|07.24.14 at 11:55 am ET|
FOXBORO — The Patriots wrapped up their first training camp workout of the summer Thursday morning, a session that ran for just under two hours under overcast skies. Players were in shells and shorts — pads can’t go on until the weekend — and so it was tough to glean too much from the practice. But here are a few quick notes.
— The following players were not on the field with their teammates: wide receiver Aaron Dobson, special teamer Matthew Slater, cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, linebacker Deontae Skinner, offensive lineman Chris Martin, defensive lineman Dominique Easley, wide receiver Jeremy Gallon and defensive lineman Tommy Kelly. (Essentially, everyone who was put on PUP earlier this week.) Easley, Dobson, Dennard and Kelly went through agility drills and were part of a group that left to work out on the lower practice fields shortly after practice began.
— It’s tough to get a handle on where guys are at this stage of the process — it was a relatively low-intensity workout without pads — but Rob Gronkowski had a sizable black brace/sleeve on his left arm. It’s early — and things could change as camp continues — but at this point, he looked as well as could be expected, moving without an issue. (It appeared that he was limited in 7-on-7s and 11-on-11s toward the end of practice.)
— Josh Boyce and Shane Vereen were taking reps at kick returner. Malcolm Butler, Brandon LaFell and James White also were getting turns at the position. However, Boyce appeared to get the majority of reps over the course of the morning.
— When it comes to depth chart at wide receiver, it was interesting to see that when quarterback Tom Brady went to the near practice field to work with some pass catchers, it was a group that included Gronkowski, Kenbrell Thompkins, Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola, while Boyce and LaFell stayed and continued to get special teams work.
— Thompkins, who was wearing bright orange cleats, had a very nice morning. He was working with the starting offense throughout most of the session, and had a pair of really nice catches in 7-on-7 passing drills on the goal line, one from Brady and one from Jimmy Garoppolo. (It’s debatable how many opportunities he would have had if Dobson was on the field, but he certainly made the most of his chances on Thursday morning.)
— Roy Finch, who was apparently activated off PUP, dropped a pass in the 7-on-7s. LaFell also had a drop in 11-on-11s late in practice.
— Butler picked off a ball from Garoppolo in the 7-on-7s, and linebacker Jerod Mayo knocked down a Brady pass for LaFell at the back of the end zone.
— Brady looked uneven at times — he missed on a throw with Gronkowski early on — but did connect on a nice ball for Thompkins in the corner of the end zone that drew ohhhs and ahhhhs from the capacity crowd. (He later zipped one to Gronkowski right over the middle, a crisp pass that sparked cheers.)
— Owner Robert Kraft strolled on the field midway through practice.
|07.24.14 at 11:36 am ET|
Speaking before the start of the first training camp practice on Thursday morning, Belichick said he’s been “impressed” with the former Jets and Bucs corner who was acquired as a free agent this past offseason.
“He’s worked hard; smart guy,” Belichick said of Revis. “Very professional. Has a good understanding of the game, he’s a smart player and he’s had a real good focus and instinct. He’s a smart player scheme-wise, but he knows how to play. He’s a very instinctive player.
“He played well at Tampa, he played well at the Jets, and then we saw him in the Pro Bowl. Now we’ve seen him ourselves for 13 practices and the time in the spring. But again, it’s a new year. He’s in a new system, so we’ll see how it all plays out. But I’m glad we have him on our team. I look forward to working with him more.”
For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.
|07.24.14 at 7:00 am ET|
As training camp approaches, we’ve gone through each position and offered a spot by spot breakdown. With camp set to open Thursday, here’s our last positional preview, defensive back. (Check out the complete list here.)
