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Mini-camp observations, Day 1

Posted by Greg A. Bedard  June 12, 2012 04:35 PM

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FOXBOROUGH – The team was back on the field today for the start of the three-day mandatory mini-camp before the month-long break preceding training camp in late July.

We’ve already detailed who was or wasn’t there.

Before we get started, the normal disclaimers:

  • It is VERY, VERY early, so don’t go flying off the handle about anything. Things will certainly change in time.
  • 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.

Observations:

  • There was a lot work early on short-yardage situations on both sides of the ball. With so many players missing along the offensive line, Dan Connolly appeared to spend most of the day at guard.
  • One of the things that jumped out about the defense in short yardage was that undrafted DL Justin Francis was working with the starting unit. We previously talked about how he was one of the top rookies – including the draft picks – to flash early and that seems to be continuing. Francis appears to be an interior player. Helps that Myron Pryor is still rehabbing.
  • We saw more evidence of how polished WR Brandon Lloyd is when he did a terrific job showing late hands on a 7-on-7 pass from Tom Brady. CB Malcolm Williams was in perfect underneath position but didn’t get his hands up in time because Lloyd didn’t catch the ball until the last second. Reminiscent of Randy Moss.
  • Brady and Lloyd go just about everywhere together on the field between drills. At one point Brady, on one knee, was joking around with Lloyd, Wes Welker and Deion Branch as a small group away from the action.
  • Shane Vereen and Danny Woodhead seem to be the dominant third-down backs. When the team when to regular personnel during 11-on-11, Stevan Ridley seemed to get the early call. Joseph Addai and Brandon Bolden were in much more reserved roles.
  • Brady was 23-30 in competitive situations. His mechanics were very sound. Did a nice job of keeping his shoulder square.
  • Brian Hoyer completed his first pass and then was picked off on back-to-back plays by LB Jeff Tarpinian and DB Will Allen, who was playing safety. Hoyer took a seat for Ryan Mallett right after the intereptions. Hoyer finished 6 of 11 with the two interceptions and was sacked for safety when, from the 2-yard line, rookie DE Jake Bequette blew past the line for a quick sack (couldn’t tell who the lineman was and it wasn’t on Hoyer).
  • Mallett finished 7 of 15. He’s inconsistent. He threw a beautiful bomb to Julian Edelman for a touchdown over Alfonzo Dennard and Tavon Wilson, but Mallett also showed his trademark wildness with low throws and a few behind receivers. Mallett should have been intercepted by Sterling Moore. It appears the footwork drills he’s working on is affecting the consistency of his mechanics. It can be straightened out. Mallett also seems to be very cognizant of getting rid of the ball in practice. He had about four throwaways. Mallett often held onto the ball too long in the preseason last year. Quicker decision-making appears to be a coaching point this offseason, as it should be.
  • The battered offensive line, in general, had a tough day. Rushers appeared to be affecting the quarterbacks because the protection was poor.
  • Not a great day catching the ball, either. Edelman and Welker had two drops on throws that weren’t perfect. Lloyd also had one.
  • Safeties Patrick Chung and Steve Gregory each had a pass breakup.
  • Wilson saw his versatility utilized a few times when lined up as a linebacker in passing situations. That’s not a surprise. It’s something he did in college, and the Patriots used James Ihedigbo that way last season.
  • The unusual body type of Dennard again stood out. Never quite seen a cornerback built so compactly with seemingly short arms. He’s actually built like a slightly undersized safety.
  • Don’t think Sergio Brown saw the field as a safety but he’s still a top special teams player. Not sure if I saw Allen at cornerback.
  • CB Ras-I Dowling continued to be the nickel back. His play didn’t jump out one way or the other.
  • LB Bobby Carpenter continues to be a fixture in different packages. Dont’a Hightower got into the DL mix on a few snaps but is mostly an interior linebacker.
  • DE Chandler Jones was a little more active in the pass rush. Like his ability to stunt and flash some quickness that way.
  • Special teams work focused on punt returns with Edelman getting most of the reps. Surprisingly, Chung got a few as well. Don't think he's ever done that before.
News, analysis and commentary from Boston.com's staff writers and contributors, including Zuri Berry and Erik Frenz.

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