By: Derek Havens
It was another eventful day at Patriots training camp behind Gillette Stadium.
The New England Patriots held their first padded practice of training camp on Saturday. 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 Saturday’s practice:
– Wide receiver Aaron Dobson, Jeremy Gallon, cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, special teamer Matthew Slater all did not participate and remain on the Physically Unable to Perform list. Defensive lineman Dominique Easley, offensive lineman Chris Martin and linebacker Deontae Skinner also did not participate and remain on the Non-Football Injury list.
Defensive lineman Tommy Kelly has been cleared off the PUP list and had limited particpation. Similar to Rob Gronkowski he did not take part in team drills. Defensive back Jemea Thomas, Daxton Swanson and receiver Greg Orton were not spotted. Orton was carted off with an apparent leg injury Friday.
– The Patriots announced 13, 819 fans were in attendance Saturday. Patriots Nation was out in full force and brought a ton of energy to the practice.
– The sun was out for a second day in a row and coming down right on Revis Island. The All Pro cornerback was tremendous Saturday, intercepting Tom Brady twice, both passes directed at Julian Edelman.
He wasn’t perfect, though. Brandon LaFell beat him down the sidelines — his only significant play through three days — and Edelman beat him over the middle during a late seven-on-seven session. Nevertheless, it was great to see what Revis can bring to the table in person.
– In that same vein, many times today we saw Revis at left cornerback and Brandon Browner on the right side. Both get physical, especially Browner who will use his immense size to knock receivers off their routes. Everything Revis does is so smooth and he makes it look so easy. The addition to both of these players could turn the defense into one of the league’s best.
– Early on in practice, Gronkowski was taking part in some blocking drills with other lineman. Fullback James Develin was holding a large pad and was put on his back by an incredible blow from Gronk. It illustrated just how valuable Gronkowski is, not just as a pass catcher, but also in the run game.
– Second-year cornerback Logan Ryan had a nice day. He had one interception off a deflection (Jimmy Garoppolo to Justin Jones) and also had several pass breakups. His continued development could make the pats secondary even more dangerous. Ryan looks comfortable moving around in different formations.
– Rookie running back, James White, has flashed a few times throughout the first three days. It’s hard to evaluate tailbacks at times during camp, but White had a few good runs Saturday and it looks like he’ll be in the mix to contribute very early on.
– From a pass catching perspective, Gronkowski, Edelman, Danny Amendola and Kenbrell Thompkins have all been very good throughout each of the three days.
I have yet to see Brandon LaFell have a good practice. He beat Revis on a deep pass Saturday, but had several drops and struggled to fight through physical man coverage. Despite his signing bonus, I am starting to question his spot on the roster. We’ll have to wait-and-see to make a total judgement, but first impressions have been underwhelming.
– While Duron Harmon has been pegged as the starter next to Devin McCourty at safety, Tavon Wilson continues to see a lot of reps with the perceived “first team” defense. It’s tough to know what the coaching staff is thinking or what it means, but worth noting.
– The center and right guard spot battles are ongoing. Friday, Dan Connolly (center) and Josh Kline (right guard) had a majority of the snaps. Saturday was a different story. Ryan Wendell returned to center with rookie Jon Halapio seeing some action at right guard. It’s the NFL version of musical chairs, only so many spots available. Wendell and Connolly might be fighting for one spot with all of the young lineman on the current roster.
– At the end of practice, the team brought out Danny Nickerson to sing “Happy Birthday”. Nickerson, a Foxboro boy with an incurable brain tumor, was celebraiting his sixth birthday. Even though he was shy, it was an amazing moment. The large crowd followed up with a big applause.
Overall, the practice was more intense than the previous two days. Sunday should be similar to Saturday as positional battles continue to heat up.