The New England Patriots were back on the field Tuesday afternoon for the fifth straight day of training camp.
The sun was out and it was a beautiful day in Foxborough, MA. But as head coach Bill Belichick once said, “It’s supposed to be hot, it’s supposed to be tough, it’s training camp.”
Here are my observations from Tuesday:
– One of the stars of training camp, rookie wide receiver Aaron Dobson, did not participate in practice and was limping walking around. Not exactly sure what the injury is, but appeared to be a lower leg issue. The good news is no wraps, brace or splint, so it is most likely a deep bruise or tweak.
Wide receivers Julian Edelman and Mark Harrison, both dealing with leg injuries, also did not participate. The two spent some time doing some light running on the far side of the field.
– In the past, we have seen Tom Brady make an extra effort and show more enthusiasm with new offensive weapons, which is what we have seen at this point of camp as well. The franchise quarterback was emotional and excited on several different occasions Tuesday. From a second-effort Josh Boyce, diving touchdown; a deep jump ball to Kenbrell Thompkins down the sideline; or an incredible one-handed grab from Zach Sudfeld in tight coverage by Adrian Wilson. It has been great to see him develop a rapport with the young pass catchers.
– At the beginning of training camp, I was critical of quarterbacks Tim Tebow and Ryan Mallett. While I feel my analysis was fair, both look much better since the first two days of camp. That being said, much better for both of them is still not where they need to be at this point. Mallett had some impressive throws Tuesday, though; his lack of consistency is frustrating.
– To start practice, Tim Tebow was running the zone-read. No other quarterbacks took any reps in the drill. Maybe something, maybe nothing, but thought I would mention it.
– Stevan Ridley had a much better day than Sunday’s practice. While the fumbling issue is a concern, he does seem to have improved his agility and catching during the off-season. I have been impressed with his cuts.
Shane Vereen continues to be solid every time he gets his hands on the ball. He seems poised for a stellar year.
Leon Washington looks explosive, elusive and ready to contribute when given the opportunity. One particular play that stood out, Washington caught a screen pass and then proceeded to juke or spin his way past three defensive players — he looks ready to go.
– As of now, I feel confident seven wide receivers will make the 53-man roster. I would guess Danny Amendola, Aaron Dobson, Michael Jenkins, Josh Boyce, Julian Edelman and Kenbrell Thompkins with Mathew Slater as the special teams captain. The three rookies — Dobson, Boyce and Thompkins — have all been impressive.
With Dobson sitting out, Thompkins saw more reps with the “first team” Tuesday and made a few great plays. He ran some beautiful routes and nearly juked Aqib Talib out of his cleats on one play, which Brady thoroughly enjoyed. Thompkins bounced back well after a rough Monday night for the team’s in-stadium practice.
– To this point, Michael Hoomanawanui has been the best tight end in camp. Undrafted rookie Zach Sudfeld made some incredible plays Tuesday, however, and may be pushing for a roster spot. His athleticism really stood out during the team’s afternoon session. His play during the pre-season will be key.
– Defensive lineman Marcus Forston seems to be climbing the depth chart. The second-year lineman has been rotating in with Tommy Kelly and Vince Wilfork during drills. He improved as the year went on last year and it seems he is continuing to rise.
– Rookie linebacker Jamie Collins looks like he will contribute early in the year. He in an incredible athlete and his versatility stands out, think a faster Rob Ninkovich. Collins lined up on the edge rushing, both standing and with his hand on the ground, along with getting some reps at outside linebacker. He has jumped out a few times and I am excited to see what he can bring to this defense.
– I have been a big fan of Adrian Wilson throughout his career and believed he would be a big time contributor for this Pats defense. While I still feel that way, I am worried he continues to let offensive players catch the ball when he is covering them. Wilson’s veteran status and physical style of play may be taking a backseat during camp, but I would like to see more from him at this point.
– On the final play of practice, Ridley caught a pass and was hit hard by cornerback Kyle Arrington, who then began to strut around. Ridley wasn’t happy and took a swing, but the dust-up was broken up immediately. When asked about the incident after, Ridley said, “That’s camp, man. That’s camp.” On a hot day, after five days of action, not really surprising.
– I spoke with rookie cornerback Logan Ryan after practice. When I asked what his plans were for tomorrow’s off day, he said “nothing” and laughed. From the players I have spoken to, the common theme is as much as they are excited to be back on the field, they are ready to relax for a day.
Back to action on Thursday, stay tuned.
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