FOXBOROUGH – Here are some observations from today’s practice that was open to the media. It's the final glimpse that we get during organized team activities before next week's three-day mandatory mini-camp closes the book on the offseason.
Before I begin, a few disclaimers.
- It is VERY, VERY early, so don’t go flying off the handle about anything. Things will certainly change in time.
- Teams only have to have one OTA open to the media for every three practices. We don’t know what was done the other two, or whether this was a "let’s try a few things” sessions. Also, the Patriots know the media is watching. They might show some things or hide some things accordingly.
- The media is limited in what we can report. Specifically, we can’t report “on offensive or defensive strategy. This includes describing formations, personnel groups or non-conventional plays.” We also can’t report comments made by coaches.
So, with that backdrop, a few intentionally vague thoughts after watching practice:
- Lot of red zone and two-minute drill work, which is the usual method of operation during installation. There was also some work against cards (diagrammed plays held up for the scout team offense or defense), which indicates the Patriots were preparing for an opponent or two. Again, nothing unusual about that.
- Thought it was interesting that offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels spent some time working one-on-one with QB Ryan Mallett. Appeared they were working on footwork, which has been one of the weaker parts of Mallett’s game.
- First-round pick Dont’a Hightower saw his role expand a little bit more in this practice. He had been solely at middle linebacker in previous practice but ventured out to other LB positions during practice. Hightower also appeared to be much more comfortable with what he was doing, so he played a little bit faster. Seems to be rounding into shape.
- With Rob Gronkowski, Daniel Fells, and Aaron Hernandez out, and Brad Herman and Bo Scaife not able to make it through practice, DE Alex Silvestro was the lone TE for much of practice. Let’s just say he doesn’t have a future there.
- The offense was sluggish getting in and out of the huddle and coach Bill Belichick had them run three penalty laps (two the second time).
- Tom Brady was very sharp during practice. He hit his first six passes and finished 18 of 26 with most of the completions going to Deion Branch, Wes Welker, Jabar Gaffney and the running backs. There weren’t many downfield throws.
- Brian Hoyer was also sharp, completing 10 of 13 throws. Mallett, after working with McDaniels, was 7 of 10, but twice he was saved with diving catches by Julian Edelman, and his incompletions were way off. Mallett also threw into triple coverage once.
- Two rookies, Tavon Wilson and Alfonzo Dennard, stood out in the secondary with a few pass breakups each. Seems that the rookies are starting to catch on.
- Not an overly impressive day from Ras-I Dowling. He just appears to be a little stiff at this point. But, again, he’s coming off hip surgery. Will eagerly be waiting to observe him in training camp when he should be at full health and ready to compete for a job. He’s already in sub packages. If Dowling can grab a starting spot, that will allow the Patriots to be more flexible with Devin McCourty. But right now he’s rebounding nicely at cornerback.
- Brandon Lloyd did nice work in the red zone with a couple of touchdowns. He just has terrific body control. Really think the sky’s the limit for him in this offense. Of course, not having any TEs around makes Brady look at the WRs more. Those reps certainly can’t hurt.
- WR Britt Davis picked up some reps with Chad Ochocinco not at practice. Davis showed well today with a knack for sideline catches.
- Will Allen continued to get some reps at safety.
- Steve Gregory looks like we figured when the Patriots signed him: a jack of all trades in the secondary. He can do a little bit of everything.
- Like what I’m seeing out of the secondary as a whole. Marquice Cole is quite an athlete. Sterling Moore continues to develop with more reps. Kyle Arrington is still playing well. Things look to be coming together back there.
- Impossible to really tell much along the two lines. The OTA rules are constricting for those positions. DE Trevor Scott continues to be impressive. Rob Ninkovich isn’t doing much standing up, but that’s usually a game plan thing during the regular season.
- There was also a lot of work on kickoff return. The Patriots used a bunch of different people, but I have to say that I was impressed with Donte’ Stallworth. He has some explosion back there. Of course, not one is hitting anybody so it’s really tough to draw any conclusions.