was very complimentary of rookie linebacker Jamie Collins. “That he’s seen the game in so many different views that he understands it a lot better. I just have to figure out how to explain certain things to get it across, but once he gets a grasp on it, once he gets a few reps, he’s functional. He can go out and do it.”
Versatile players like Collins, Dont’a Hightower, and seventh round pick Michael Buchanan are key to the Patriots plans to utilize multiple fronts. In an NFL where you can play a spread passing attack one week and a zone-read team the next, you need players that can learn fast and execute a variety of techniques. The fact that coaches have already recognized that these three players have those traits, says a lot about two rookies and a second year player.
They won’t play as many snaps as Jerod Mayo, but look for these three players to have a big impact this year on defense.
CLEANING OUT THE NOTEBOOK
-In the two-minute / no-huddle drill, Aaron Dobson, Kenbrell Thompkins and Danny Amendola lined up as the receivers with the first group. Shane Vereen was the running back.
-Tim Tebow and Steve Gregory took snaps as a punt protector.
-Punters Ryan Allen and Zoltan Mesko were the first players on the field at practice.
-In live punting drills, Mesko had punts of 44 and 42 yards, with hang times of 4.5 and 4.2, while Allen had punts of 53 and 45 with hang times of 4.3 on each.
-Marquice Cole, Danny Amendola, Kenbrell Thompkins and Lavelle Hawkins were back returning punts. Thompkins muffed a bomb from Allen.
-Aqib Talib, Kyle Arrington and Ras-I Dowling were being used as hold up guys on punt return.
-Purely anecdotal evidence, but Chandler Jones looks noticeably bigger this year.
-Buchanan got some work on special teams. If he can contribute there, that could help him make the team.
-Marcus Cannon has been very impressive at guard, at one point taking on a full-force Brandon Spikes and living to tell about it.
-Thompkins looked good blocking and getting off the press. Kamar Aiken also was able to get in some good blocks. Dobson was improved in this area as well.
-Dobson beat Ras-I Dowling on a double move and later beat Justin Green on a post-corner later on in practice, gaining acres of separation with a slick move. He also uncovered easily from Kyle Arrington with a slick curl route. After Amendola, Dobson looked like the best receiver on the field today.
-I saw Dobson line up in the slot a couple plays for the first time during camp. He has been almost exclusive on the line as an “X” or off the line as a “Z”.
-Boyce looked good running routes underneath again and showed off some blazing speed on the outside.
-Brady has liked what he’s seen from his young receivers. “We have a pretty smart group of guys. That’s been a real positive and hopefully we continue to play smart. It’s hard to exist in this program if you’re not a smart player.”
-One on one drills were fun to watch as always.
-Marcus Benard easily beat Will Svitek in pass-rush drills. Michael Buchanan beat Elvis Fisher off the line with a quick outside move. Jake Bequette beat Nate Solder for the second day in a row with the same outside speed move.
-Two of the best matchups were Logan Mankins and Wilfork, Mankins winning two to Wilfork’s one. Sebastian Vollmer and Rob Ninkovich also fought to a draw.
-Chris McDonald and Markus Zusevics looked bad in losses to Joe Vellano, who used a swim move to beat each of them. Jermaine Cunningham was 1-2, losing to Marcus Cannon and Tyrone Green as well as earning a false start. Tommy Kelly also didn’t have a win, collecting a false start and a loss to R.J. Mattes.
-Marcus Cannon and Marcus Benard were the two best performers in my opinion in the rush drills. Joe Vellano ended up 4-0 on the day, after looking poor on Sunday.
-Alfonzo Dennard continued his good overall performance, cutting in front of Dobson and breaking up a slant in 11 v 11. Dobson didn’t sell the outside move well enough – the slant was the one route that I pinpointed from his Marshall tape that I felt he really needed to work on.
-Although he’s had a good camp so far, Thompkins showed some chinks in his armor with a couple of dropped passes and a muffed punt. In 11 v 11, he failed to cut his route down which led to a pick from Aqib Talib.
-Ras-I Dowling made an impressive open field tackle on Josh Boyce, while Danny Amendola, Michael Jenkins and Aaron Dobson all were able to juke their defenders.
-Hightower did a nice job against Shane Vereen in coverage, breaking up the pass. Collins had a big chuck in coverage, knocking the running back off balance.
-Tavon Wilson was beat by an amazing catch by Michael Hoomanawanui and was victimized later by Jake Ballard who made the catch with Wilson all over him.
-Duron Harmon was guilty of overpursuit on a couple of occasions, but made up for it with a nice interception on an overthrown Ryan Mallett pass.
-In field goal drills, Gostkowski was 6-6, hitting from 30, 33, 36, 40, 43 and 46 yards.
-The Patriots announced after practice that Armond Armstead had surgery to repair an infection and is expected to make a full recovery.