NEPD Editor: Mike Loyko
The Patriots and birthday boy Tom Brady were back on the practice field early Saturday morning gearing up for the first round of exhibition games. However, today was more about Tim Tebow and Ryan Mallett as both QB took the majority of the reps at QB. How did Tim Tebow look running the offense and what other players stood out? How did the young receivers look catching balls from someone else besides Brady? Check out my observations and notes from Saturday’s practice.
Attendence: Tavon Wilson, Jake Ballard and Lavasier Tuinei were not present for practice despite being in full uniform yesterday. Ras-I Dowling, Marcus Cannon, Jermaine Cunningham, Kevin Haslem and Nate Ebner were absent. Armond Armstead, Rob Gronkowski remain on the PUP and NFI lists respectively. Mark Harrison was present for the start of practice in shorts and a t-shirt. He spent time catching passes from Tom Brady and Ryan Mallett. Once practice started he went to the side field to do conditioning.
Injuries of Note: Matthew Slater appeared to tweak a hamstring or lower body extremity during warm-ups. He spent time riding the bike and didn’t take part in any team or special teams drills. Alfonzo Dennard did drills and warm-ups with the team. Once team practice started he was off to the side by himself, not participating. It’s unknown what he is dealing with, however I did notice a slight limp as he walked off the field. Dennard’s situation is a precarious one, as he is out at practice going through warm-ups, but not participating in team. It’s definitely a situation to monitor.
Roster Moves: No roster moves of note.
Practice Notes and Observations:
The team ran a scrimmage type practice today with the team split into blue and white jersey. The first team defense was in blue jerseys and the first team offense was in white.
1. Today’s practice was all about Tim Tebow and Ryan Mallett. Tom Brady played only two series and then spent the rest of practice on the sideline. Tebow and Mallett got a chance to run the offense.
Tim Tebow – He took most of the snaps and certainly had his share of good reps, but also had some “what the heck was that” plays. Tebow started off team drills by completing three straight passes. First he hit Aaron Dobson on a 15 yard out and then zipped a completion to Michael Hoomanawanui up the seam, beating tight coverage. Two throws specifically stand out to me. One was a 30 yard touch pass in which he led Josh Boyce to the endzone and the other was a back-corner endzone throw to Quentin Sims. Both throws showed good timing and good touch. When Tebow wants to, he can rip the ball with good velocity. His mobility in relation to any other QB on the roster is evident. On one occasion he rolled out to his right, only to see Justin Francis in his face. He was able to elude Francis and turned the corner for a huge gain.
Now for the bad. It seems when Tim Tebow makes a mistake they are real bad mistakes and extremely noticeable. His day included plenty of misconnections and two interceptions– one to Duron Harmon and the other to Jamie Collins. The interception to Harmon was a terrible one. Tebow floated and telegraphed an out route to his right. Harmon read Tebow and dove in front of it for the interception. He also had a number of throws that were way off target, a few where underthrown and a number sailed out of bounce. He continues to hold the ball too long at times and doesn’t have his timing down with all the receivers yet.
While many will rip Tebow for his bad throws and interceptions. It clear to see why a team would like Tebow. He makes some throws that impress and flashes legit NFL QB talent. Consistency has always been an issue with him and it continues to be at this point in camp.
Ryan Mallett – Mallet had a productive practice and showed more of the same. He displayed a lot more consistency than Tim Tebow, especially with the way he spread the ball to his underneath receivers. His progressions are much smoother than Tebow’s and his poise in the pocket is a bit better. His knowledge of the passing offense is an advantage at this point and he looks at ease with running the offense. With Mallett it’s all about decision making and touch. He threw a poor interception today directly to Devin McCourty and missed a few easy throws. Mallett does appear to get the ball out quicker than he did last year. He gets himself in trouble when he tries to power the ball into tight coverage.
2. Josh Boyce and Kenbrell Thompkins were the two best receivers on the field today. Boyce literally caught everything thrown to him and did so with soft hands. He doesn’t let the ball get into his body. Boyce’s speed is clear, multiple times he lost the DB covering him out of his break. He also ran right by CB Justin Green for a long touchdown connection… from Tim Tebow. Thompkins was paired up with Ryan Mallett and appeared to be his go to receiver along with Julian Edelman. He saw a high volume of passes thrown his way. He dropped at least one ball that I saw, but was consistently open. His physical build makes him tough to hold up at the line and on most of his routes he was able to get open by beating tight coverage.
