FOXBOROUGH -- Five observations from today's passing camp practice, which was held on the upper fields behind Gillette Stadium, with players wearing shorts and jerseys (no pads):
1) Jerod Mayo and dropping into pass coverage. One of the primary objectives of the session seemed to be geared toward linebackers and defensive backs working together in pass coverage. Along those lines, first-round draft choice Jerod Mayo was most often lining up at the weakside inside linebacker spot, and he showed the expected quickness dropping back, moving laterally, and sometimes charging downhill. He passes the eye test as a player who seems to move effortlessly across the football field.
2) The Tank Williams presence. When Tank Williams signed a one-year deal with the Patriots earlier this offseason, he was penciled into the mix at safety. But it was interesting to watch him get work at linebacker in this session. Given his 6-foot-2, 223-pound makeup, Williams is the type of player who could drop down in the box and play some linebacker-like responsibilities, similar to Rodney Harrison. The Patriots like flexible players, and Williams, in theory, could fit the bill in that regard.
3) Don't forget Matt Gutierrez at quarterback. One of the surprise stories of 2007 training camp, when he made the club as a rookie free agent, Gutierrez appears primed to threaten Matt Cassel for the No. 2 job behind Tom Brady. Besides throwing a nice ball with apparent ease, Gutierrez continues to display a strong work ethic. He was the last player off the field, staying late to work with tight end Stephen Spach, and also the first player to finish in the end-of-practice sprints (along with OLB Vince Redd).
4) Two-way players -- Matthew Slater and Ray Ventrone. Fifth-round draft choice Matthew Slater continues to alternate between safety and receiver. He wore a blue pinnie over his white No. 18 jersey when playing safety, and then shed the pinnie when it was time to go on offense. Slater could not corral one would-be interception (we also saw drops from CB Jonathan Wilhite and WR Sam Aiken). Meanwhile, safety Ray Ventone is making the switch to offense and was in a white No. 41 jersey for the entire practice. Ventrone spoke after practice about making the move, saying it's the first time he's played receiver since his sophomore year of high school, although he did get some work there as a scout-team player with the Patriots.
5) Victor Hobson leads the huddle. In making the switch from outside linebacker in the Jets' 3-4 alignment to inside linebacker in the Patriots' 3-4 alignment, sixth-year veteran Victor Hobson will be a player to watch in the ensuing months. If he can pull off the switch, and give the Patriots some quality play at a spot that has traditionally been difficult to fill, he could be one of the NFL's best under-the-radar signings. Hobson was leading the defensive huddle throughout the practice, and there was nothing that stood out physically (e.g. footwork) that would make one think Hobson can't make the move.