By: Ian Logue
Thanks to the fact yesterday’s Patriots OTA practice session was open to the media, we’ve finally been able to get a glimpse at this year’s team following what could definitely be considered as one of the more intriguing offseasons in quite a while.
That being said, here are some things we’ve learned through day one:
So far during OTA’s Brandon Lloyd has been impressive.
Brandon Lloyd – If there was any question about how big of an impact he was going to have in the offense this season, it appears that he’s going to be a key addition to a group that was in desperate need of someone other than Wes Welker to open things up for Tom Brady. According to most of yesterday’s reports Lloyd looked smooth and comfortable out on the field, telling reporters that learning the Patriots offense shouldn’t be a problem.
Chandler Jones – Not much was mentioned about the rookie, who is still learning on the job with his new football team. Greg Bedard writes that there wasn’t much that jumped out about him that we didn’t already know as he continues getting acclimated to the defense.
Dont’a Hightower – According to Bedard Hightower so far has worked strictly as a linebacker and not at defensive end, and appears to be talented enough to potentially earn a starting role.
Chad Ochocinco – It hasn’t been a good week for the veteran receiver. After getting his car broken into earlier this week, yesterday’s practice was also another negative after he apparently needed Deion Branch to tell him where to line up, and then later ran a lap after going offsides.
Ryan Mallet – Yesterday Mallet was apparently shaky while veteran back-up Brian Hoyer apparently looked solid. It’s interesting that Hoyer had earlier been reported as potentially shopping himself and looking for a starting role elsewhere, but it’s clear that if he had left that Mallet may still need some time to settle in now that he’s in his second year with the team.
Josh Barrett – As the battle for the safety spot begins Bedard also notes that Barrett looked “noticeably slimmer” during yesterday’s practice and that he’s changed his body for the better.
Devin McCourty – After an offseason full of speculation about where he’d be lining up this season, the veteran was reportedly at cornerback yesterday. When asked about why he struggled last season, he told CSNNE’s Tom Curran he wasn’t worried about that. “I’m not really worrying about the ‘why’, but just progressing,” he explained. “For every player, this is a time of the year where you have an opportunity to work on a vast amount of things.” Not much else was mentioned about the third year defensive back, but one would believe that we’ll probably hear more on him in the coming weeks as he tries to bounce back after a tough 2011.
Ras-I Dowling – Coming off of hip surgery yesterday was the first time we’ve heard about him being back on the field and it sounds like he’s still got a bit to go before he’s back to his old self. Greg Bedard of the Boston Globe said he looked a bit stiff and lacked some of the explosion that we saw early last season. Mike Rodak of ESPN Boston had a different take, and said he even ran stride-for-stride with Lloyd at one point.
Brandon Spikes – It was noted that Spikes was one of several players limited during yesterday’s session after undergoing offseason knee surgery. Needless to say if he gets off to a slow start this season, that’s likely the reason so it’s important for fans to take that into consideration.
Shane Vereen – Vereen was lost in the shuffle for much of last season and wasn’t much of a contributor in his first year as a Patriot. Reiss noted that Vereen “was in good condition” and looked a bit bigger than he was last year.
Deion Branch – While there’s been some speculation about where Deion Branch might fit in and whether or not he could earn a roster spot, he apparently caught some praise from Brady yesterday and Reiss says “not so fast” about fans writing him off just yet. He also feels that the addition of Lloyd could offer Branch a chance to be productive once again this season.
Dan Connolly – Aaccording to each of the reports posted so far it appears Connolly, despite Dan Koppen’s return, is still the team’s top center. That means it looks like Koppen will have to earn his spot after missing most of last year with a broken leg at the start of last season.