Rob Gronkowski Progresses, Cameron Fleming Starts on Final Day of Patriots Training Camp

The New England Patriots drew a large crowd for their final open practice of the summer. (Photo: Dan Hope — NFL Draft Sites Network)

The New England Patriots drew a large crowd for their final open practice of the summer. (Photo: Dan Hope — NFL Draft Sites Network)

NEPD Contributor: Dan Hope

Monday’s training camp practice for the New England Patriots was the final session open to the public this summer. It gave Patriots fans the opportunity to see something they’ve been waiting to see since December: Rob Gronkowski participating in full-team drills and taking contact.

Eight months removed from a torn ACL, Gronkowski has been working his way back gradually during training camp. He hasn’t played in either of the Patriots’ first two preseason games—and it’s doubtful he’ll play in either of the last two—but he looked ready for action, or at least close to it, on Monday.

Most of Gronkowski’s work came in 7-on-7 drills, where he strided cleanly through his routes, was a frequent target for Patriots quarterbacks and caught just about everything that came his way, with no apparent troubles. He also participated in the final 11-on-11 portion of the day, and spent some extra time catching passes from Tom Brady during breaks.

One cannot be fully assured of Gronkowski’s health until he takes the field for an actual game, but his strong performance Monday made it clear that once he gets back into action, he will be a go-to target once again as he uses his size to make plays over defenders who try to cover him.

Offensive line shuffling continues

The New England Patriots continued to experiment with different offensive line combinations Monday as fourth-round pick Cameron Fleming took the majority of work with the first-team offense as the starting right guard.

Fleming continued to work as the right tackle with the second-team offense as he has all preseason, but the rookie from Stanford seems to at least be under consideration for the right guard job. He split reps with Jordan Devey, who started at right guard in the Patriots’ most recent preseason game Friday versus the Philadelphia Eagles, on Monday.

The right guard position is currently open because Dan Connolly continued to work as the first-team center Monday. Ryan Wendell received one series with the starters during walkthroughs, but was otherwise relegated to second-team work.

Marcus Cannon stood in at right tackle for Sebastian Vollmer, who did not practice Monday. Josh Kline occasionally relieved Logan Mankins at left guard, while Kline also saw some work as a tight end/sixth lineman during one portion of practice. Kline lined up at right guard with the second team.

Expect the experimentation to continue, and it’s unclear how rookie Bryan Stork will fit into the equation when he returns from injury, but Connolly seems to have a solid lead on Wendell at center while Fleming, Devey, Kline and Cannon could all be in the mix at right guard if Connolly moves to the middle.

Other notes

– Ryan Mallett worked ahead of Jimmy Garoppolo as the second-team quarterback for most of Monday’s practice. Mallett was solid for the most part but was off on a few throws, including one well-underthrown pass, intended for wide receiver Derrick Johnson, that was easily undercut by cornerback Brandon Browner for an interception.

Brady was also picked off once during 11-on-11 drills Monday. The starting quarterback missed slightly behind wide receiver Danny Amendola on an intermediate crossing route, and linebacker James Anderson made a nice play on the ball to pick it off.

– Injured defensive tackles Chris Jones and Sealver Siliga were among the non-participants in Monday’s practice. Tommy Kelly was a late arrival to practice. First-round pick Dominique Easley, who has been limited thus far in training camp, was a participant in team drills Monday.

– Seventh-round pick Jeremy Gallon practiced for the first time in training camp. He was one of the players fielding punts during the special teams portion of practice, along with Julian Edelman and Roy Finch.

– Unsurprisingly, two of the players who popped on the Patriots defense Monday were edge defender Chandler Jones and linebacker Jamie Collins. Jones blew by Nate Solder for a sack and by Chris Barker for a tackle for loss in the backfield. Collins made a few stops around the line of scrimmage and made a nice pass breakup over the middle on a dropback into coverage versus Derrick Johnson.


Dan Hope is the editor for Buffalo Bills Draft.

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16 Responses to “Rob Gronkowski Progresses, Cameron Fleming Starts on Final Day of Patriots Training Camp”

  1. Russell says:

    With TWO extra players on the P-Squad rule change, as well as the change in qualifying for the P-Squad, means a player like DT- Vellano, LB -Beauharnais, can be on the P-Squad.

    • steve earle says:

      Haven’t seen a breakdown on the new qualifications in the rule. Do these guys still have to clear wavers first?

