|06.10.16 at 11:59 am ET|
FOXBORO — For Devin McCourty, this is a great time to be a leader in the Patriots’ secondary.
After spending the last several weeks and mini-camp this week with first and second-year members of the defensive backfield, the newlywed veteran safety is pumped up about what he’s seeing.
In addition to working with second-round pick Cyrus Jones, the eight-year pro McCourty has been playing alongside the likes of Darryl Roberts (2015 pick from Marshall), Jordan Richards (2015 pick from Stanford) and Brock Vereen (third year pro from Minnesota). Malcolm Butler and Justin Coleman are also entering just their third NFL season.
The natural question after Thursday’s final day of mini-camp was to get a feel for how Jones, a projected slot corner, has adapted from Alabama to the Patriots secondary.
“He’s another one of the smart guys from Alabama,” McCourty said with his trademark smile. “Between him and [Dont’a] Hightower, he knows his stuff. It’s been good. He’s been out there. He’s been trying to learn. [He’s] a younger guy so things happen fast but I think he’s been able to adjust and adapt. When he makes mistakes, he’s still out there playing hard. He’s correcting them. He’s a young guy that’s really working hard.”
But then unsolicited, McCourty raved about what it’s been like for veterans like Chung and him to work with a new generation of defensive backs, which now includes Butler, Jones, Richards and Roberts.
“The exciting thing is that we have a ton of rookies in that corner group that have been out here making plays, mini-camp, OTAs, those guys are really learning and they’re not making a ton of mistakes,” McCourty added. “I think it’s really exciting to see them as a group, DBs, safeties and corners.”
While Richards garnered a lot of attention last year and Butler stole the show in Super Bowl XLIX, Roberts was someone who caught the eye of McCourty in mini-camp and OTAs last summer before a wrist injury ended his season in training camp.
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|06.09.16 at 5:54 pm ET|
FOXBORO — WEEI.com’s Mike Petraglia and Chris Price break down the 2016 Patriots mini-camp, which finished up Thursday on a wild and windy day at Gillette Stadium. Patriots receivers Aaron Dobson, Malcolm Mitchell, Nate Washington, Chris Hogan and Keshawn Martin all had impressive days, with Dobson and Mitchell standing out.
|06.09.16 at 4:55 pm ET|
FOXBORO — This week in minicamp has been a chance for the receivers behind Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola to step up.
According to Bill Belichick after the final mini-camp practice on Thursday, that’s exactly what they’ve done.
The quintet of Aaron Dobson, Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell, Keshawn Martin and Nate Washington have looked good without the pads on.
All five of those receivers made big plays over the three days, including Dobson and Mitchell, both of whom made acrobatic catches in the end zone for touchdowns. Belichick was taking note.
“Our receivers have been good. We have good competition at that position and they’ve all showed up and made plays down the field, caught the ball well. It’s been good,” Belichick said.
And while Washington is new to the team he’s not new to the type of offense the Patriots run. His experience with former Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien in Houston showed up this week, as he looked like a receiver comfortable with the routes.
“[With] Nate, they played it in Houston, so he’s kind of familiar with it,” Belichick said. “Those guys have done a good job. I think our receiver group overall has done well – gotten open, caught the ball. Nate and Keshawn have both done a good job.”
Belichick, meanwhile, surprised no one when he didn’t offer an update on the status of tight end/tackle Michael Williams. The Globe’s Jim McBride reported Thursday that Williams suffered an ACL tear on Wednesday and might be headed to injured reserve.
“I don’t think we’re doing injury reports here,” Belichick said. “Maybe the league will require us to do those.”
One of those who might step forward with Williams out is newcomer Clay Harbor.
“Professional. Works hard. He’s a versatile guy,” Belichick said of Harbor. “He’s done a lot of different things. Philadelphia and Jacksonville, he did the same thing, special teams and offense. Hopefully a number of roles if he can do them and get an opportunity to do them.”
|06.09.16 at 3:52 pm ET|
FOXBORO — There were several notable offensive skill position players absent from this week’s minicamp workouts, but of the receivers who did take part, rookie Malcolm Mitchell distinguished himself as a relatively steady and consistent performer who showed impressive flashes over the course of the three sessions.
Mitchell’s finest moment may have come in Thursday’s finale when he went up for a one-handed touchdown grab on a nicely throw ball from fellow rookie Jacoby Brissett. The quarterback showed a nice touch lofting a ball for the end zone, and Mitchell did an excellent job going up to get the ball with a defender on him.
