Ten Things We Learned Tuesday at Patriots Training Camp
|08.07.12 at 11:44 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Sunshine and temperatures in the 80s provided the ideal atmosphere for the Patriots and Saints to hold the first of two joint practices Tuesday outside Gillette Stadium.
Rock star Jon Bon Jovi was in attendance, taking in practice with Patriots owner Robert Kraft on the field before visiting with Saints (and Hornets) owner Tom Benson and his wife under a tent. The Saints and Patriots warmed up for the first 30 minutes on their own before spending the final 90 minutes going against each other in various drills, such as 7-on-7, 11-on-11 and special teams.
And Sean Payton was out as his one-year NFL suspension for “Bountygate” is officially underway.
The last time the two teams scrimmaged (in 2010), Payton was the coach. Belichick was asked about his absence on Tuesday.
“I miss Sean not being here,” Belichick said. “I think the world of Sean and he’s a great friend. I look forward to seeing him back out here soon.”
The two teams will practice again on Tuesday morning at 10 a.m. in a lighter walk-through workout.
The notable absentees from Tuesday included linebacker Brandon Spikes for a third straight day, fullback Eric Kettani, offensive linemen Kyle Hix, offensive lineman Darrion Weems. Also missing again were Spencer Larsen, Matt Kopa, Tracy White, Visanthe Shiancoe, Jake Ballard and Jonathan Fanene.
Here are nine other things we learned from Day 11 of training camp:
Dan Connolly once again got extensive work at the right guard position on the first unit, joining center Ryan Wendell, right tackle Marcus Cannon, left guard Donald Thomas and left tackle Nate Solder. Dan Koppen again found himself on the second team offensive line, centering a unit that including right tackle Dustin Waldron, right guard Derrick Dennis (sporting Robert Gallery‘s old No. 72), left tackle Jeremiah Warren and right tackle Nick McDonald as the Patriots swapped out the left and right sides of the second unit on Tuesday.
The Patriots showed off more of their two-down technique on Tuesday with Vince Wilfork and Brandon Deaderick swapping out with Kyle Love on the defensive line. Of particular note, linebacker Bobby Carpenter continues to see plenty of rotations in different groupings. He started off on the weak side Tuesday but showed up on the strong side on a blitz next to Rob Ninkovich. With Spikes out, rookie Dont’a Hightower again played inside while Jerod Mayo saw some snaps on the weak side.
Drew Brees connected on his first seven passes in 7-on-7 drills as Jimmy Graham was a star, collecting a pair of TD catches and dunking them over the goal post. Marques Colston also got the best of Ras-I Dowling and Devin McCourty. But, in 11-on-11 drills, the Patriots exacted a measure of revenge as Dane Fletcher picked off Chase Daniel in the end zone.
BRADY UP AND DOWN:
Tom Brady completed six of his first seven passes in 7-on-7 drills, including a nice post route TD to Jabar Gaffney. Brian Hoyer came on completed one pass before Brady returned for the next seven snaps. He threw two more TDs but Rob Gronkowski was called for offensive pass interference while Brady was intercepted linebacker Curtis Lofton.
BRADY vs. BREES:
Tom Brady and Drew Brees are two of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, hands down. Both defenses are getting the benefit of facing both of them for three straight days in camp and preseason as they prepare for the season. “You talk about trying to play those top guys in the league like Tom, and now having Drew in here, we don’t get a break, so you really have to try to be perfect. It sounds crazy ‘ so you try to be perfect on every play but when you go against quarterbacks of that caliber you really do because you know 90 percent of the time they’re going to be perfect,” Pats DB Devin McCourty said. “The ball is going to be where it has to be and you really have to play very well on defense to try and compete with those guys.”
ZOLTAN THE WARRIOR:
Punter Zoltan Mesko got off eight consecutive punts with mixed results. His first punt was to the lethal Darren Sproles, a good 45-yard boot. His second was a shank off to the right. His third appeared to be a planned breakdown on the right side of the line as Mesko rolled out to the left on a bootleg. His fourth was a directional punt off to the right. His next two punts were over 50 yards and his final punt was 35 yards but the Saints returner tried to field and missed it, as it rolled another 15 yards for what turned out to be a very good punt.
Both teams finished practice with field goal work before getting together at midfield in one big huddle. The two teams then broke down into their separate team huddles.
PLAY OF THE DAY:
During 7-on-7s, Brady threw deep to Hernandez and the Patriots receiver reached out with one hand and made a spectacular diving grab 40 yards down field along the left sideline. The crowd erupted in applause. Hernandez has looked outstanding all camp and Tuesday was no different as Brady and the tight end continue developing an impressive chemistry.
Saints owner Tom Benson flew coach Joe Vitt and Pats coach Bill Belichick down to Philadelphia Tuesday morning for the funeral of Garrett Reid, the 27-year-old son of Eagles coach Andy Reid. “It’s kind of a heavy heart today with going to Garrett Reid’s services and seeing Andy,” Belichick said after practice. “The Saints, Mr. Benson, were generous enough to let me go down there with them on their plane this morning. I’m just glad I had an opportunity to be there and see Andy and his family and the Eagles organization. I have a lot of respect for them and what they do as well. They’re great friends and my heart goes out to him and our team does to the Eagles.”