  2. Kevan says:

    QB-Brady,Mallet,Jimmy G Rb-Vereen,Ridely,White,Bolden TE-Gronk,Hooman WR-Edelman,Amendola,Thompkins,Lafell,Dobson,Boyce,Slater OL- Solder,Mankins,Conolly,Cannon,Vollmer,Flemming,Halapio,Stork,Kline DE-C.jones,Ninko,Buchannon,Moore Dt-Wilfork,Kelley,Easely,Worthy,Bass (Chris jones,Seliga PUP) LB-Mayo,Collins,Hightower,Anderson,Flemming,White CB-Revis,Dennard,Arrington,Ryan,Butler, (Browner Sus) S-McCourtey,Harmon,J.Thomas,Ebner K-Gostowski P-Allen LS-Aiken Last Cuts-Finch,Dj Williams,Wendall,Smith,Vellano,Beauharnias,Wilson,Chung Pats might even look to trade Mallet during the first 4-6 weeks, by that time Garoppolo won’t be a rookie anymore. Ridely could be trade bait as well, if the Pats are in love with Finch. Boyce is only on the roster because of draft status at this point. Tyms is breathing down his neck. Maybe he becomes tradeable as well. Smith has shown nothing and Pats need help at DE, they need a legitimate 3rd guy to give Jones,Ninko a breather. Who knows, maybe Easely can do that. Beauharnias might stick over White, it wouldnt surprise me. I have no qualms cutting Wilson and Chung, and keeping just 4 safeties. With Browner coming back after week 4, and Ryan/Arrington able to play Safety I’m cool with that. Would like another TE,DE. A lot can happen from now to the 30th let’s hope the Pats can snag a couple more gems before week 1.

  3. Paul Hayes says:

    Lots of youth and inexperience on the OL, so I expect BB to find someone who can provide some veteran depth after the last round of cuts. Maybe Halapio goes to the PS.

  4. GM-in-Training says:

    Which Patriots positional groups do you think are stronger this year, and which are weaker?

    I score the definitely-stronger groups as:
    WR, CB.

    I score the maybe-stronger groups as:
    DE (depth), DT(if enough of them recover from injury)

    I score the who-knows groups as:
    OL, LB, Safety

    I score the probably-weaker group as:
    RB (gained some 3rd-down depth, but lost only heavy hitter in Blount)
    Kick Returners

    TE (injuries everywhere, no depth)

    To me, this suggest the Pats will go lots of 3-wide-receiver sets and short passes to running backs this year. It’s not clear they’ve found a better answer at Center and Right Guard, and absent Blount I’m concerned about their power game.

    • steve earle says:

      Hitting the nail on the head here GM. TE is a big question at this point for sure but some help could possably be comming after cut downs, who can tell. I don’t expect any big name, game changing types but a decent depth guy would be welcome.

      • Oppitz says:

        If Gronk stays healthy during the all season the TE group will be one of the strenghts of the team…. Yes we dont have a decent pass catching option besides Gronk, but if healthy he’s gonna play 100% of the snaps… So its really not that necessary

        • Daniel R. Martin says:

          Considering gronk’s inability to be healthy or even on the field has contributed heavily to our not closing out the past three seasons with rings, I’d say counting on him to do so now is a dangerously risky proposition. We’re only going to have the GOAT QB throwing for us for a few more years. We should not leave such things to chance.

        • steve earle says:

          If if’s and maybe’s were gold, as the old saying goes…… But there are in point of fact a few TE’s of the type I alluded to such Luke Stocker at Tampa Bay, Chase Ford with the Vikings, Joseph Fauria at Detriot and so on who are fighting for a spot on their respective teams. It’s possable in one way or another BB could bring someone like them on board. But that too is a if and maybe. Just something to consider imo.

    • MaineMan says:

      TE – ABOUT THE SAME — With Gronk’s health being managed more carefully, Hooman practicing again now, and Develin playing more of a hybrid FB/TE role (and, apparently, getting pretty good at the receiving part), I don’t see TE as being necessarily “weaker” than last season (unless the loss of Matthew Mulligan is more critical than I imagine). Certainly not in an ideal state, but possibly a tiny bit better than last season, especially if the Pats can get more than 7 games out of Gronk.

      WR – STRONGER — With the addition of LaFell, improvement by KT, and with Dobson/Tyms at least in reserve, it seems to me this group may be sufficiently stronger to compensate quite a bit for the lack of an ideal TE corps wrt the passing attack directly. An improved WR corps may also help the RB situation, indirectly.