Roster (stats taken from coaches film review): cornerbacks Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner, Alfonzo Dennard (42 tackles, 1 interception, 8 passes defensed), Kyle Arrington (60 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 quarterback hits, 1 interception, 12 passes defensed), Logan Ryan (41 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 2 quarterback hits, 5 interceptions, 1 touchdown, 10 passes defensed, 1 forced fumble), Malcolm Butler; safeties Devin McCourty (75 tackles, 1 interception, 8 passes defensed, 2 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery), Duron Harmon (30 tackles, 2 interceptions, 4 passes defensed), Tavon Wilson (2 tackles, 1 interception, 1 touchdown, 1 pass defensed), Kanorris Davis, Nate Ebner, Travis Hawkins, Shamiel Gary; defensive backs Jemea Thomas, Daxton Swanson, Justin Green
Overview: This was a pretty good group last year when everyone was where they were supposed to be: Aqib Talib as the alpha dog, Dennard as the No. 2 corner, Arrington in the slot, McCourty roaming center field and Steve Gregory at strong safety. The problems arose when Talib went down and everyone at corner had to take a step forward — instead of relying on depth, the whole house of cards came crashing down. Never was this more the case than in the AFC title game, when Talib went out early on and Peyton Manning scorched the New England secondary. (No one preaches team defense more than the Patriots, but Talib’s absence was the beginning of the end for New England.) After losing Talib in the offseason, the Patriots fundamentally approached the cornerback position using the same approach they did at wide receiver between 2006 and 2007, pushing all their chips to the middle of the table and going after Revis. Provided they stay healthy, the addition of Revis and Browner create an impressive layer of depth at corner — New England can now utilize Dennard as a nickel corner while keeping Arrington in the slot. As for safety, McCourty continues to play free safety at an elite level, but he will be forced to learn how to play alongside a new strong safety after Gregory was cut loose over the offseason. But despite the questions about strong safety, the secondary has become one of the positions of strength on the team, and allow the Patriots to stare down the rest of the top-shelf passing games across the league.
THREE THINGS WE KNOW
1. Darrelle Revis changes everything.
It is impossible to overstate the impact of Revis on the New England defense. At several points over the course of the spring, his new teammates (on both sides of the ball) commented on his approach to the game, his overall fitness as a teammate and his ability to affect almost every level of play on the defensive side of the ball. (Our favorite came from wide receiver Brandon LaFell, who gave a weary shake of the head when asked about Revis’ cover skills. ‘Man, Revis is … he’s a guy who has seen it all. None of your tricks are going to work on him.’ It might be unfair to say he’s going to be Revis, circa 2009, who had one of the great seasons for any cornerback in the recent history of the NFL. But if he can effectively take away the lead pass-catcher on a weekly basis and allow the pass rushers to get an extra two seconds to get after the quarterback, he’s done his job.
2. Brandon Browner will be sidelined for the first four games of the regular season.
The new corner will sit out the first month as part of a suspension for violating the league’s PED rules last season. As a result, the Patriots will likely push Dennard back into a starting role, at least on a temporary basis. One of the things New England has to feel good about is the fact that the ban comes at a time where it won’t be facing what could best be described as a top-shelf passing game — of the Dolphins, Vikings, Raiders and Chiefs, the biggest challenge might come from Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith. At the same time, provided Dennard is completely healthy at the open of the regular season, the Revis-Dennard corner combo should be enough to hold the fort until Browner returns to action.
3. Devin McCourty remains the leader of the secondary.
While no one dispute the fact that the Patriots added an elite cornerback in Revis, McCourty will still hold sway as the unquestioned head of the defensive backs. He hasn’t had the most seniority in the system — remarkably, that honor goes to Arrington, who arrived in 2009, one year before McCourty. But the rest of the defensive backs defer to McCourty, who has evolved from an All-Pro corner (second team) as a rookie to one of the better free safeties in the league.
Read the rest of this entry »
|07.23.14 at 6:38 pm ET|
Super excited to be back on the practice field with my teammates! Gotta keep on working if ya know what I mean!
|07.23.14 at 4:13 pm ET|
The Patriots announced Wednesday they re-signed first-year wide receiver Greg Orton and released rookie wide receiver Tyler McDonald.
