By: Derek Havens
The New England Patriots returned to the practice field Thursday afternoon, after a much needed day off on Wednesday.
The players appeared to be in high spirits and the coaches were very vocal as the team held their sixth training camp session. The weather was good, much cooler than previous days and the rain held off until the end.
Here are my observations from Thursday’s practice:
Rookie wide receiver Aaron Dobson is off to a hot start at training camp. (FILE:USPresswire)
– Wide receiver Aaron Dobson returned to practice on Thursday after taking a cleat to the foot area on Monday nights in-stadium practice. The standout rookie did not appear to skip a beat as he made some tremendous place from the get-go. Quarterback Tom Brady’s trust with him seems to be growing, which is great news for Pats fans.
One negative: Dobson did line up on the wrong side of the field and had to be redirected by Brady, which I don’t believe had happened to this point. Besides missing Tuesday’s practice, this has really been the only blemish on Dobson’s hot start so far.
– Wide receiver Julian Edelman was taken off the Physically Unable to Perform list and cleared to practice Thursday morning. He also returned to the practice field for the team’s afternoon session and participated on all drills.
Edelman looked quick and showed no hesitation making strong cuts. He appears to be healthy and ready for the season.
– Other Injury Notes: Brandon Bolden and Cory Grissom were back at practice after sitting out Tuesday, but just did some light work on the side. Ras-I Dowling came up limping mid-way through practice and spent the rest of the session on a bike. Mark Harrison and Rob Gronkowski were spotted in sweats. It’s been extremely disappointing Harrison has not yet practiced, because I believed he could have made the 53-man roster if given the opportunity. Armond Armstead and Marcus Cannon were not present. Devin McCourty was wearing his red non-contact jersey again.
– Receiver Kenbrell Thompkins can play. I am pretty confident this guy will make the team after another solid outing Thursday. He appears to excel in everything he participates in during practice. Through six sessions, Monday has been the only practice he struggled. Even more impressive than his performances, is the fact Brady looks his way so often. Thompkins doesn’t look as good as Dobson or Amendola, but he’s opened my eyes after being signed as an undrafted free agent.
When I spoke to Thompkins after practice, he said he “feels good” and is “having fun out there”. I am really interested to see how he performs in the pre-season.
– Jake Ballard seems to be really struggling. He said early on in camp he lost nearly 20 pounds to put less pressure on his knees and move quicker. Well, he still seems to be hobbling very badly and does not appear to be healthy, but is participating nevertheless.
Rookie Zack Sudfeld has had two pretty good practices back-to-back and if he continues to build momentum, Ballard might be in danger of not making the team.
– Tim Tebow continues to work with offensive assistant Brian Daboll at times throughout each practice. While he is still holding on to the ball way too long, his accuracy is a little better than in recent days and seems to be holding the ball higher. While his practice performances have been underwhelming, if he continues to show development, I certainly would not rule him out when it is time for roster cuts.
– Tight end Michael Hoomanawanui and rookie linebacker Jamie Collins got into a small scuffle earlier on in the practice, but nothing major. As running back Stevan Ridley said the other day, “That’s camp, man. That’s camp.”
– With the release of interior lineman Nick McDonald, absence of Marcus Cannon and Dan Connolly limited in participation, Tyrone Green stepped in and made the most of his opportunity. Green took reps at the right guard position with the “first team” and has been impressive, especially in 1-on-1 drills.
– Marcus Bernard is a name to keep in mind. The defensive end continues to dominate 1-on-1 drills and flashed several times on Thursday. The 6’2, 260 veteran has looked impressive and in the mix for a roster spot right now.
– Jamie Collins is an athletic freak. The rookie linebacker displays his strong tackling ability and incredible athleticism every session. During one play Thursday, Tebow rolled out of the pocket and tried to scramble. Collins came across the field and chased him down from behind before taping him on the posterior. Do not be surprised if he is in the mix early at outside linebacker, the team is very high on him.
– Aqib Talib continues to be the most impressive cornerback by a wide margin. His technique and the use of his hands jump out watching him perform. The defensive backfield seems much more under control when he and McCourty are back there. A lot of players seem to look up to Talib as well, and he appears to have taken second-year cornerback Alfonzo Dennard under his wing.
– After missing a few field goals early in training camp, kicker Stephen Gostkowski has been much more accurate. Although, he has had a field goal attempt blocked each of the last two sessions, so either his kicks are low or the blocking is poor. Perhaps something to keep an eye on moving forward.
– When the Patriots were in a dime defensive package Thursday, they had three safeties on the field. McCourty was playing deep-center field, Steve Gregory was playing strong safety and Adrian Wilson was lined up in the box as a linebacker. Given Wilson’s size and athleticism, I could envision him playing some linebacker in various roles during the season.
– A funny moment after practice when I talked to A.Wilson and told him I just moved back to the Boston area from Arizona as well. He looked at me and said, “What’s wrong with you man?” We both got a good laugh over it as two guys going through a transition period. He seems to be well accepted by the players, coaches and spent a lot of time with fans after practice.
Overall, a solid practice and the team will be back out on the field Friday from 2:20-4:30 p.m. More observations to come.
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