NEPD Editor: Oliver Thomas
The New England Patriots were in shorts and shells for the first two days of training camp, but that changed on Saturday. It was full pads for the team’s 9:15 morning practice. And it was, even for veteran defensive tackle Tommy Kelly, who opened camp on the physically unable to perform list after tearing his ACL last season.
Kelly walked out onto the fields and was a partial participant as things got underway. First-round defensive tackle Dominique Easley, seventh-round wideout Jeremy Gallon, undrafted linebacker Deontae Skinner, as well as receivers Aaron Dobson, Matthew Slater and cornerback Alfonzo Dennard did not participate but were in sweats for the third consecutive day.
Dobson and Dennard were seen riding exercise bikes in the south end zone while some of the others worked in the rehab group.
Undrafted tackle Chris Martin, sixth-round defensive back Jemea Thomas and wide receiver Greg Orton were not seen. That has been the trend for Martin, and it was the second straight practice that Thomas was not located. Orton, meanwhile, wasn’t expected to be in attendance after leaving the field on a cart Friday morning.
For Swanson, not seeing his No. 35 jersey was a surprise; he intercepted a pass in the red zone during 11-on-11 drills yesterday.
As practice got underway, the team focused on kick returns, which were fielded by defensive back Travis Hawkins, receiver Derrick Johnson, running backs Roy Finch and fourth-round draft choice James White – all rookies.
Quarterbacks worked with the centers on the far field before the units joined for a sideline-to-sideline jog. From there, it was position drills – which saw defensive tackle Sealver Siliga and linebacker Dont’a Hightower barrel through in 1-on-1 pass-rushing drills. And concurrently, it was additional special teams work – which saw second-year safety Kanorris Davis work exclusively with special teams assistant Joe Judge on technique.
Then it was time for 7-on-7, 11-on-11 and even 1-on-1 between the receivers and the corners.
In 7-on-7, quarterback Tom Brady completed six of his 10 passes, including a terrific out-and-up completion to receiver Julian Edelman against cornerback Logan Ryan and safety Devin McCourty. In 11-on-11, Brady started slow with three incompletions – one being an interception to corner Darrelle Revis – but finished having completed seven of his 10 attempts. And in 1-on-1 battles down the sideline, it was as much about Brady as it was his targets and the defenders covering them.
Brady tossed seven completions in his 15 attempts during 1-on-1 looks. Second-year wideout Josh Boyce dropped one against Revis, and Revis came back to outlast Edelman and pick off Brady once again. It didn’t take much for him to shine in a more physical setting.
Even so, the wideouts struck back.
Brandon LaFell, who overcame a couple drops during practice, broke off a corner route and left Revis guessing the wrong way for a touchdown. Edelman’s elusiveness posed a challenge for 6’4” cornerback Brandon Browner and Malcolm Butler, as he cut back to the sideline for a pair of catches as well. Second-year receiver Kenbrell Thompkins later dove to make a catch against Browner, which said more about his effort than it did Browner’s coverage. And in perhaps one the plays of the day, Danny Amendola reeled in a one-handed catch against Hawkins while running a deep post.
Ryan Mallett, meanwhile, completed five of his six passes in 7-on-7 and three of seven in 11-on-11. He had some strong throws, including a dart to rookie receiver Wilson Van Hooser, but he also had three picks to 2013 third-round safety Duron Harmon, rookie defensive back Malcolm Butler and nickelback Kyle Arrington.
Second-round pick Jimmy Garoppolo continued to learn on the go with his reps. There were times where he waited too long before taking a shot downfield, and there were times where his pass-catchers did not do him many favors. He completed both of his passes in 7-on-7, but he completed just one of four passes in 11-on-11, including two bobbles by undrafted tight end Justin Jones and an interception by safety Tavon Wilson.
In 1-on-1, Garoppolo did not convert on his three attempts, seeing Ryan intercept one and Hawkins deflect another. Down along the goal line, he was also forced to run a lap for fumbling the snap from center.
Those goal line situations put the pads to the test. Running back Stevan Ridley forged through for a touchdown run behind the lane clearing of fullback James Develin and tight end Michael Hoomanawanui. On the attempt of 5’10”, 205-pound rookie James White, he was unable to get through.
But White was able do so in 11-on-11 drills. On one particular play, the fourth-round pick took the handoff and cut back between the crease of center Ryan Wendell and left guard Dan Connolly. The end result was a lengthy gain downfield.
Although full-contact practice is still in its lighter stages, White and Finch continue to impress with their quickness in short space. Fellow undrafted rookie Stephen Houston and first-year running back Jonas Gray are of a different mold as bulkier backs who drive through tackles with strong legs and low pad level.
Their ability is coming to light as the contact and competition heats up.
As the Patriots return to the field at 9:15 a.m. on Sunday, perhaps we’ll see more of it.
Tags: Patriots Training Camp