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Practice rundown #1

Posted by Greg A. Bedard  July 26, 2012 07:17 PM

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FOXBOROUGH – Here’s a rundown on what went on at Patriots’ practice this afternoon:

ATTENDANCE PLEASE

Reserve/did not report: RG Brian Waters.
Physically unable to perform: LG Logan Mankins (knee), RT Sebastian Vollmer (back), C Nick McDonald (unknown), OT Markus Zusevics, TE Daniel Fells (shoulder), TE Jake Ballard (knee), DT Myron Pryor (shoulder), WR Jeremy Ebert (hamstring).
Red jerseys: WR Matthew Slater, S James Ihedigbo,
Not participating: S Nate Ebner (unknown)

INJURIES
LB Tracy White and DL Justin Francis both seemed to be dealing with something as they walked off the field with a trainer after practice.

DRESS CODE
Shells.

TOP PLAYS
- QB Tom Brady and WR Jabar Gaffney hooked up on the play of the day – a bomb of some 55 yards down the right sideline – over CB Alfonzo Dennard and ahead of late-charging S Josh Barrett.
- Brady went deep middle to Donte’ Stallworth, who had gotten behind CB Devin McCourty with no safety help.
- WR Matthew Slater made a very difficult catch of a deep pass from QB Brian Hoyer as CB/S Will Allen hit Slater in the air.
- LB Dane Fletcher had an interception when QB Brian Hoyer underthrew TE Aaron Hernandez.
- First-round pick Dont’a Hightower showed off his terrific instincts when he read a screen pass perfectly, made a beeline to FB Tony Fiammetta and promptly dropped him for a 2-yard loss.
- DT Ron Brace had a strip sack of Hoyer. Yes, you read that right.

THUMBS UP
Brady came ready to play by completing 26 of 29 passes (with a sack) in 7-on-7 or 11-on-11 situations, including his first 15 passes and 21 of his first 22. There wasn’t a lot of high degree of difficulty, but it was still impressive. And it was even more impressive when you consider …

THUMBS DOWN
The offensive line was a disaster for all three quarterbacks. With three starters down (Logan Mankins, Brian Waters and Sebastian Vollmer), there is a ton of instability and the defense was feeding off it. Saw Jerod Mayo get back-to-back sacks, Dont’a Hightower got into the mix….basically when the defense blitzed, the quarterbacks were moving all over the place. They only completed a lot of passes because the quarterbacks couldn’t be hit.

SUPERLATIVES
Dropped it like it’s hot: FB Tony Fiammetta, WR Britt Davis, WR Jesse Holley.
Nice catch: Deion Branch, Jabar Gaffney, Matthew Slater, Aaron Hernandez,
Fumbling men: None.
Interceptions: LB Dane Fletcher (of Brian Hoyer)

ODDS AND ENDS


  • Of the other quarterbacks, Hoyer was sharper than Mallett, who continues to play on the slow side and is throwing late. He also seemed to be aiming the ball. Still, he showed off the arm when he went up top for a touchdown to Julian Edelman over Sterling Moore. Overall, most of Mallett’s completions came on checkdowns. He was 12 of 17 and should have been picked off by Moore on an underthrown ball.

  • Hoyer (8 of 12) was decent, nothing spectacular. His line was really bad.

  • You should hope and pray the defensive line stays intact and deep because that would give Jerod Mayo a true shot at showing his stuff at weakside linebacker. He was all over the field today, including a couple sacks. He was robbed of the opportunity last year with injuries and the failed Albert Haynesworth experiment.

  • All three tight ends – Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez and Visanthe Shiancoe – looked ready for the season. Gronkowski’s conditioning didn’t appear to be perfect, but his ankle looks really good. No problem in the open field.

  • Hernandez looked terrific. His moves in the open field are something else. Would nice to see him be healthy for all 16 games.

  • Nothing stood out about the running backs to me. I keep waiting for Shane Vereen to show the explosion and speed he was known for in college. Haven’t seen it yet.

  • The buzzword on defense is work in progress. The Patriots are playing a ton of different players at different position it’s impossible to figure out exactly who will be where.

  • It was nice to see Chandler Jones, after being on the sidelines for much of 11-on-11s, to get in the mix as first LDE in subpackages. He’ll be one we’ll be watching closely once the pads are put on and the one-on-ones start. Jones didn’t stand out. His length is the first thing you notice. He’s certainly more powerful than quick. Kind of like a young Andre Carter.

  • CB Ras-I Dowling, apparently, made it through the practice unscathed, which is better than he did last season. Dowling was unimpressive. He got beat over the top three times. It doesn’t appear he has learned how to use his size. At times he’s in the right position, but he’ll come toward the quarterback (making himself shorter) rather than positioning himself on the receiver.

  • The offense had its way with the cornerbacks as an entire group. Being able to hit the quarterback would have helped, but this was not a great start by the secondary.

  • Looks like they want to pair Tavon Wilson and Josh Barrett as the backup safeties for now, although Wilson did get a few looks with Patrick Chung on the first team.

  • Really like what I see out of Hightower. They’re taking their time with him, but you get the sense that he’ll ascend quickly.

SCHEDULE

- Friday’s practice: 1:30-4 p.m.
- Saturday’s practice: 1:30-4 p.m.
- Sunday’s practice: 1:30-4 p.m.

The rest is TBD.

News, analysis and commentary from Boston.com's staff writers and contributors, including Zuri Berry and Erik Frenz.

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