NEPD Editor: Oliver Thomas
The New England Patriots kicked off training camp Thursday morning, as sunny skies and humidity gave way to dark clouds and light showers by noon. But over the course of the three-hour practice, observations came to light.
They did, even if the Patriots weren’t in football pads.
Receiver Danny Amendola was the first Patriots player on the field to start opening day. That title went to undrafted safety Kanorris Davis last July.
But in a different sort of attendance was second-year wideout Aaron Dobson, seventh-round receiver Jeremy Gallon, special-teamer Matthew Slater, third-year cornerback Alfonzo Dennard and veteran defensive tackle Tommy Kelly. All of whom are currently on the physically unable to perform list, but they did head onto the field to primarily observe the 9:45 a.m. practice.
Gallon and Slater were wearing practice jerseys, while the other five were wearing sweats. Dobson, Gallon, Slater, Dennard, Kelly were spotted doing agility drills on the far sideline and the lower field. And first-round defensive tackle Dominique Easley and undrafted linebacker Deontae Skinner – both presently on the non-football injury list – were spotted there with them.
Undrafted rookie offensive lineman Chris Martin, also on the NFI list, was not spotted. Speedy rookie tailback Roy Finch, on the other hand, was.
The 5’7”, 180-pounder was cleared to practice and looked as sudden as he was at Oklahoma, fielding kicks and taking handoffs.
Just seven months after tearing the ACL and MCL in his right knee, two-time All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski was practicing as well. Although he was wearing a shield on his left forearm and a sleeve on his right knee, Gronkowski looked at home. He was sprinting, planting and cutting. And while he was was limited in the practice as the team moved into seven-on-seven and 11-on-11 drills, he did partake in individual drills and went through the route tree with quarterback Tom Brady towards the end.
In 7-on-7 drills, Brady completed four of nine passes, backup quarterback Ryan Mallett completed four of seven passes, while rookie second-rounder completed two of five under that capacity.
In 11-on-11 drills – which were performed in the red zone twice and in no-huddle once – Brady completed 12 of his 16 throws, Mallett completed one of his six, and Garoppolo completed three of his five.
Cornerback Brandon Browner, third-year linebacker Dont’a Hightower and captain Jerod Mayo had their hands in three of those incompletions, as all three stretched to smack down passes in the red zone. Undrafted corner Malcolm Butler also elevated back towards the ball for an interception in the back right corner of the end zone.
And defensive back Justin Green, a 2013 practice-squad promotion, turned in a strong day in coverage as well. He broke up passes intended for former fourth-round pick Josh Boyce and free-agent acquisition Brandon LaFell.
The 6’3” LaFell drew some attention for his length, which is very apparent in Dobson’s absence. Yet he also drew attention with a couple of drops. In offensive skill drills, undrafted rookie Wilson Van Hooser also let two passes get away from him, while Kenbrell Thompkins bobbled one along the boundary.
Nevertheless, Thompkins and 100-catch, 1,000-yard receiver Julian Edelman had impressive showings. Thompkins made two difficult catches in the back of the end zone, while Edelman ran with precision and pace to snare nearly everything thrown his direction. Both seemed to be on the same page and led by example.
Looking to follow in their footsteps is Greg Orton. After being re-signed on Wednesday, the wide receiver regained No. 16 from rookie Tyler McDonald, who was released in a corresponding move. The 27-year-old Orton was on New England’s practice squad during the playoff push last season. He was later signed to a reserve-futures deal before being released in May.
Also in May, Zach Moore became the first player drafted out of Concordia-St.Paul. And when the defensive end was lined up on the field Thursday, he looked every bit of the 6’6” and 275 pounds he’s listed as. A sixth-round selection who will have to carve a role on special teams, those measurables may work in Moore’s favor as he looks to carve a role in pass rush.
One edge-rusher in competition with Moore is 2013 seventh-rounder Michael Buchanan. Though the tackling has yet to commence, Buchanan seems to have added more muscle to his 6’6”, 255-pound frame.
When the offensive linemen are put to the test during full-contact practices this weekend, we’ll have a better idea as to how it will translate.
As of now, the unit is still in its early stages.
There were 11 offensive linemen rotating into the July 24 session.
The group showed its versatility and youth, with the likes of Dan Connolly, Marcus Cannon and rookie draft picks Cameron Fleming, Bryan Stork and Jon Halapio in the mix. Even so, it remains to be seen how those ingredients will be pieced together, particularly at center and right guard, moving forward.
Moving forward, the Patriots are scheduled to practice again on Friday at 9:15 a.m.
Tags: Patriots Training Camp