However, Mitchell, a fourth-round pick out of Georgia, said he’s not sure if he looks at that catch as some sort of confidence builder.
“I don’t know. I have to get back and make sure I know the next play,” he said with a laugh.
“I’m just glad I knew what to do on the play.”
In the infant stages of his career in the NFL, the 5-foot-11, 198-pound Mitchell is taking everything in stride.
“It’s all about knowing what you’re doing. After that, it’s about playing football,” he said shortly after Thursday’s workout wrapped up. “But the first step for me as a rookie is to know exactly what I’m doing and make the most of every opportunity.
“I think for me right now it’s coming in every day and learning. And I trust how the coaches are installing the plays. I trust the amount of plays they have put in for us to learn. And after that, it’s not really up to them anymore. It’s our responsibility to make sure that we wake up an extra hour early to make sure we know everything coming in. I think once you get your priorities straight in that area, you’ll come in and you’ll know what you’re doing. You’ll still have a lot of room to grow and a lot to learn.”
|06.09.16 at 1:28 pm ET|
FOXBORO — The Patriots just wrapped up their minicamp workouts with a session on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium. It ran for roughly two hours on an occasionally overcast day in Foxboro that was pretty windy. Players were in shorts, shells and helmets.
In addition to tight end Rob Gronkowski — who was not on the field for all three workouts this week — the following players were not spotted seen on the field on Thursday: wide receiver Julian Edelman, cornerback Logan Ryan, running back LeGarrette Blount, running back Dion Lewis, defensive back Duron Harmon, defensive back Nate Ebner, linebacker C.J. Johnson, offensive lineman Shaq Mason, offensive lineman Tre’ Jackson, offensive lineman Josh Kline, offensive lineman Sebastian Vollmer, offensive lineman Nate Solder, wide receiver Danny Amendola and tight end Michael Williams. (Reports now indicate that Williams suffered a torn ACL in Wednesday’s workout, and will be lost for the year.)
The quarterback snaps were pretty much divided up the same way they were over the course of the first two days of minicamp, with Tom Brady getting the bulk of the work, followed by Jimmy Garoppolo and then rookie Jacoby Brissett. One interesting thing worth passing along was the fact that Garoppolo got some work with Martellus Bennett, Aaron Dobson, Nate Washington and Malcolm Mitchell as part of a side session while Brady worked on the other field. But other than that, it was clearly Brady’s show.
As was the case the previous two days, the lack of high-level playmakers on the field (Gronkowski, Edelman, Lewis, etc.) allowed some of the guys in the middle and back end of the depth chart to get a serious chance at quality reps. To that end, Chris Harper made a great one-handed catch in the corner of the end zone in coverage against V’Angelo Bentley, one that caused a celebration with Dobson. Dobson caught a tipped ball from Brady in 11-on-11 work over Justin Coleman, and added a nice catch at the high point on another ball from Brady later in the workout. If there’s one guy who did well with the opportunities he’s been given these last three days, it was Dobson.
|06.09.16 at 12:25 pm ET|
It didn’t appear tight end Michael Williams suffered a serious injury after leaving Wednesday’s minicamp practice, but apparently it was.
Last season Williams played in 15 games with nine starts finishing with three catches for 26 yards, but his primary role was as a blocker.
If Williams is indeed out for the year, the Patriots have a tight end depth chart of Rob Gronkowski, Martellus Bennett, Clay Harbor, A.J. Derby and undrafted free agents Steven Scheu and Bryce Williams.
For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.
|06.09.16 at 10:34 am ET|
Ravens tight end Crockett Gillmore is feeling very confident despite there being three months before the NFL season kicks off in September.
“This is the best group in the NFL,” Gillmore said of the Ravens’ tight ends via ESPN. “I’m not afraid to say it. It’s hands down [the best group].”
Along with Gillmore the Ravens have former Patriots tight end Ben Watson, Maxx Williams and Dennis Pitta. If Gillmore truly believes what he said, he’s saying that group is better than what the Patriots have in Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett to go along with Michael Williams, Clay Harbor and A.J. Derby.
While the Ravens group potentially could be very good, there are a lot of questions, most notably the ages of Watson and Pitta.
For more on how good the Patriots tight ends and specifically Bennett can be this year, check out today’s column by our own Chris Price.
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