FOXBORO — After a light walkthrough to begin the day on Tuesday, the Patriots put on the pads for an afternoon practice session in front of yet another large crowd. There were far more things to take from the afternoon session than the half-speed morning practice, including some impressive play from the cornerbacks and yet another up-and-down performance from seventh-round quarterback Zac Robinson. Here are a few of them:
– The following players were not in attendance: Linebacker Gary Guyton, defensive back Bret Lockett, receiver Matthew Slater, pass-rusher Derrick Burgess, offensive linemen Logan Mankins and Nick Kaczur, and defensive end Ty Warren.
– Defensive linemen Myron Pryor and Mike Wright as well as defensive backs Patrick Chung and Jonathan Wilhite were in shorts or sweatpants, with Ron Brace starting the practice in sweat gear before leaving early.
– Don’t sleep on a guy with the odds stacked against him. With 2008 second round pick Terrence Wheatley seemingly running out of time to establish himself as a presence in an increasingly crowded stable of cornerbacks, the third year man brought plenty to the table in coverage drills. He was physical and disruptive in defending the team’s receivers, particularly on a play in which he broke up a pass to the newly signed Rod Owens. He also made Taylor Price a difficult option to throw to as Brian Hoyer led the offense down the field in 11-on-11 drills. Wheatley still had his struggles here and there, but in a career marked by injury and inconsistency, positive signs from the youngster are certainly welcome and encouraging.
– One of Wheatley’s fellow cornerbacks, first-round pick Devin McCourty, put the physicality that earned him such high praise at draft time on display. Considered the best tackling corner in the draft, McCourty was also awfully disruptive. He first got attention from the crowd by breaking up a pass from Hoyer that was intended for receiver Darnell Jenkins. Moments later, he tipped a pass that seemed to be on target for Price.
– The kick return, which has been worth keeping an eye on (special teams coach Scott O’Brien said Tuesday morning it was the special teams area that the team was most looking to improve) featured Brandon Tate, Julian Edelman and Price. On punt return, Edelman received a big cheer after bursting through a hole, though with the drill essentially being two-hand touch, the play wasn’t worth putting much stock into.
– If one had to guess this early in training camp, it is difficult not to believe that second-round pick Rob Gronkowski doesn’t have the edge as the team’s top tight end. His size, route-running ability, and hands seem to have the making of a dream target for quarterback Tom Brady. The Arizona product raised eyebrows when he declared early for the draft despite missing his junior year due to back surgery, but he’s been healed since before the draft and looks like a very good option to replace Benjamin Watson.
– On a day in which Brady was sung “Happy Birthday” twice by the crowd, it’s as good a time as ever to point out just how the bizarre the music has been thus far at training camp. For a frame of reference, the playlist — which is chosen by individual players — featured Snoop Dogg’s “Who I Am (What’s my Name)?” and Phil Collins’ “Take Me Home” played in succession as the players ran sprints.