Aaron Dobson didn’t have nearly as many balls thrown his way today. Tim Tebow seemed to fall in love with Josh Boyce and Quentin Sims. When the ball was thrown to him he caught it. Dobson unlike Boyce and Thompkins, doesn’t separation from defenders with ease.
3. Zach Sudfeld is clearly the best receiving threat among the healthy tight ends. He’s the fastest of the tight ends on the roster and can be used in a number of positions. On multiple occasions he was able to beat a linebacker or safety in man coverage for what would have been huge gains. While it’s only practice his ability to get open over the middle of the field and beat coverage with his quickness should be an asset once the real games start. His size and length is also a huge factor. He moves well for a 6’7″ guy and that makes him tough to match up against. As long as he is healthy, I don’t see any way he’s not on the 53 man roster.
4. Adrian Wilson was unfortunately a victim of Zach Sudfeld’s success. Two specific plays stand out in which Sudfeld beat Wilson. Sudfeld beat Wilson across his face and seperated from him to haul in a big completion. Wilson was unable to keep pace once Sudfeld broke over the middle. I have questions about Wilson’s ability to hold up in coverage, especially in man coverage. His lateral quickness just isn’t there right now, however I do think he will be an asset in the rungame. The Patriots will have to protect him against the passing game, by playing him closer to the line. Aside from Devin McCourty there are still questions at safety.
5. Devin McCourty took off the red non-contact jersey for the first time today. When asked about how his health was he said “Whatever color jersey they put into my locker I’ll wear.” McCourty had himself a really nice day on the practice field. He was in tight coverage all day and got himself one of the easiest interceptions of his career thanks to Ryan Mallett. It’s so clear that McCourty is more comfortable at safety. His range and instincts allow him to be in on a number of plays. When he can see the play in front of him and locate the football, McCourty can usually make a play on it.
6. Julian Edelman was on the practice field and a full participant. At the end of practice yesterday, it looked as if he may of reinjured his foot. Edelman dodged a scare and was able to take part in all parts of the session. Edelman continued to be one of the best receivers on the field, his quickness underneath and knowledge of the offense is his best asset right now. Edelman is clearly still dealing with some soreness and discomfort in the foot however. After most plays he could be seen shaking out the foot and just looked a bit uncomfortable at times. Nevertheless he was on the field and had a productive day on the field. I foresee a scenario where the Patriots have both Edelman and Amendola on the field together, both in the slot, which will be tough for linebackers and corners to match-up with.
7. Since the Patriots were only in shells (helmets and shoulder pads), not much could be learned about the offensive and defensive lines. Justin Francis and Jake Bequette got into the backfield a number of times for would be sacks, but with the line moving at less than full speed, not much can be gleaned. The defensive play of the day was made by Brandon Spikes. Spikes was matched up with Zach Sudfeld and was able to run with him vertically down the seam. Spikes broke up the pass, saving a touchdown and drew a huge reaction from the crowd. After the play, Spikes did his signature dance and showboated quite a bit.
8. Last season Stevan Ridley only caught six passes. If practice is any indication then the Patriots are going to make a concerted effort to throw him more passes this season. Today, Ridley was used in a number of different aligments and formations. He looks more confident in his hands and caught everything that was thrown to him. Conversely, Shane Vereen had a quiet practice not seeing much action in the running or passing game.
9. Like yesterday Aqib Talib was the best cornerback on the field. It seems as though the opposing QBs don’t even try to test him, opting to target the opposing CB. Talib is coming off a great off-season and it appears to be carrying over to the practice field. Out of all the off-season acquisitions and draft picks, having Talib on the field for a full season could be the biggest acquisition of them all. The secondary is a different unit when he is on the field and Devin McCourty is at safety.
10. Quentin Sims had himself a nice practice. He had the offensive play of the day when he and Tim Tebow connected for a long touchdown. Sims had a step on CB Justin Green, located the ball in the back of the endzone, went up to catch it over Green and got both feet down in the endzone. The play drew a huge roar from the crowd and spurred on a chorus on “Tebow” chants. Sims has an uphill climb to make the roster, but he seems to be settling in to the camp routine. The practice squad isn’t out of the question at this point.