FOXBOROUGH -- Earlier today, the question was asked "What would you be watching for if you were at Patriots practice?"
I mentioned that I would peruse the comments section and then report back. My plan is to answer these in bunches of touchdowns (6 apiece) over the coming days, possibly stretching into the weekend (I edited some down that were similar to other entries):
The Patriots ask reporters the courtesy of following these guidelines:
1) From German_Patriot:
The competition at long snapper; the transition of Julian Edelman from QB to WR; recently re-signed punter Tom Malone; the play of the backup QBs
I think the competition at long snapper is going to be a good one. These guys are snapping, snapping, and doing some more snapping. It's repetition, over and over again. I see an even competition at this point, with both looking for more consistency. I didn't see much from Edelman in this practice. Didn't seem like a lot of balls came his way. At the time I was watching Malone, he had a few nice, high-arcing punts. I think it's still too early to tell how much he'll challenge Chris Hanson at this point. As for the backup QBs, I thought Brian Hoyer did some nice things in this practice, with a couple of accurate, high velocity throws in tight spaces. Kevin O'Connell looks the part and I think he shows a strong arm. Matt Gutierrez fumbled one snap, but he also made a few nice throws. The reps usually go Brady, O'Connell, Gutierrez, Hoyer.
I think it will be interesting to watch the different combinations at cornerback, and which ones seem to stand out the most. Last week it was noted there was Springs/Bodden , Butler/Wheatley with Whilhite certainly in the mix, so I think it will be interesting to take note of the different combinations and get a glimpse of their progress, as well as the different presences they might bring to the defense.
This was a practice in which the Patriots seemed to be working on sub packages and maybe some rush schemes. Jonathan Wilhite stood out to me as a player that shouldn't be overlooked. I saw him on the field at one point with Springs and Bodden. Wheatley and Butler were also together at one point. I think it's clear that these five, as one would expect, are the top options. How they will be matched up together will be an interesting storyline to watch in training camp, although it seems clear that it starts with Springs/Bodden.
If Merriweather is there, who is starting alongside, Chung or Sanders? On the offense, I'd be watching Lewis and Galloway to see if the connection with Brady is there. I'd also be watching the RBs to see the difference between the running styles and if there are any injuries in that grouping. ...
With more focus being placed on sub packages, there was a mix at safety. Meriweather wasn't on the field for this practice, so we saw different combinations at different times. Sanders seemed to be a constant, with Chung and Brandon McGowan rotating in. Matthew Slater and Antwain Spann also took reps at safety. It seemed to me that McGowan was more involved in this practice than last week's. As for Lewis and Galloway developing a connection with Brady, it is too early for me to tell at this point. On the running backs, I saw a few drops in the passing game from that group today. I can't see too much with their running style at this point. Sammy Morris was one of the players not on the field.
I am interested in the players grouping on defense/offense, specially the vets and second-year players. To me that's indication of a depth chart at this stage.
We are asked not to report complete personnel groupings, so we walk a little bit of a fine line with this one, Mick. On offense, there are no real surprises. On defense, I think the player who seems to be working more into the mix is second-year outside linebacker Shawn Crable. I saw him on the field quite a bit.
If I could attend I'd be interested in 2 things: Which 2nd year player is getting the most attention from the coaches (and whether any of them seem to have jumped levels in the off-season), and if Brady runs, whether he makes his cuts confidently.
One of the things about watching a Patriots practice is that every player gets a lot of attention from coaches. These coaches really coach. I know that sounds weird, but it's one of my favorite things to watch. So I couldn't pick one second-year player who stands out in that regard. I do think inside linebacker Gary Guyton looks like one second-year player who feels very comfortable with what he's doing, more so than last year when he was a rookie. He's been in the mix in the sub defenses, right in the middle of things. On Brady, I think I'd sum it up best by saying that if you didn't know he had a knee injury, you'd have thought it was the standard No. 12 today.
I am interested to see how Tank Williams is doing. I know he has injury issues, but think he could still add value in a BB defense. I am also interested to see if Joey Galloway seems to still be blazing with speed out there compared with the other WRs and if you think he is an upgrade over Stallworth from 2007. On the rookie front, how is Vollmer doing in rotation and who is filling in for Koppen?
It looks to me like Williams is playing close to the line of scrimmage most of the time, not in the deep third of the field. He was spotted numerous times in this practice when the team was working on sub defenses. I think he has a chance to help the club. With Galloway, he looks fast to me, although I still think it's best to wait more on that one. Vollmer was at left tackle, and unlike last week when he was with all the rookies, he was lined up next to Billy Yates and some other vets. Koppen is practicing at center, but the other options are Al Johnson, Rich Ohrnberger, and Russ Hochstein, all of whom took snaps there. The Patriots had 16 linemen at this OTA. Coach Dante Scarnecchia is staying busy, no doubt.