By: Derek Havens
The New England Patriots took the field Friday afternoon and took part in their seventh training camp practice.
Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib continues to impress in training camp. (FILE:USPresswire)
With the team’s first preseason game a week from today, the intensity started to pick up a little bit more than the past few sessions, but the overall performances were a little lackluster. Roster cuts are only a couple of weeks away and players are a little more on edge and realize any mistakes could have long-term ramifications for their career in New England.
Here are my observations from Friday’s practice:
– Injury notes: Ras-I Dowling, Jermaine Cunningham, Armond Armstead, Marcus Cannon and Kevin Haslam were not spotted on the field. Mark Harrison and Rob Gronkowski were on the field, but just watching from the sidelines.
Wide Receiver Michael Jenkins did not finish practice, possibly a pulled hamstring. Devin McCourty is still wearing his red non-contact jersey, but took part in every drill except tackling.
Julian Edelman came up limping towards the end of practice after diving for a deep pass in the end zone. Edelman was just removed from the Physically Unable to Perform list yesterday. I did not see him return to practice, but he was walking around after.
– I continue to be impressed by the wide receivers as camp progresses. Danny Amendola along with the three rookie receivers — Aaron Dobson, Josh Boyce and Kenbrell Thompkins — have all stood out each session. However, this was a rough day for the receiving core.
Amendola, Dobson and Boyce had a rough day with several dropped passes and receivers had a few miscommunications with Tom Brady. I would say it was the rookies’ worst day of camp so far. I still have high expectations for them, however, as they are getting a lot of reps with the “first team” offense.
– The offense was running their no-huddle and hurry system while they ran an 11-on-11 drill with music blasting to simulate crowd noise. It seemed Brady had trouble getting on the same page with all the receivers and the unit stalled on the 15-yard line. Brady took off his helmet and yelled, “We’ve got to pick up the pace, fellas!” Something to monitor going forward.
– LeGarrette Blount stills looks very slow and I don’t see him making the roster at this point. Every once in awhile he flashes some incredible move for someone with his size, but Brandon Bolden has been much more impressive.
– Tim Tebow has shown slight improvement throwing the football each day through camp. He has more zip on his passes, and while his accuracy is not where it needs to be on every pass, it looks better than a week ago. I still don’t believe he fits as a quarterback for this specific offense, but I think the team believes they can continue to develop him.
– James Develin has lined up at running back, fullback and tight end with the “first team” offense. The 25-year-old is 6’3 and 255 pounds, but has some versatility. The way the coaching staff has utilized him so far, along with his skill set, could make him a dark horse to make the roster.
– Tight end Jake Ballard has been limping noticeably throughout camp and I believe he will be hard-pressed to make the roster at this point. Daniel Fells and Michael Hoomanawanui have been much more impressive. Undrafted rookie tight end Zach Sudfeld seems to be getting more reps than Ballard as well and taking advantage of his opportunities.
– Tommy Kelly and Vince Wilfork will be hard for opposing offensive lines this season. Kelly is not only very big, but looks lean and muscular as well. He said last Friday he is on a diet right now, but wouldn’t go into specifics. Whatever he is doing, it’s working, because he could be productive on this defense. The two linemen could be a force this season.
– For the second straight day, cornerback Alfonso Dennard did not get his usual amount of reps with the “first team” defense. I expect the Patriots are taking a precautionary stance with Dennard’s pending legal trouble. Marquice Cole, Kyle Arrington and Devin McCourty rotated in his place.
– Devin McCourty working on position flexibility and versatility Friday. The defensive captain spent a lot of time at right cornerback, not safety. He worked a bit at cornerback yesterday too. Probably the most interesting defensive note of the day.
While I believe McCourty should and will play at safety, the Patriots could turn to him if an injury occurs. While the top of the cornerback depth chart is solid, it is not very deep.
– Punter Zoltan Mesko had been looking over his shoulder throughout training camp to this point for rookie Ryan Allen. While Allen displays a strong leg from time to time, I believe Mesko has shown on a more consistent basis to be the better punter.
On a positive note, Kicker Stephen Gostkowski was perfect kicking field goals Friday and did not have a single attempt blocked, unlike the previous two sessions.
The Patriots will begin Saturday’s practice at 9 a.m. for their eighth session. Be sure to check back for my daily camp observations. Also, do you have a Twitter account? Be sure to follow me: @PatriotsHaven for live updates and team news!