The New England Patriots held their first padded practice of training camp on Sunday. The sound of crashing pads and the more physical element of practice emphasized football is just around the corner.
The first two days of practice were spent focusing on how players look, moved and the reps each were getting at their respective positions. Adding pads to the practice made the two-hour session a lot more interesting and made it easier to evaluate not only the lineman, but defensive players too.
Here are my notes from Sunday’s practice:
- Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski, Nick McDonald and Mark Harrison were in sweats on the sideline and have yet to take the field. Along with those four players,¬†Armond Armstead and Cory Grissom have yet to be spotted.
- Rookie receiver Kenbrell Thompkins had a fantastic day Sunday. Of all the wide outs, the undrafted free agent was the most impressive. He continues to get reps with the “first team” and showcases the ability to play outside. Seems like Thompkins is making a strong case to make the roster.
Along with Thompkins, fourth-round receiver Josh Boyce flashed Sunday as well. Boyce had great releases in press-man coverage drills, made incredible cuts, caught a deep pass and made a few plays in the slot. I was high on Boyce going into camp and today he showed he has a place in this offense. His Victor Cruz style of play intrigues me, although I am not confident saying he will be quite that good.
- Tom Brady has developed quite a rapport with receivers Danny Amendola, Michael Jenkins and rookie Aaron Dobson. There seems to be a solid chemistry between the unit, which is great to see in July. Overall, the franchise signal caller had a pretty good day, only a few overthrows.
- This was Tim Tebow’s best day of practice. No question he had struggled greatly in the first two days, as well as at times on Sunday, but he made a few throws that opened some eyes. Even when he struggles, however, he displays leadership constantly. I’ll be curious to see how his play continues in the coming weeks.
- Steven Ridley had a very tough day in camp. He looked pretty good early, but then proceeded to fumble the ball two times in about a 10 minute span. On the very first play of 11-on-11 and second of the goal-line drills, the ball popped out and no. 22 had to take a lap. Belichick was obviously not pleased and was screaming “We gotta take better control of the football!”, “We can’t turn the ball over!”
On top of the fumbles, Ridley also was hit pretty hard a couple of times in drills and just did not look very good. Going into his third year now, I want to see how he bounces back.
- Shane Vereen looks poised to have a very strong year. He runs strong, makes decisive cuts, catches the ball well and looks to have done a pretty good job improving his pass blocking skills. There are several reasons why fans should have a great deal of optimism on his play moving forward.
- Going into training camp I thought the team would have to decide between LaGarrett Blount and Brandon Bolden to make the 53-man roster, with Blount being the favorite. Three days into camp and Bolden is clearly the superior player in my mind. I also liked how Bolden looked running off-tackle towards the end of Sunday’s practice.
- With pads on, the evaluation process of offensive lineman was a lot easier Sunday. Dan Connolly did not seem to finish practice and Marcus Cannon, who was taking some first ream reps at right guard throughout the day, flourished in his absence. Logan Mankins seemed temporarily shake up at one point, but he returned to action. The offensive line unit looked very strong and deep with talent.
- Vince Wilfork dominated the padded session Sunday. He looked powerful, had a nice strip of Ridley on the goal-line and pushed the pocket. The defensive captain seems to be picking up right where he left off.
- Chandler Jones flashed a couple of times, coming hard off the edge strong pass rushing. The added weight he put on in the off-season doesn’t seem to have slowed him down. His progression and development is a great sign for this defense.
- Aqib Talib, Alfonso Dennard and Kyle Arrington all had a good practice Sunday. The top three Pats cornerbacks seem comfortable in their roles and used their hands nicely breaking up several passes on tight coverage. Talib stands out as the top corner, as his technique is so smooth and controlled; It is fun to watch him play.
On the flip side, Ras-I Dowling had a really tough day. It did not seem to matter if it was a short or long pass, the third-year cornerback struggled against several receivers. Dowling looked alright the first two days of camp, so I will be watching his next session very closely.
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