FOXBOROUGH – Five observations from the Patriots’ 24th training camp practice, which was held in full pads today on the upper practice fields behind Gillette Stadium (noon):
1) Full-pads practices win in a blowout. With today marking the team’s final training camp practice, the scorecard reads this way – full-padded sessions 20, walkthroughs 4. It would be interesting to compare these numbers to other teams around the league, as it’s likely that the Patriots held more full-padded sessions than most clubs. The practices haven’t been overly physical – there have only been a few times with live tackling – but the full-pads sessions reflect Bill Belichick’s comments earlier in camp that he wanted to have a camp focused on the fundamentals.
2) Keeping an eye on John Lynch. In his first practice with the Patriots, safety John Lynch spent time exclusively with the defensive backs. So this was different than how Tank Williams, who was being utilized in more of a linebacker-like role before sustaining a season-ending knee injury, was being utilized. Lynch came on in sub packages and often played in the slot, with one of his first matchups coming against Randy Moss. Lynch seemed to be running well, at one time keeping pace with running back/fullback Heath Evans out of the backfield and into the back right-hand corner of the end zone. He also blitzed at one point off the left edge and probably would have sacked Matt Gutierrez had the quarterback been live.
3) Music pumped up to prepare for road game. With the Patriots preparing for a road game and the expectation of noise at Raymond James Stadium, music blared through the speakers during the end of practice as quarterbacks Matt Cassel, Matt Gutierrez and Kevin O’Connell tried to lead the offense in 11-on-11 work. Bruce Springsteen’s “Trapped” was part of the playlist, as the offenses seemed to operate efficiently while dealing with the noise.
4) Randy Moss and tracking the ball. As noted by quarterback Tom Brady in the past, one of Randy Moss’s strengths is his ability to track the ball in the air while keeping his hands low so as not to tip off cornerbacks that the football is arriving until the very last moment. A perfect example of this came early in the practice in 7-on-7 work, with rookie quarterback Kevin O’Connell lofting a pass in Moss’s direction in the back left-hand corner of the end zone. Cornerback Ade Jimoh was in coverage, and he never looked back at the ball. At the last moment, Moss raised his hands to gather in the pass, keeping his feet in bounds.
5) Sammy Morris struggles catching the ball; eyes preseason action. For the second straight day, running back Sammy Morris had some trouble catching the ball out of the backfield, dropping a pass with no defenders in the neighborhood. Morris did not play in the preseason opener, but his participation in practice all week indicates he could see action Sunday night in Tampa Bay. If that is the case, it will be the first time he experiences live contact since suffering a chest injury last season against the Cowboys in Week 6.
EXTRA POINTS: Quarterback Tom Brady was among the players not participating in practice, as it was presumably a day off for him. … Rookie cornerback Terrence Wheatley intercepted a Kevin O’Connell pass intended for tight end Benjamin Watson, undercutting a longer route up the right hashmarks in 11-on-11 work. … Veteran cornerback Fernando Bryant seemed to injure his left shoulder in 11-on-11 in red-zone work toward the end of practice, but after trainers spent some time with him, he returned to practice. … Special teams work included some attention on vice players – those who go up against the gunners. Terrence Wheatley, Antwain Spann, Ellis Hobbs and Fernando Bryant are a few players who carry out those responsibilities for the club. … Rookies had bizarre haircuts, the result of some friendly barber work from the team’s veterans, an annual camp-ending tradition in New England.
Saturday schedule: The Patriots are traveling to Tampa Bay. There is no media access.