Patriots Practice Observations 8-14, Ninkovich Returns
Pats go slow in sweltering August afternoon
The Patriots conducted their 13th practice of training camp and they were in shorts and shells under very hot, sunny conditions at Foxboro. With the heat index over 100 degrees, it was humid and very uncomfortable today. The crowd was noticeably smaller as well, with perhaps the smallest gathering this summer.
The team slowed the pace and intensity noticeably down from previous sessions, in part due to the heat and also because the Bears are coming in for three days of joint practices.
The team also released OL Kyler Kerbyson to make room on the roster for S Nate Ebner who is returning from the Olympics. Bill Belichick confirmed this at his presser.
Did Not Participate: DL Jabaal Sheard, RB D.J. Foster, RB Dion Lewis (PUP), RB Donald Brown, S Nate Ebner (Olympics), TE Bryce Williams, DE Rob Ninkovich G Tre’ Jackson (PUP), RG Jonathan Cooper RT Sebastian Vollmer (PUP), WR Danny Amendola (PUP), WR Keshawn Martin, WR Malcolm Mitchell
Sheard was the biggest absence of the day, we didn’t see him suffer any kind of injury on Thursday night so this will bear watching. The biggest news of the day was that Rob Ninkovich was back at practice just days after tear his triceps muscle. He was wearing a large protective sleeve over it. As soon as warmups were over, he, Foster, Brown, and Amendola retreated to the lower practice fields with members of the training staff.
The good news is that Chris Hogan and Jonathan Freeny shed their red non-contact jerseys and were full participants. Julian Edelman returned punts for the first time this summer but didn’t take part in any 11-on-11 drills. Both Ted Karras and Brandon Bolden came up limping at different points of practice but neither missed any time.
Special Team’s Focus Early: Bill Belichick mentioned in his presser prior to practice that the punt coverage team wasn’t good enough at all and the team spent some significant time practicing just that.
Former STs coach and now retired Scotty O’Brien was at practice today and spent quite a bit of time with Belichick on the side chatting. Scotty was sporting jeans and cowboy boots which seemed a tad overdressed for this heat but he was showing no signs of it.
Cyrus Jones muffed another punt today which can’t be making Belichick happy at this point. V’Angelo Bentley, Chris Harper, and Edelman also worked on punt returns.
Offense Only So-So: QBs Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo weren’t at their sharpest today with several throws off target. With the pace of the practice, however, their timing may have been affected. The team put a heavy emphasis on the hurry-up, red zone and goal-line packages today during the 11-on-11 work. Brady was taking the first reps with top offensive unit followed by Garoppolo.
Brady was 13-for-23 on the day and was connecting with DeAndre Carter who had four catches. Gronk chipped in with three but once again had a concentration drop when he was wide open down the seam. But he wasn’t alone. Martellus Bennett, Brandon Bolden, James White and Bear Pascoe all dropped easily catchable passes.
Garoppolo ended up 16-for-28 with a bad interception. Bennett was running a deep cross and seemed to cut off his route. Garoppolo’s pass sailed high over his head and was easily picked off by Jordan Richards. Bennett had one of his quietest days of camp with only a single catch.
Nate Washington, yes he’s still on the team, had a nice day. He had five catches on the day, including four from Jimmy G. He should have had another, he beat Cre’Von LeBlanc down the seam and Garoppolo under threw him. It was a carbon copy of another route run by Aaron Dobson on Logan Ryan. Dobson had a step on him but the ball was well underthrown. Dobson had no chance to catch it and Ryan knocked it away. Hogan also caught four balls from Garoppolo.
Speaking with the Boston Herald’s Adam Kurkijan during the practice, he noticed that the defense was mixing up the top group in the secondary today and were working in two distinct units. Jonathan Jones was bumped up to the top grouping at cornerback taking Malcolm Butler’s normal LCB slot with Logan Ryan and Cyrus Jones.
Butler meanwhile along with Justin Coleman and Cre’von LeBlanc made up the second unit. It may have been just an opportunity to see how the youngster would react to getting the top reps.
Both Jones and LeBlanc have been extremely competitive this summer. They’ve gotten beat, all rookies do, however, they display an extremely short memory, a must for this type of position and come right back at it hard.
Brady spoke to the media after practice and raved about his wife Giselle Bundchen and her appearance at the Olympics. “It was amazing to see her out there and do that. It was the best part of the Olympics for me,” Brady said.
“She’s an amazing woman, an amazing mother, and she represents the best of Brazil as far as I’m concerned. It was an amazing spectacle and she’s an amazing person.”
Asked about practicing in today’s heat. “You just have to fight through it the best you can.”
Starting tomorrow the Patriots host the Bears in joint practice sessions Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday’s practice, however, is supposed to be pretty much a walk-through for the preseason game on Thursday night. All practices will be open to the public, the last three practices that fans can witness this year.
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