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Monday night practice notes: Defense looks solid as Patriots hold in-stadium workout

07.30.13 at 12:33 am ET
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FOXBORO — The Patriots held an in-stadium practice Monday night at Gillette on a beautiful summer night — clear and relatively cool in front of an announced crowd of 20,543. The session went for roughly two hours, and was their second padded practice of camp. Here are a few quick notes:

‘€¢Not practicing were wide receiver Julian Edelman and Mark Harrison (both of whom were on the field in sweats), offensive lineman Nick McDonald (on the field in sweats and helping with drills), defensive lineman Cory ‘€œPork Chop’€ Grissom (on the field in sweats), running back Brandon Bolden, tight end Rob Gronkowski (on the field in sweats) and defensive lineman Armond Armstead. In addition, defensive back Devin McCourty was in a red non-contact jersey for the fourth time in camp.

‘€¢It wasn’€™t the crispest of practices for the offense — if you had to crown a winner, it was the defense who carried the day, particularly the cornerbacks. Aqib Talib picked off a pair of Tom Brady passes, and returned one of his picks (a pass for Kenbrell Thompkins) to the end zone. In addition, Duron Harmon picked off Ryan Mallett at the end of practice. (And Kyle Arrington was wearing some cool electric green cleats.) A good night for the secondary, which continues to string together good sessions.

‘€¢As he has done for most of the first week of training camp, Marcus Cannon again ran with the starting offensive line at right guard in place of Dan Connolly. Will Svitek occasionally rotated in with the starters at right tackle, giving Vollmer a breather.

‘€¢With no Bolden in the lineup, the rest of the running backs got a lot of work, particularly Leon Washington. No official way of calculating this, but it appeared that Washington got more reps on offense Monday night than any other point in camp. Speaking of running back, it was also interesting to see LeGarrette Blount get some special teams work as part of the kick return team. Not sure if that will continue or whether it was just a case of the coaching staff just wanting to see what he could do, but it was intriguing nonetheless.

‘€¢In addition to his usual reps at quarterback, Tim Tebow did a few different things: One, he spent some time as a punt protector, and was part of the scout team during other punt and punt return repetitions. And two, he took part in a drill where he was trying to avoid a would-be tackler (while the other quarterbacks were off on another part of the field). It will be interesting to see how he’€™s utilized going forward, and whether or not the coaching staff will try and take advantage of some of his other skills. Tebow did take some snaps at quarterback, and while there were no breakdowns like we saw over the first three camp practices, one play that did stand out for us was during some of the 11-on-11 work. Not sure if it was a breakdown in blocking by Kevin Haslam and R.J. Mattes or a neatly executed blitz by Jerod Mayo and Dont’€™a Hightower, but Tebow would have been crunched. Because he was wearing the red jersey, they pulled up at the last minute and he rolled out. But he would have been lit up.

‘€¢We always need to note that the one-on-one drills between the offensive and defensive linemen should be taken with a grain of salt because sometimes coaches purposefully have players not use their entire collection of moves in hopes of working on some areas where they aren’€™t as strong. But some of the Monday night highlights included Jake Bequette beating Nate Solder twice, Chandler Jones easily getting past Chris McDonald and Ryan Wendell absolutely blunting Marcus Forston. Michael Buchanan showed some flashy hands work in beating Elvis Fisher off the edge, and defensive tackle Joe Vellano flashed very positively on the night with some good work against Wendell, Markus Zusevics, Chris McDonald and Josh Kline. And in their daily battle royal, Vince Wilfork and Logan Mankins squared off twice, with each of them coming away with one win. (Later in the drill, defensive end Jermaine Cunningham jumped and had to run a penalty lap. He returned and beat Chris McDonald in his next rep.)

‘€¢Even though the Patriots have only been in pads twice, the first-year receivers are getting lots of reps, and that’€™s not just draftees Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce. Thompkins had been having a pretty good camp until Monday night, when he struggled at times. The rookie receiver out of Cincinnati dropped a punt in special teams work and dropped a pass in one of his reps with the starting offense. He also couldn’€™t come up with a laser from Mallett in 11-on-11s, getting knocked off his spot by Ras-I Dowling, and ran a bad route on a ball that ended up being picked off by Talib.

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