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Sunday practice notes: Individual battles highlight first padded practice of summer

07.28.13 at 12:33 pm ET
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Tom Brady lofts one early in Sunday's practice. (AP)

Tom Brady lofts one early in Sunday’s practice. (AP)

FOXBORO — The Patriots just wrapped up their third camp practice of the summer, a Sunday morning session that ran just over two hours on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium. The first padded practice of the summer, here are a few notes:

1. The following players did not take part in practice: wide receiver Julian Edelman (on the field in sweats), wide receiver Mark Harrison (on the field in sweats), tight end Rob Gronkowski (on the field in sweats), defensive linemen Cory “Pork Chop” Grissom and Armond Armstead and offensive lineman Nick McDonald (on the field in sweats). As was the case on Saturday, Gronkowski popped out to watch part of the practice session, and Edelman was also spotted on the field hanging out with some of his teammates.

2. While there was plenty of 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 work throughout the morning, the really interesting stuff happened in the individual drills, particularly when the defensive linemen went up against the offensive linemen and the cornerbacks faced the wide receivers. The team stuff happened mostly toward the end of the workout — and was still really impressive to watch — but the most compelling action of the day happened in the one-on-ones.

3. The cornerbacks and wide receivers teamed up on an interesting drills that focused on blocking and hands work. Depending on whether it was a run or pass play, the two had to lock up. Throughout the drill, it appeared that wide receiver Lavelle Hawkins occasionally struggled to gain separation as well as engage as a blocker (at one point, he had his helmet knocked off his head), while rookie Aaron Dobson more than held his own against corners Ras-I Dowling and Stephon Morris. Receiver Kamar Aiken did a nice job getting past cornerback Alfonzo Dennard on another play, while receiver Danny Amendola and cornerback Aqib Talib battled to a draw on a few plays when they went head-to-head. (Not sure if this was by design or because they were parallel in line, but it seemed like Amendola and Talib went against each other an awful lot throughout the day. For the most part, they seemed to battle to a draw.)

Shortly after that, the receivers and corners went head-to-head again in a passing drill. In that sequence, receiver Michael Jenkins went up and made a nice catch over corner Justin Green, while Amendola beat Kyle Arrington long, but Arrington later recovered nicely and came away with the pass breakup. In addition, Talib made a nice play on Matthew Slater, sticking with the speedy receiver all the way down the field and batting the ball away. Dobson and Dennard went head-to-head on multiple occasions: First, Dobson, jumped up and over Dennard and had both hands on the pass, but Dennard batted the ball away at the last second. The next time around, Dobson beat him to the inside neatly and came away with the reception.

4. As was the case in previous years, some of the most interesting stuff takes place in the far corner of the practice field when the offensive linemen and defensive linemen square off. And as the Amendola-Talib matchup was riveting, the battles between Vince Wilfork and Logan Mankins were just epic — like a Michael Bay movie where two larger than life individuals clashed. With the understanding that these drills are monitored by the coaching staff (that is to say, one player will occasionally be given specific instructions to work on one part of their game instead of using a full arsenal of moves), the stuff was great to watch. By my count, Wilfork and Mankins went against each other three times, and came away in a draw on each occasion. Other highlights from the defensive line-offensive line battles was the sight of Tommy Kelly tossing Chris McDonald to the ground, as well as Chandler Jones putting a nice move on Nate Solder and slipping past him. Ryan Wendell easily neutralized Marcus Forston, and Sebastian Vollmer took care of Dont’a Hightower.

5. Speaking of the offensive line, Marcus Cannon continues to get regular reps with the starting line at right guard, and looked comfortable as a part of the No. 1 group. (He held up nicely when going against Kelly in drills.) Dan Connolly was on the field in pads with the rest of the team today, but was extremely limited, and could be seen running sprints and working on his own for part of the session. Not sure how close he is to returning at this point, but if Connolly does miss considerable time this summer, that’s a position that could see some turnover.

6. When it comes to the 11-on-11 drills, the best stuff of the day took place late in practice, specifically in the goal-line drills that really get both sides hyped. The offense won two of the battles (with LeGarrette Blount powering in one of them) and the defense won two, with Stevan Ridley serving as the victim in an awesome goal-line stand by Wilfork and the rest of the defense: Wilfork stripped Ridley short of the goal line and came away with the ball — maybe one of the best defensive plays of camp to this point in the summer.

7. For Ridley, that fumble was his second of the day. He ran a penalty lap on both occasions. Defensive lineman Anthony Rashad White jumped and also had to run a lap earlier in the day.

8. When it comes to quarterbacking play, it was mostly a sharp day for Tom Brady. According to colleague Kevin Dillon, Brady was 7-for-8 on 11-on-11s, but in game situation, he threw an interception to Arrington on a ball intended for Dobson. Brady spread the ball around throughout the day, with Shane Vereen, Daniel Fells and Amendola all serving as primary targets. (Dobson also got a lot of run as the primary receiver in one-on-one situations. Ryan Mallett was 3-for-4 in 11-on-11s, with passes to Brandon Bolden, Jenkins and Zach Sudfield. Boyce made a nice over-the-shoulder catch on an awesome pass from Mallett in one-on-ones (the duo beat defensive back Logan Ryan). And Tim Tebow was 1-for-2 on 11-on-11s, overthrowing Josh Boyce on a pass in the flat, but completing pass to a diving Quentin Sims. And Tebow helped end practice on a good note with a long touchdown pass to Kenbrell Thompkins, maybe his finest throw of the summer to this point.

9. Robert Duvall and Troy Brown were on the field for the practice session, and Christian Fauria spent time with his family in the media tent.

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