Here’s a portion of the release issued by the team.
Orton, 28, was originally signed to the Patriots practice squad on Dec. 31, 2013, and was released by the team on May 22. The 6-foot-3, 199-pounder spent part of 2011 and all of 2012 on the Denver practice squad and went to training camp with Denver in 2013. He originally entered the NFL as a rookie free agent with the Cincinnati Bengals out of Purdue in 2009. Orton had stints with the Arena Football League’s Spokane Shock and the United Football League’s Omaha Knights before joining the Denver practice squad.
McDonald, 23, was signed by the Patriots as a rookie free agent on July 18, out of South Carolina State. The 6-foot-3, 190-pounder, had a career-best 51 receptions for 956 yards as a senior in 2013. McDonald finished his college career with 159 receptions for 2,389 receiving yards.
For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.
|07.23.14 at 3:51 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Bill Belichick couldn’t be happier that the next stage of the football season is upon us. As a matter of fact, in some ways, it’s the most important phase before actual games begin.
Starting Thursday, the Patriots will hold training camp and ramp up their practices and preparation for the 2014 season, which opens Sept. 8 in Miami. And to many Patriots fans, the eve of training camp is somewhat akin to Christmas Eve, the day before they get to see their team on the field for the first time since watching them lose the AFC championship game last January.
“Welcome to football season,” Belichick beamed. “We’re here. It’s always an exciting time of year ‘ the start of training camp. I thought that we had a real productive spring with a lot of our players, a couple new coaching staff members. We’re kind of pulling it all together. That’s really to put us in a position to start camp and we kind of get it going today with some conditioning stuff. We’re not in pads for a couple days and then we’ll roll into them by the weekend. It’s a good opportunity to get off to a good start. We’ll see how it goes.
“We obviously have a lot of work to do. We’ll just take it day by day and try to string some good days together and then see if we can get ready to go down and have good weeks against Washington and Philadelphia and into the preseason. From our coaching standpoint, I think it’s all going to happen pretty fast. Again, the spring preparation has been a really important part of this whole process. Now we’ll take it into the next step and hopefully get off to a good start these next couple days and getting into a good, solid week of work by ourselves and then be ready to work against two quality teams, two quality organizations.”
The Patriots will only be in shorts and shells in the first two days, with the first full pads practice expected by the weekend.
“I think this is where we really start finding out; a lot of teaching in the spring and the evaluations are more now,” Belichick says. “So, we’ll see. I think everybody has had their opportunity to participate in the spring workouts, to learn what we’re doing, to get in shape, to be ready to go and now we start competing and we’ll see how that turns out. I don’t know.”
More than anything, training camp is about conditioning as the team begins to work in pads for the first time. The running game is the one part of the offense that can’t be truly duplicated without seeing live bullets or in football terms – live pad-on-pad action.
“I think we’ll find that out after a week of training camp; start stringing some days together and see how we all look,” Belichick said of conditioning. “I know we’ve had guys here for a couple days but that’s not quite the full camp so we’ll see how it goes, take it day by day.
“It’s good to see all the players that are out there, out there. The ones that aren’t out there yet that are working hard to get back, we’ll look forward to seeing them as soon as they’re able to participate. We have 90 players on our roster and the ones that are out there actively participating, I’m happy to see all of them.
“We’re certainly not anywhere near where we need to be or will be, but I’d say we’ve already crossed part of that bridge in the spring. We had 13 practices together and at this time of year, as we do in the spring, we work a lot of different people in different combinations and let the competition sort itself out. I think that we’ve had good, productive communication at all the positions. There’s always going to be turnover. There’s turnover every year on every team. This is nothing unique. We’ll just see how it plays out. I don’t think that necessarily has to be a problem but it could be. I don’t know.”
|07.23.14 at 2:05 pm ET|
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