|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. Read the rest of this entry »
FOXBORO — After watching his offensive line have moments of disarray in attempting to protect Tom Brady Thursday night, it must have made Bill Belichick smile when the training staff cleared Logan Mankins for practice Sunday morning.
The four-time Pro Bowl left guard was cleared to rejoin the team on the field and taken off the physically unable to perform list, meaning he will be eligible to start the season, that is if his surgically repaired right knee allows. Mankins will be in shells again on Monday and then, if he feels ready, Mankins will get in full pads on Tuesday and see how the knee responds.
“It’s the same rule for everybody, so two days of shells and then pads,” Belichick said.
All of this is fairly impressive considering he played with a torn ACL in Super Bowl XLVI in the first weekend of February.
“He’s worked hard,” Belichick said. “Nobody has worked harder than Logan. He comes in early, stays late, works hard. We know he’s a really tough, dependable guy and he’s put a lot into it. He’s worked as hard as anybody can.”
Mankins also played the Super Bowl with a sore left knee, an injury suffered when he played left tackle for the first time in his career on Christmas Eve in a win over the Dolphins.
|Bill Belichick on the loss of Dane Fletcher: ‘We’ll have to look for somebody else to step in’||08.10.12 at 8:21 pm ET|
For the time being, it sounds like the Patriots will be moving on without Dane Fletcher. Coach Bill Belichick indicated Friday afternoon that the linebacker, who was injured in the first quarter of Thursday’s preseason opener against the Saints — reportedly a torn ACL — could be out “for a while.”
“The news on Dane doesn’t look very good,” Belichick said on a conference call with reporters. “He’ll probably be out for a while, which is unfortunate because he’s worked hard, specifically this offseason and training camp. We’ve had good competition at the position so we’ll have to look for somebody else to step in. But it’s unfortunate for Dane.
“I’m not trying to speculate on his injury. I just think that he’s going to be out for a while; we’ll see exactly what that means. I don’t know.”
Two players who could be in line for more playing time are Bobby Carpenter and rookie Dont’a Hightower. Hightower appeared to move almost seamlessly into Fletcher’s spot after the Montana State product went down, while Carpenter also saw plenty of playing time after the first quarter.
“Bobby is a very experienced player. He’s been with several teams,’ Belichick said of Carpenter, who signed as a free agent in the offseason with New England. “He’s played inside and outside in the 3-4, he’s played the different positions in the 4-3 and nickel defenses, he has a lot of experience in the kicking game. He’s done a lot of different things for Detroit, Miami, Dallas and us. He’s a versatile player with a lot of experience.”
In addition, it could open up some opportunities for a younger player like Mike Rivera who could add some depth to the position at the back end of the roster.
“He was on our practice squad last year; [he] wasn’t in training camp for us but had a good year on the practice squad and did enough things that we re-signed him this season and he’s been very competitive in camp,” Belichick said of Rivera. “We’re trying to give him some opportunities to see what he can do and how effective he can be doing it. But he’s certainly well ahead of where he was last year because of the spring practices, the OTAs and being here in training camp, so he knows our system a lot better.
“He’s a hard working kid that has shown up in the kicking game and on defense. He’s done some good things, but still has a long way to go to establish himself as a veteran NFL player.”
Thanks to the Patriots’ PR staff, here are some of the highlights of Bill Belichick’s Friday afternoon conference call with the media:
Opening statement: “After going through the tape here, I think that there were definitely some encouraging things last night and also a number of things we need to work on, both individually and from the team or overall scheme standpoint. I thought overall the players competed well. We were trying to, obviously our first time out there, trying to get our game day operation running without too many bumps in the road. I thought that was a step in the right direction. The big thing for us this week is we just have to, really the only chance we really have in the whole preseason to actually string some practice days together, so it’s important for us to get the most out of them and try to improve our team because once we play again, we’ll be playing three games right in a row. There won’t be really much time to do anything but very quickly prepare for the next game. That’s kind of where we’re at for today. On the injury front – the news on Dane [Fletcher] doesn’t look very good, so he’ll probably be out for a while, which is unfortunate because he’s worked hard, specifically this offseason and training camp. We’ve had good competition at the position so it we’ll have to look for somebody else to step in but it’s unfortunate for Dane. That’s where we’re at for today.”
You mentioned some encouraging things, outside of the way the team competed which you mentioned last night, what were some of the encouraging things you saw after reviewing the tape? “I thought individually there were good plays from a lot of players. We were inconsistent in certain areas or guys had good plays and the other plays weren’t so good. Some of the things that we worked on in practice showed up out there on the field from the fundamental or technique standpoint and that’s been a big emphasis, as it always is in training camp, is to play with good fundamentals, blocking, tackling, things like that. We had some production running the ball. Defensively we didn’t give up a lot of points. I thought we played competitively against both the running and passing game. Overall the kicking game was pretty competitive. Again, as I said there’s a lot of, I wouldn’t say that we’re three in any of those areas.”