      RB – NOT “WEAKER”, BUT DIFFERENT — Ridley runs with some power (if he can hang onto the ball) as can Bolden and Gray (who may be more in the mix in the view of the coaches than we know about). None of them are Blount-level power backs, but still, may be sufficient with Hooman and Develin blocking (assuming that the OL is at least good at run-blocking). Though White isn’t a power-back at all, and apparently needs to figure out some stuff about the run-blocking scheme, he can catch – something the Blount didn’t do and Ridley doesn’t do very much – which now makes for three legit receiving targets coming out of the backfield (Vereen, White and Bolden). If the Pats can find away to add Finch without losing one of the others, it adds another runner who may also increase the potential of the passing attack. The benefit to all this, in combination with an improved WR corps, is that defenses would need to account for yet another legit passing target on pretty much every “running down”, thus potentially making it easier for the less powerful backs to get reasonable yardage on carries. “Pass to loosen things up for the ground game.” So, I don’t think that the RB group is necessarily weaker, it maybe just has different strengths that fit into the grand scheme of *this year’s* version of the offense in a bit different way.

      OL – WHO KNOWS — I agree 100%. With the constant mixing-and-matching in practices and two pre-season games, not to mention Stork’s prolonged absence complicating matters, it’s been impossible to get a clear read. It seems like there’s more than enough talent there, though, and it may simply be a matter of settling on a primary group and getting them to gel. Hope so.

      DB – MUCH STRONGER OVERALL — Since the “Strong Safety” designation is pretty much irrelevant to BB’s scheme anymore, and his nickel and dime packages seem to mix CB and “safety” almost at random now (with all the CBs all seeming to play the run very well), I’ve given up making any positional distinctions there and am thinking of them all just as “DBs”. Taken that way, it’s a pretty strong group that kind of “averages out” any weakness among “safeties”.

      LB, DE, DT – PROBABLY PRETTY OKAY OVERALL — Similar to the defensive backfield, there appears to be a lot of overlap among the Front Six groups – a testament, perhaps, to the versatility the BB has consistently striven to achieve, but also because it’s increasingly difficult to tell whether BB will be deploying a 30-front or a 40-front, even from play-to-play. During the practice I saw in person during Philly week, Moore and Smith were sometimes lined up in the middle of a 30-front, but then Fleming or Hightower would drop down from an OLB spot to make it a 40-front (sometimes the line shifted over, sometimes not). Vellano, Jones and Kelley all played the Nose or as a 30-front DE and in various pairings in a 40-front. Nink, Jones, Buchanan and Fleming were very often lining up at OLB with Mayo/Collins or Anderson/Beauharnais at ILB, but were also used in their “traditional 40-front DE roles. It was like the OL mixing-and-matching thing *times 10*. The point being that the lack of depth at LB may not be quite as critical as it looks on the surface because so many of the guys can be moved around. I still don’t think LB depth is great, by any means, especially at ILB/MLB, but still, overall…..

  5. steve earle says:

    Good to hear many previously recovering players are finally on the field. I like the idea of Connelly starting at OC. He’s a better C then G and from past observation is solid there if notin the least spectacular. If he locks up the spot and Stork returns from injury shortly that would seem to put Windell on the cut list. Also about the O-line, if Flemming makes the 53 how will that effect Cannon’s future given Flemmings work at both G & T? Just a thought to stimulat some consideration from other fans here.

    • Tosh says:

      I like Connolly at C too, but I’m worried about the guard spot then… Solder and Mankins on the left is pretty solid, hopefully no problems there, Vollmer on the Right is great, but who is next to him? I assume that if the season started today the starter there would be Josh Kline, and while i don’t doubt that he can do the job, interior pressure has been the killer in the playoffs before, and even within the division, both the Jets and bills are fairly stacked at DT. Kline can handle the average DT but can he handle the Wilkersons, Ngatas, and Knighton’s of the league?

    • Oppitz says:

      I guess if Flemming prove to be a good backup at guard and both tackle positions it will happen the same thing that happened to Donald Thomas, when Cannon goes to free agency some team will play more than the Patriots want to pay… But until he hits the market, both have a roster spot, just like we had Svitek and Cannon last year.

    • Daniel R. Martin says:

      Steve, how much ptential do you see in Stork, as far as being our starting center now and for years to come?

      • steve earle says:

        Hi Dan, Stork was one of the top 4-5 OC in the last draft and as we’ve seen the Pat’s have taken low round OC’s coached them up to starters quite often before. Keeping in mind that centers generally don’t come off the board until mid rounds anyway I think Stork, who started for the national champs, is very likely to develpoe into one of the better centers before to long. He needs to get healthy and on the field asap to have a chance to unseat Connelly but even as a back-up the position should be stronger this year. The year two jump I expect to see him installed as the starter and then so for a few years. JMO but that’s how I feel about it.

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