FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Like every defensive back over the first two practices of camp, cornerback Alfonzo Dennard has allowed a few passes to be completed into his coverage.
On Saturday, he rediscovered his knack for making plays on the ball. In addition to a couple other pass break-ups, he had a leaping interception off quarterback Ryan Mallett on a deep pass intended for wide receiver Josh Boyce, and a noteworthy pass break-up off quarterback Tom Brady on a sideline throw for wide receiver Aaron Dobson.
"I just worked on the little things," Dennard said, when asked what he did with his offseason from a training standpoint. "[I] worked with the other guys to get my technique down, and just tried to stay focused on this year."
His work on technique has shown. Over the past two days, we've seen Dennard move around a bit in the secondary, lining up on the outside and on the inside. He has played well at both spots.
The Patriots could use versatility like that, especially with concerns over whether cornerback Aqib Talib can participate in all 16 games in a season, a feat which he has yet to accomplish in his five-year career.
But of course, we can't talk about Dennard without mentioning his arrest on suspicion of DUI in Lincoln, Nebraska, the same town where he had previously been charged with assaulting a police officer. The Patriots are prepared for the possibility that he could be suspended, but no one knows when or how long.
That would be enough to distract almost anyone.
"I stay focused just being around the guys," he said. "They bring a lot of focus into my heart."
Some more notes from Saturday's session:
- Unlike Friday, it was a beautiful day at Patriots training camp on Saturday, with an average temperature of 83 degrees and clear skies. Attendance was much higher than the 6,390 that showed up on Friday. Will relay an exact number when I have it.
- Wide receiver Danny Amendola continued his run as Brady's favorite target, and his quickness and burst off the line of scrimmage stood out as he was shaking defenders and getting open immediately off the snap. He had what has to be considered the lowlight of camp (aside from every time Tim Tebow drops back) when he fumbled, untouched, on a punt return, after failing to get his footing when he fielded the punt.
- The running backs all looked good catching passes out of the backfield. We expect that from Shane Vereen, who is well-versed in that role and showed great quickness every time he touched the ball, but both Stevan Ridley and Brandon Bolden showed soft hands and solid lateral movement in space to run patterns in the flat and make the catch.
- The defense showed both 3-4 and 4-3 looks, with several players lining up at different spots in those groups. Scheme versatility figures to be in the cards for the Patriots defense once again in 2013.
- Quarterback Tim Tebow struggled on Friday, and those struggles continued on Saturday for much of the same reasons: holding onto the ball too long and bouncing passes off the ground in front of receivers. On one play, Tebow held onto the ball for around 10 seconds before scrambling to his left, only to throw incomplete on a checkdown to his running back. Tebow was spotted in some running back drills: one with defenders trying to knock the ball out as he ran from one sideline to another, and another drill where the staff hit the runners with dummies as they ran over pylons with the ball in their hands. Despite his struggles, Tebowmania is being felt in full effect. The reaction to his completion to an equipment manager was kind of ridiculous. Was that sarcastic or legit? Please enlighten me.
- With tight end Rob Gronkowski still on the PUP list as he recovers from back surgery, tight ends Jake Ballard and Zach Sudfeld have emerged as two of the top targets at the position in practice. Both have caught nearly everything headed their way, and Sudfeld specifically has shown the ability to find soft spots in coverage and settle in while his quarterback looks for open targets.
- Two other highlights of the day: Wide receiver Aaron Dobson got off a jam from cornerback Aqib Talib, ran toward the sideline, and made a leaping catch off a pass from Brady with Talib draped on him.
- Mallett threw a pass for wide receiver Josh Boyce, which bounced into Boyce's hands after being deflected by the reaching hand of safety Tavon Wilson. Boyce caught the pass in stride.
- Receivers that dropped passes today: Boyce (2), Michael Jenkins, Kamar Aiken, Aaron Dobson, Danny Amendola, Quentin Sims, Kenbrell Thompkins.
- 11-on-11 stats: Brady went 9-of-17 (two drops), Mallett went 11-of-12 with an interception, Tebow went 3-of-6 and scrambled at least a couple of times.
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