5 picked-up pieces from end of Patriots minicamp
|06.20.14 at 6:00 am ET|
1. Darrelle Revis was pretty much instantly identifiable whenever he stepped on the field this spring for a few reasons, not the least of which was the fact that — no matter the weather — he was always dressed in long sleeves and long sweatpants. Not only that, he was layered, even though things were pretty hot and steamy on two of the three days of mandatory minicamp. He was asked why he wore so many clothes throughout his workouts, and he smiled and said he’s always been about the long sleeves.
“Always, man,” he said. “It’s just learning from the old guys when I was younger, man. The Ty Laws. The David Barretts. Guys that I used to look up to. Then you asked them the question, you come out in shorts and a T-shirt. They’re dressed in long sleeves and sweat jackets and you’re like ‘Why you wearing that?’ All DBs say you’ve got to stay warm, because we run a lot. That’s the answer. We’ve got to stay warm. I always try to stay covered, man.
“And I don’t want to get a tan, either.”
For what it’s worth, Revis acknowledged he wasn’t on the field at the end of practice on Wednesday. Asked if there was any cause for concern, he seemed to suggested there wasn’t a problem.
“No [cause for concern]. I’m fine. I’ll leave the injury report up to Bill,” he said. “Whatever he says, he says. But I’m fine. I was here today and I practiced today.”
Two more notes about the defensive backs: One, the last two years, they were a very happy-go-lucky group, with Aqib Talib serving as a good time ringleader, and veteran Marquice Cole always managing to keep things light. It’s still early (and things could change once we get a chance to see them interact on a daily basis together in the locker room), but this year’s group appears to be much more businesslike than the last couple of seasons. In their initial meetings with the media — Thursday’s joke from Revis about tanning aside — there’s a different tone about this group this time around. And two, when it comes to the rest of the secondary, the job of the safety position opposite Devin McCourty is Duron Harmon‘s to lose, with Tavon Wlson and Patrick Chung behind him.
2. With Aaron Dobson still on the shelf because of a foot issue and Brandon LaFell in and out of the lineup, fellow wideout Kenbrell Thompkins did a nice job of taking advantage of the opportunities that were afforded him this spring, at least from this viewpoint. The receiver, entering his second season in New England, got extensive work with the starting offense, and had perhaps the sweetest offensive play of minicamp relatively early in Wednesday’s session. In 11-on-11 work, he and quarterback Tom Brady connected on a pass play in the corner of the end zone. The ball was lofted over the outstretched arms of cornerback Brandon Browner, floated out there by the quarterback to a spot where only Thompkins could catch it. The receiver came down the with ball, much to the delight of the rest of the offense.
“That was very challenging,” Thompkins said when asked about the play after practice. “Brandon Browner is a tremendous athlete — [a] lengthy guy, long arms. But it’s our job to come down with it.”
From this viewpoint — if history is any indication — Thompkins is still a candidate for the roster bubble. But in the series of workouts that were open to the media, he certainly made an impressive statement, and likely solidified his spot on the roster as a result.
3. Dobson and cornerback Alfonzo Dennard were not on the field for the spring workouts, with Dennard continuing to work his way back after offseason shoulder surgery. Neither are rookies, and so their experience in the system will help them when it comes to hitting the ground running in July when training camp opens. But following the spring practice sessions, it’s clear that both will be pushed when it comes to battling for playing time this summer. Dobson, Thompkins and LaFell will fight for snaps when it comes to working as the outside receiver.
Meanwhile, Dennard is no longer the consensus No. 2 corner in the system, a spot he occupied for the bulk of the 2013 season opposite Talib. The Patriots picked up Revis and Browner in the offseason, and while Kyle Arrington is better suited to working in the slot (and figures to be tops on the depth chart if you’re talking about a possible nickel/slot corner), Dennard could challenge him for time in that role. But at this point, Dennard and second-year man Logan Ryan figure to start training camp as the backup corners. That can all change in the blink of an eye, of course — and the fact that Browner has to sit out the first four games of the season because of a PED violation from last year will mean Dennard could still open the year as the starter opposite Revis. But Dennard can’t afford to slip up or miss any more time this summer.
4. It was difficult to gauge the work of either side of the line — with no pads in either the OTAs or minicamp sessions, trying to get a handle on the state of the offensive or defensive line is a dicey proposition. But on the offensive side of the ball, rookie Jon Halapio stood out as a first-year player who appeared to get plenty of reps with what looked like a reasonable facsimile of the No. 1 offense. In drills like this at this time of year, one of the main things you’re looking for is for a rookie not to look overwhelmed by his surroundings, and Halapio appeared to fit well with the rest of the starters. We’ll know more about how he’ll hold up at the NFL level when the pads go on in July, but to this point, he’s done well. One other note as it relates to the offensive line: center Bryan Stork took a lot of laps (at least three, by our count) after botched snaps. From that perspective, the Florida State product and Rimington Award winner had a rough spring.
On the other side of the ball, first-round pick Dominique Easley saw his first action (at least in front of the media) at Thursday’s minicamp session in the practice bubble. He appeared limited, but at the same time, he was able to make a series of nice cuts and bursts in drills alongside his veteran counterparts. It’s very early, but just seeing him on the field at this stage of the spring after last year’s torn ACL is enough to spark some optimism he’ll be ready for camp, at least on a limited basis.
“He’s working. He’s working just like I am — stacking days,” veteran defensive lineman Tommy Kelly said of Easley on Wednesday. “He’ll be all right. He’s a very hard worker. When he gets out here, I’ll be just as excited as you all.”
5. The depth at linebacker isn’t ideal, but James Anderson definitely should help. The veteran who had 102 tackles last season with the Bears got some good work in over minicamp alongside Dont’a Hightower, and will likely be the first choice to fill the void of pure coverage linebacker the team has lacked the last couple of years. The guys who lead the depth chart at linebacker are an impressive group, as Jerod Mayo appears to be close to being all the way back after last year’s season-ending pectoral injury, and Hightower and Jamie Collins appear poised to be every-down linebackers in 2014. Beyond that, however, there are still questions. There’s still time between now and the start of the regular-season to build depth, but at this point, if any one of the starters goes down for an extended length of time like last year, they could have issues.