The Patriots first padded practice session is in the books. The team had a spirited if slightly slower paced workout on Saturday morning under sunny skies.
The intensity ratcheted up a notch and for the first time we were able to see the “big heavies”, the offensive and defensive linemen take part in 1-on-1 drills, as well as full 11-on-11 scenarios, short-yardage running game action, and goal line.
The bad news is the injuries are already beginning. Both offensive lineman Jonathan Cooper and defensive lineman Anthony Johnson were carted off during the session. Cooper could be seen grabbing at his lower right leg. NFL.com’s Ian Rapopport later announced on Twitter that Cooper has been suffering from plantar fasciitis and this latest injury could be related to that.
Johnson went down at the end of practice and word at the time was that it was a heat related issue. Also RB D.J. Foster and Bryan Stork didn’t finish the session.
Not Practicing: Here’s a list of players that were not seen on the practice field with pads on. Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman, Nate Washington, Malcolm Mitchell, Brandon Bolden, Vincent Valentine, Alan Branch (NFI), Tre’ Jackson, Sebastian Vollmer, Dion Lewis and Clay Harbor.
Amendola, Edelman and Washington were in attendance and helped cheer on the receivers and aided in coaching them up. Kevin Faulk who will be inducted in the team’s Hall of Fame on Monday was on the field and looking like he could still play.
Speaking of attendance…the Patriots announced that 21,783 fans attended the session. A look around at the crowd there says that there may have even been more. I’ve never seen a practice session without another team in for joint practices that well attended. Well done Patriots Nation!
Dobson, Derby Have Nice Days: Aaron Dobson continues to have a nice spring/summer. Not only did he have another good day in catching the football, including a nice rainbow from Brady during receiver drills, but during the blocking drills, Dobson stood out as one of the better WRs. That is an encouraging sign for the 4th year WR who needs to have a strong camp.
He was also included in the side session with Brady, Gronk and Bennett while the rest of the team was conducting a special teams’ drill. At one point the coaches had Dobson stand on the goal line and Brady and Jimmy G were taking turns throwing the arcing deep ball from the 35-yard line, akin to the garbage pail drill from a few years ago. Brady bested Jimmy G by a wide margin.
After one throw by Garoppolo sailed well out of the end zone, Dobson chased the ball down right to the rope where a young fan was agog at being that close and yelled some encouragement. Dobson flashed the young fan a big grin and made that young man’s day.
Derby is taking advantage of Gronkowski and Bennett getting a lighter workload by becoming a nice target in the passing game. He runs well and is displaying some sure hands. With the third tight end position wide open, he’s not hurting himself with his play thus far.
Play of the Day: With an 11-on-11 period ongoing, Tom Brady threw a beautiful arc into the right corner of the end zone to Rob Gronkowski for a touchdown. Pat Chung had coverage as good as anyone can get but is so often the case, Gronk is at times unstoppable. He made a nice catch rolling onto the ground and out of the back of the end zone after the catch.
He and Chris Harper celebrated and were joined in short order by Brady. Brady not only made a terrific throw but recognized the single coverage and immediately went to Gronk. It was a good thing too. Dont’a Hightower came on a blitz up the “A” gap and absolutely destroyed David Andrews, arriving a half-second too late.
Brady Gets Frustrated at Paddle Waver: It wasn’t all smooth sailing however for the Pats veteran QB. Today like Friday, he had a pass batted down at the line of scrimmage from one of the coaching assistants waving the paddles ala JJ Watt.
Brady got incensed and unleashed a couple of F-bombs after the play was negated. We have all seen how competitive Brady has always been and he treats every practice, every rep like a Super Bowl. So that is par for the course.
Blount Leads the Running Game: Not surprisingly once the Pats got down to some physical play and running the football, it was LeGarrette Blount who was doing the best work. He looks pretty well healed up from his hip injury and Blount is at his best when he’s able to get up a head of steam and get to that second level.
He and Jamie Collins had a big collision at the line; something you could hear in the stands a good 40-50 yards away. Donald Brown had a couple of nice runs as did Tyler Gaffney. James White once again seems at a disadvantage when running between the tackles.
Often though, there wasn’t much room to run for the backs, a problem that occurred all too often in 2015. After one particular play in the goal line segment, Dante Scarnecchia lit into the offensive line for missing an assignment. Rookie Joe Thuney looked good today, both in 1-on-1 drills and in the full team scrimmage. Ted Karras showed some good strength and bit of bad-assery in the drills today. Something to file away for later.
Hogan, Martin have mixed days: Wide receivers Chris Hogan and Keshawn Martin were each a mixed bag on Saturday. They each made some impressive catches along with inexcusable drops. Hogan though stayed after practice and worked on his pass catching.
Martin blew past Justin Coleman on a deep post route where Garoppolo dropped it in perfectly and with plenty of space, he dropped the ball. Ugly play. Martin took Coleman to school earlier in a drill where he faked to the outside and back across the back of the end zone by the goal posts where Jimmy G. found him easily.
The only interception today was from Jacoby Brissett. But he hit rookie Devin Lucien right in the hands and it deflected up and right into the arms of Vinnie Sunseri.
Play of the Day #2: Lucien was involved in another big play in the right corner of the end zone during WR/CB drills. After initially getting just a bit of separation from Jonathan Jones, Brady’s pass was on the money but Jones reacted excellently while the ball was in the air.
With a ton of physicality back and forth, the two players rolled to the ground out of bounds where Jones eventually wrestled the ball away. The play would have inevitably drawn a flag or ruled incomplete but it showed the competition is heating up.
Don’t go to sleep on these ST’s guys Brandon King, Kamu Grugier-Hill, Ramon Humber and Geneo Grissom among others were really active today. Cyrus Jones was the primary kick returner today.
Malcolm Butler had a nice day, getting physical, perhaps overly so with Hogan.
Gronk and Bennett look to be a huge, dynamic duo, regardless of who is under center.
Chris Long had a couple of nice stops in the running game, setting the edge.
Hope to see everyone out there tomorrow morning. Have a great night.
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