Specifically in the run game, in this game it seemed like this was a little bit of I-formation. How much of that did you guys do last year without the pure fullback on the roster? “Not a whole lot.”
|Patriots release practice schedule for the next few days||at 2:43 pm ET|
The Patriots recently their practice schedule for the next few days:
Sunday: 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Monday: 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m.
FOXBORO — The Patriots offense was very limited in Thursday’s 7-6 preseason win over the Saints, but among the few standouts was second-year running back Shane Vereen.
On the Patriots’ 97-yard touchdown drive that led to their only score of the game, Vereen amounted to 73 total yards (63 rushing) before Brian Hoyer tossed a three-yard touchdown pass to Britt Davis. During that drive, the Valencia, Calif. native had three rushes of ten yards or more.
Vereen, who was picked 56th overall in 2011 (17 slots ahead of fellow Patriots running back Stevan Ridley) did not get much playing time last year. The Cal-Berkeley product got hurt and missed time during training camp, leaving him behind while a backfield of Ridley, Danny Woodhead and Benjarvus Green-Ellis took center stage.
However, with Green-Ellis gone and Vereen healthy, he has a chance to push for more playing time. Vereen showed that he can be a capable runner on Thursday when he rushed for 64 yards on 11 carries in the second half.
With that rushing total on the day, Vereen rushed for more yards on Thursday than he did all of last season (15 carries for 57 yards).
The 23-year-old also made two catches for 17 yards coming out of the backfield on Thursday, and served as a third-down back while undrafted rookie Brandon Bolden was getting carries on first and second down late in the game.
The Patriots’ backfield is very young right now, as Woodhead is the old man of the group at age 27. However, Vereen said after the game that despite their youth, the backs work together to make an effective unit.
“[Woodhead] does the best he can to keep us informed so we don’t feel so much like rookies. But every now and then stuff comes up that we haven’t handled before,” Vereen said.
As for competition between the rushers, the most easily comparable of the running backs are Vereen and Ridley because they entered the league at the same time. On Thursday, Ridley carried the ball eight times for 40 yards.
“I think more than trying to one-up each other, I think we learn from each other as far as mistakes, because we both make a ton of mistakes,” Vereen said. “We learn from that. If he makes a mistake out there I’ll know next time on my rep not to make the same mistake, and vice-versa.”
With games like he had on Thursday night, Vereen will be sure to get more chances with the ball as the preseason continues. Vereen is looking to capitalize on those chances.
“You are only given so many opportunities,” Vereen said. “To be able to go out there and be able to play well as an offense – we still have a ton, a ton to work on and to get better with – but for that little drive I felt like the offense, we did pretty well.”
|Rob Ninkovich feels the pain of Dane Fletcher||at 12:19 am ET|
FOXBORO — No one in the Patriots locker room feels worse for Dane Fletcher than Rob Ninkovich.
Fletcher tore the ACL in his left knee in the first quarter of Thursday’s preseason opener, according to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network. Fletcher started the game at inside linebacker for the Patriots – filling in for Brandon Spikes – and was part of a unit that forced a three-and-out on Drew Brees and the Saints.
Then, as the Patriots first drive stalled, he returned to the field on the punt unit. He fell to the turf and needed help to get off the field. Fletcher was taken to the locker room, where the diagnosis was made.
“It’s unfortunate,” said Ninkovich, who sits just to the right of Fletcher on “linebacker row” in the Patriots locker room. “You hope for the best. You don’t know what it is right now. I’ve been through some knee injuries and I know kind of how that goes. You don’t really know until you see a specialist or get an MRI. I don’t want to jump to conclusions on anything. It’s always tough to have injuries in the preseason. I know Dane. He’s a fighter so whatever it is, he’s going to work hard and he’ll be back.”
The punt wound up not counting and the Patriots gained a first down on the play as the Saints were called for a procedure penalty.
Fletcher has proven to be one of the most versatile players in the Belichick defensive system, playing both inside and outside linebacker. He finished his 2010 rookie season with 23 tackles and two sacks in 13 games played, all as a reserve. In 2011, Fletcher had 37 tackles as his role grew. Fletcher was limited last season due to a thumb injury that kept him out for six weeks. In Super Bowl XLVI, he recorded one tackle.
“He’s played on all four downs for us,” Bill Belichick said. “He’s played on first and second down, played on third down and played in the kicking game, so he has some versatility. He’s had roles on different downs on different times or different game plans. So he’s done all of those things to some degree.”
To no one’s surprise, Belichick would not offer any prognosis on Fletcher’s availability for the rest of the season, pending more exams that are likely this weekend.
“We’ll evaluate him like we do with any situation like that and see what the doctors say. I’m not a doctor, you know that,” Belichick said.
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