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Patriots practice report

July 30, 2012
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Greg A. Bedard gives a rundown on what went on at Patriots practice on Sunday.

ATTENDANCE

Reserve/did not report: G Brian Waters.

Physically unable to perform: G Logan Mankins (knee), T Sebastian Vollmer (back), C Nick McDonald (unknown), T Markus Zusevics (unknown), TE Daniel Fells (shoulder), TE Jake Ballard (knee), DT Myron Pryor (shoulder), WR Jeremy Ebert (hamstring).

Red jerseys: WR Matthew Slater (shoulder), S James Ihedigbo (shoulder).

Not participating: S Nate Ebner (unknown), LB Brandon Spikes (knee), T Darrion Weems (no contact per CBA), CB Alfonzo Dennard (hamstring), LB Tracy White (unknown).

Returned to practice: DL Justin Francis (left leg) avoided a scare after being carted off on Saturday.

INJURIES

 Reserve OL Jamey Richard was escorted off the field after suffering what a league source said was a concussion. He had one at the end of the 2010 season with the Colts.

 DE Rob Ninkovich did not take part in team drills. Hard to tell the exact injury.

 TE Visanthe Shiancoe wasn’t able to finish practice with a undisclosed injury.

DRESS CODE

Full pads for the second straight day.

TOP PLAYS

 In a drill pitting linebackers against running backs in pass blocking, LB Dont’a Hightower went through Eric Kettani and sent the FB into RB coach Ivan Fears, who tumbled to the ground.

 Another day, another bomb from Tom Brady to Brandon Lloyd after safety Steve Gregory bit on a little trickery.

THUMBS UP

Second-year QB Ryan Mallett easily had his best day of this camp (and maybe last year as well) as he finally looked more comfortable and played in the rhythm of the offense. Mallett showed nice touch at the end of practice hooking up with TE Tyler Urban for a touchdown in a goal-line situation. Mallett had appeared to be playing and throwing in slow motion up to this point. It’s like he was thinking too much going over all the coaches’ instructions in his mind. Nobody can play like that, and perhaps Sunday was a turning point for him.

THUMBS DOWN

TE Rob Gronkowski may be running fine after offseason ankle surgery, but he’s not quite 100 percent. That’s been showing up with his blocking — which puts a lot of pressure on the legs and is normally one of the best parts of his game. Gronkowski has had a tough time in blocking drills against the DEs/OLBs. He didn’t win any of his matchups, and lost to veteran DE Tim Bulman. In a running drill, DE Trevor Scott easily shed the tight end to take down Stevan Ridley, and rookie DE Jake Bequette also had little trouble with Gronkowski. He had two drops Sunday — one that was intercepted by S Patrick Chung and another that would have been a touchdown in goal line. Gronkowski probably can use Monday’s offday to recuperate.

SUPERLATIVES

  Dropped passes: Gronkowski (2).

  Fumbled: Mallett.

  Interceptions: Chung (of Brady).

ONE-ON-ONES

One man’s opinion on how the offensive and defensive lines matched up in one-on-one drills (our favorite part of camp):

Standouts — Offense: G Donald Thomas (2-1-0), T Matt Kopa (2-1-0). Defense: DT Ron Brace (2-0-0), DT Gerard Warren (2-0-1), DE Trevor Scott (1-0-1), DT Marcus Harrison (1-0-1).

Struggled a bit — Offense: C Dan Koppen (0-3-0), OL Dan Connolly (1-3-0), LT Kyle Hix (1-3-0), T Marcus Cannon (1-2-1). Defense: DE Jermaine Cunningham (1-2-0), DL Marcus Fortson (0-1-2).

Decided victories — Offense: Thomas (vs. Jonathan Fanene), Richard (vs. Kyle Love), Nate Solder (vs. Cunningham). Defense: Vince Wilfork (vs. Koppen), Love (vs. Koppen), Fanene (vs. Connolly), Bulman (vs. Solder), Cunningham (vs. Cannon).

 For the second straight day, Wilfork lost his opening matchup, this time to underwhelming Ryan Wendell. Of course, on his next rep Wilfork shredded Koppen, who did not look good Sunday. Waiting to see how guys look after the offday before we start having strong feelings about some poor performances.

 The two starting offensive tackles — Solder and Cannon — were not impressive outside of Solder’s complete stoning of Cunningham. Bulman got into Solder quickly so he couldn’t extend his long arms and then moved him at will. Cannon nearly missed Francis altogether, and then allowed Cunningham (who wasn’t sharp overall) to kill him with a spin move. Cannon’s technique is off. He’s just not getting back in his stance and in good position.

 Everyone’s having trouble with Fanene’s size/speed combination inside.

 Don’t look now, but Brace is turning some heads. He’s showing off power and surprising quickness. Amazing what actually practicing can do. This is the first of his three camps in which Brace has been on the field in the first week.

 Kopa is distancing himself from Hix for fourth tackle. Weems can finally practice in pads on Tuesday.

ODDS AND ENDS

 The running backs did not fare well in their pass-blocking drills against the linebackers (4-10-3). Spencer Larsen held LB Jeff Tarpinian, and then had LB Bobby Carpenter dance around him. Dane Fletcher just about made Ridley whiff. LB Niko Koutouvides dominated Eric Kettani on one rep. Danny Woodhead lost both his mismatches against Jerod Mayo. Ridley and Shane Vereen each had one win but a couple losses as well.

 The second-team defensive line of Cunningham, Brandon Deaderick, Fanene, and Bequette was causing a lot of problems in team drills.

 In addition to his interception, Chung also broke up a pass to Gronkowski.

 Bulman also used his veteran savvy to make quick work of Cannon in team drills to take down Ridley for a loss.

 A day after being carted off the field, Francis returned and continued to impress. His energy and enthusiasm is apparent on the field ­— and his play is backing it up.

 Despite being beaten down the field, CB Devin McCourty had another pass breakup.

 Chandler Jones showed off his length when he batted down a Brady screen pass on the first snap of 11-on-11.

 With Ninkovich taking most of the practice off, the Patriots took a look at Scott and Jones playing together on either end of the line.

 On the second play on the goal line, DT Love destroyed Connolly and took down Ridley for a loss.

SCHEDULE

  Monday: Off.

  Tuesday: 1:30-4 p.m.

  Wednesday: Closed evening practice in the stadium for season ticket-holders and Foxborough residents.

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