10 things we learned Monday from Patriots training camp
|08.13.12 at 9:35 pm ET|
FOXBORO – It was another hot day Monday on the practice fields outside Gillette Stadium, ideal for training camp conditioning. Bill Belichick, linebackers coach Pepper Johnson, offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia and special teams coach Scott O’Brien all took their opportunity to scream words of encouragement during the practice that lasted over two hours.
With Monday’s reported waiving of Dane Fletcher and Britt Davis, the active roster stands at 88 players.
Among the remaining players, 12 were not seen on Monday, and they include fullback Eric Kettani, safety Malcolm Williams, safety James Ihedigbo, fullback Spencer Larsen, linebacker Tracy White, offensive lineman Matt Kopa, tight end Visanthe Shiancoe, tight ends Daniel Fells and Jake Ballard, and defensive linemen Myron Pryor, Gerard Warren and Jonathan Fanene.
The bigger news came with the roll call of players in shorts, including Rob Gronkowski for a second straight day. Joining Gronk were tight end Aaron Hernandez, receiver Brandon Lloyd, defensive back Alfonzo Dennard, offensive tackle Markus Zusevics, and offensive linemen Kyle Hix and Sebastian Vollmer.
Here are nine other things we learned from camp on Monday.
MANKINS MAKES STRIDES
Logan Mankins was in shorts and shells again on Monday, and again he was sporting a big black brace on his right knee. While only going through moderate drills on Sunday evening, Mankins joined in with the first team offensive line at left guard and began taking snaps with Tom Brady. Mankins lined up between left tackle Nate Solder and center Dan Koppen, who returned to the first unit rotation. Mankins was given time to recuperate in the middle of practice as the offensive line was going through intense 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 drills. If all goes well, Mankins is expected to be in full pads on Tuesday for the first time since being taken off PUP on Sunday.
ALL ABOUT TEMPO
After admitting that his offense “has a long ways to go” on Sunday following a 10-punt, two turnover performance in the preseason opener, Bill Belichick had the offensive pick up the pace on Sunday during 11-on-11 drills. Tom Brady opened up in the hurry-up offense, going 3-for-4 with a TD toss to Deion Branch. Included in the hurry-up were six running plays from Stevan Ridley for a total of 10 snaps. Brady would’ve been perfect except for a drop from Julian Edelman. Ryan Mallett was not as effective as he was just 2-for-4 with four runs from Shane Vereen. Brady returned for the conventional huddle in 11-on-11 situational football, going 3-for-4, with the highlight coming on a fantastic over the shoulder grab from Alex Silvestro, getting more time with both Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski sitting out Monday’s practice.
SOMETHING YOU DON’T OFTEN SEE
During a second round of 11-on-11 drills, Brady came on and actually quarterbacked the scout team against the first-team defense. Moments later, with Brian Hoyer calling signals, he and Ridley fumbled an exchange and both had to run a lap from goal post to goal post.
Rookie Chandler Jones continues to impress, as he tipped a pair of passes, including one by Tom Brady during 11-on-11 snaps. Jones also narrowly missed blocking a field goal by Chris Koepplin at the end of practice, an attempt that was blocked by an interior lineman. Also getting his hand up was Vince Wilfork during a red area 11-on-11 set run by Brian Hoyer. Jermaine Cunningham came over and gave Wilfork an enthusiastic congratulatory slap for his efforts.
Much has been made of the competition for wide receiver spots on the roster. And with Deion Branch keeping a very low profile in camp so far, including not dressing for the preseason opener against the Saints, Branch got his chance to shine on Monday. Brandon Lloyd and Aaron Hernandez were both on the sideline and that meant Branch was more a target for Tom Brady during first team sets. Branch made the most of it with two TD grabs, including one in which he followed Brady on a rollout, and made a running catch in the back of the end zone.
A BARREL OF LAUGHS, BUT NOT FOR LONG
In another training camp ritual, a blue trash barrel was placed on the left hash at the goal line as quarterbacks Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett each had two shots to show their long-range accuracy. All three were 0-for-2 with Brady coming the closest, hitting the barrel once. A new twist this year was the effort of offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels – who quarterbacked at John Carroll University in Cleveland. [Ed. note: McDaniels was beaten out there by Patriots personnel guru Nick Caserio]. Both of McDaniels’ heaves fell short, with one bouncing and hitting the outside of the barrel.
ONE-ON-ONE BATTLES CONTINUE
The hottest battles of the day came in 1-on-1 drills between offensive and defensive linemen. Brandon Deaderick and Donald Thomas split their first two battles before the two fought to a draw in the third. Chandler Jones cleanly beat Nate Solder before Jake Bequette had his way with Solder in a later battle. Vince Wilfork was a machine, winning all of his 1-on-1 battles with various interior offensive linemen.
Ryan Mallett had his moments on Monday but they came sandwiched around inconsistencies that he needs to overcome if he’s to have any chance of unseating Brian Hoyer as Brady’s back-up. A classic example came when he threw the ball deep into double-coverage in 11-on-11 drills. Marquice Cole picked it off. Mallett has shown good touch on the long ball, though, spotting Jabar Gaffney streaking down the left sideline and putting just the right amount of air under it to connect with the receiver, who benefitted from a clear push off on Ross Ventrone.
Devin McCourty and Kyle Arrington, two keys in the Patriots starting secondary, both had good moments reading Tom Brady on Monday. Arrington made a great read on a sideline route and had the ball in his hands, only to drop it. McCourty read another sideline route for Wes Welker perfectly and got his hands in to break up the would-be first-down completion.
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