|Some quick thoughts on Patriots’ Tuesday afternoon practice||08.02.11 at 8:30 pm ET|
FOXBORO — It was an eventful practice session for the Patriots on Tuesday afternoon, their eighth of training camp.
• The following players were not on the field at the start of the session: Kyle Arrington, Brandon McGowan, Kevin Faulk, Sammy Morris, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Eric Kettani, Ryan Wendell, Logan Mankins, Matt Light, Nate Solder and Steve Williams. Arrington, McGowan, Faulk, Morris, Light and Mankins all have new contracts, which means they are allowed to be on the field but they can’t practice until Aug. 4.
(However, Light and Mankins strolled on to the field midway through the practice, and the two spent a significant portion of practice watching things with owner Robert Kraft. Given the recent history between Mankins and Kraft, it was interesting to see them together for an extended stretch and appear to have a very friendly conversation.
In addition, the following players were in shorts and sweats: Josh Barrett, Matt Katula, Tracy White, Marcus Cannon, Mike Berry, Brandon Deaderick, Kyle Hix, Myron Pryor and Ron Brace. (White also has a new deal, which means he cannot participate in practice until later this week.)
• For the first time, rookies Shane Vereen and Ras-I Dowling were on the field — their deals were done Tuesday morning. They got big reps for much of the day, and did not appear out of their element. At first glance, Dowling certainly appears to be a very physical cornerback, using his size (6-foot-2, 200 pounds) to his advantage. Vereen did not stand out in any particular form or fashion, but this was his first day, so I wouldn’t read too much into that. He and fellow rookie running back Stevan Ridley did get some good reps (most of the veteran running backs are still not practicing, with the exception of Danny Woodhead), and Ridley showed an impressive burst when running with the starting offense.
• As was the case when he was under center in the earlier stages of camp, rookie quarterback Ryan Mallett showed off a strong arm, but appeared to struggle when it came to putting some touch on the ball. He fired rockets at close range to tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, but there was too much mustard on them and they ended up going incomplete. (Mallett later made a nice pair of connections to tight end Carson Butler.)
• More special teams work on Tuesday afternoon, and the unquestioned star was punter Zoltan Mesko, who delivered some absolute bombs that ended up going 70 yards or more. Brandon Tate, Julian Edelman and Taylor Price all worked as punt returners, while Pat Chung and Woodhead also got time as punt protectors. It’s incredibly early, but Mesko appears primed for a big season.
• The combination of Tom Brady and Wes Welker appear to be in midseason form. There were two plays that really illustrated how well the two operate together: One came on a goal-line passing drill where Brady lofted one just out of the reach of Chung — who was in coverage — and dropped it right into Welker’s arms. The second was on a deep ball down the right sidelines to Welker, another ball that just barely beat the defender (in this case, cornerback Jonathan Wilhite) and landed neatly in Welker’s grasp; two perfectly thrown balls.
• For the quarterbacks, there was the return of the bucket drill — easily the most popular drill in camp for the fans and media — but no one was able to sink it from long distance. (Only Mallett got close, clunking one off the side of the barrel from about 40 yards away.) In other quarterback news, backup Brian Hoyer showed a headiness in a 7-on-7 skeleton passing drills when Patriots coach Bill Belichick was using a blocking pad to distract the quarterbacks. On one occasion, Belichick tossed the pad right at Hoyer and bopped him in the head, but the quarterback was able to maintain his composure and deliver a nice pass to Price.
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