By: Derek Havens
The Patriots got down to business during their second practice behind Gillette Stadium on Friday. (PHOTO: Derek Havens/PatsFans.com)
The New England Patriots opened up training camp to the public for the second day on Friday and fans piled in to watch the team practice.
Unlike Thursday’s practice session, which had dark clouds covering the sky followed by light rain to end the session, the sun was shining brightly Friday. Day two of practice was beautiful and a great atmosphere yet again in no small part due to all of the fans.
The players and coaches were in a light-hearted mood, but also got down to business working on fundamentals.
Here are my observations from Friday:
– The only two players not seen Friday were cornerback Jemea Thomas and offensive lineman Chris Martin. Wide receiver Aaron Dobson, cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, special teamer Matthew Slater, linebacker Deontae Skinner, defensive lineman Dominique Easley, wide receiver Jeremy Gallon and defensive lineman Tommy Kelly were not participating in practice.
– It was a hot day Friday, so at the beginning of the session a few players got wet-and-wild. It was the NFL version of a slip and slide. One of the assistants soaked the far corner of the field for a while and then a few players — Garoppolo the only one I could pick out with confidence — would try to corral a simulated fumble.
– You hate to see any injuries in this setting, but recently re-signed WR Greg Orton went down with an apparent knee injury and had to be carted off. It’s not known how serious the injury is, but it didn’t look good.
– Rookie QB Jimmy Garoppolo had a rough day Friday. He struggled completing passes in team drills, fumbled a handoff with tailback Brandon Bolden and threw two interceptions. Obviously it’s early, but the second-round pick will want to put this practice behind him quickly.
In that same vein, four players ran penalty laps Friday. Logan Mankins the first offender; Bolden and Garoppolo for fumbling a handoff and Nate Solder for jumping offsides in seven-on-sevens. While coaches weren’t smiling, every time the player ran by the fan bleachers they received some loud cheers and applause from the crowd.
– It’s still early and I want to see more improvement, but Kenbrell Thompkins has put together some solid practices. He’s made some highlight reel catches and spent a lot of time with Brady, Gronkowski and Edelman for the second straight day. Once again, the opportunity is there for Thompkins. Brandon LaFell and Josh Boyce have progressed slowly, plus Dobson is still recovering. He’s making the most of his chances.
One of the plays of the day was during team drills at the end of the session. Brady hit Thompkins who made a nice diving catch to beat cornerback Darrelle Revis in the endzone. Tom Brady ran over and slapped Thompkins’ helmet, the two have built a good chemistry.
– The center position has gotten a lot of attention because many expect the Patriots to reshuffle going into the year. On Friday Dan Connolly got a lot of run at center with second-year lineman, Josh Kline, starting at right guard. It will be interesting to see how the team continues to move the guys around.
– It’s really hard to judge running backs without pads, but Shane Vereen made some nice plays Friday. He had a few great catches on wheel routes and saw significant reps lined up at wide receiver. We haven’t seen much of Stevan Ridley, but I expect that to change once the pads come on. Brandon Bolden has not looked good. He’s had a fumble and dropped a few passes.
– A funny moment after practice. Running back Stevan Ridley was signing for some fans and a group of young kids ran up to him. They weren’t asking for his signature, though, but a selfie with them. No. 22 was all smiles and it got some laughs from the rest of the crowd. It’s awesome to see the players interacting with the fans in a relaxed environment.
Overall, the practice was very similar to Thursday’s: positional drills, seven-on-seven, eleven-on-eleven, etc. Saturday’s practice should be really interesting as the team goes into pads for the first time this July.