FOXBOROUGH – Here are five observations/nuggets from this morning’s Patriots rookie minicamp practice, which was held inside the Dana-Farber Field House.
1) Specifics of coaching. At the end of practice, third-round draft choice Kevin O’Connell worked one-on-one with offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Josh McDaniels. As the work was taking place, a member of the team’s video department filmed O’Connell, presumably to let O’Connell take it home and study himself. It was the first time O’Connell had ever experienced such specific coaching, which he welcomed. “We’re going to try to work on things every single day,” he said. “If it’s something small, [like] ball placement, footwork in a five-step [drop] or three-step [drop], I just want to get better at one or two things every day, so when training camp rolls around, I’m prepared to do whatever I can to be part of this team.”
2) Slater sticks with defense. Unlike Friday, when fifth-round draft choice Matthew Slater worked at both receiver and safety, he was mostly working with the defense today. Slater wore a temporary blue jersey throughout the session and was tutored throughout by secondary/special assistant coach Dom Capers.
3) One-on-one drills test the defense. One of the highlights of the session was one-on-one drills in which cornerbacks attempted to stay with receivers, and linebackers worked against either running backs or tight ends. At one point, first-round draft choice Jerod Mayo got upset with himself for grabbing a handful of a running back’s jersey. Later in the drill, Mayo seemingly had nice coverage on tight end Jonathan Stupar down the middle of the field, but Stupar made a nice over-the-shoulder catch on a nicely thrown ball from Kevin O’Connell. It was the second day in a row that Stupar showed nice hands and concentration.
4) O’Connell throws a nice deep ball. While Kevin O’Connell continued to work through some erratic throws, his arm strength continues to be a positive, specifically on deep balls. On one play in one-on-one work, he lofted a perfectly thrown 40-yard delivery – both in distance and height – that allowed a tryout receiver to run under it and catch it in stride. Speedy cornerback Terrence Wheatley was in coverage.
5) Special teams not to be overlooked. For the second day in a row, the Patriots devoted a chunk of practice time to special teams. On Friday, the work was solely for kickoff returns and one blocker. This morning, the team added five more players to the mix, as they focused on taking the correct drops to set up a return. Matthew Slater and Terrence Wheatley took returns. Although players aren’t in pads, and the drill isn’t the same speed as it might be in training camp, it’s hard not to notice Slater’s explosiveness.