FOXBOROUGH -- On Tuesday, 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 continue answering 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:
How is the one-on-one battle between the WR's and CB's going? Do you see how much better our CBs are improving?
Really good battle and one of the noticeable things I took away from this practice Ė the athleticism in the back end of the defense seems to be improved. I enjoyed watching the sub packages and seeing the speed of Darius Butler and Terrence Wheatley on the outer edges of the field at one point, and I think Jonathan Wilhite is a player who made observers take notice that he could be in the mix as well. Shawn Springs and Leigh Bodden were the top corners and they seemed to be competitive in coverage with some tough matchups. I remember at this time last year thinking that Fernando Bryant looked good for the Patriots, so I donít want to go overboard, but at this time Iíd predict a better performance from the Patriotsí cornerbacks.
I'd be really interested to see what kind of connection our QB's and WR's have built so far. I know there has always been much talk about Brady and the rapport he had built with Moss ... but how does that look with Brady being injured for a year? Did they pick up where they left off? What about with our new additions in Galloway and Lewis? Any observations with O'Connell and Hoyer with the WR's or TE's?
At one point in the practice, while the team was working on the punt return, Brady and Moss were on the opposite field working together 1 on 1 in the red zone. At another point, Brady motioned a hand signal to Moss as the two went through some passing drills. I think your point hit on a big part of what this practice was all about Ė getting on the same page. Iím sure thatís a work in progress for everyone at this point. I like what Iíve seen from OíConnell Ė I donít think itís a stretch to say there has been progress there. Hoyer shows a strong arm as well. On the receivers, it seems to me that the battle will be at the No. 5 and possibly 6 spots with players like Sam Aiken and Julian Edelman. Based on the limited things Iíve seen, Iíd put them both on the roster at this time. Tight end is going to be tough to thin down as there is more depth at that position than the team has had in recent memory, and each player offers something worthy of keeping on the roster.
I'd be interested to see if there is a clear distinction as to which coach will handle the offensive play-calling. Bill O'Brien seems to be the heir apparent, but will BB allow him to call plays this early or will it be under BB's watch for a while.
Without a doubt in my mind, itís quarterbacks coach Bill OíBrien. My hunch is that OíBrien will call the plays, just as Josh McDaniels did in 2005 without the title of offensive coordinator. OíBrien was holding the playsheet and dictating the script of 7 on 7 work during practice, and there were times when Bill Belichick wasnít even close by, as he was instead working with the defense. I think this transition is why weíve seen director of player personnel Nick Caserio coaching receivers a bit in practice, as he has knowledge of the system from coaching that position in 2007 and he can help make sure the finer points of the passing game are being implemented properly.
Hi Mike, I think it would be interesting to look at the draft class as a group to see how they are able to compete with 2nd or 3rd year players, and even veterans.
I think they did well for the most part, although itís tough to judge the big linemen because there is no contact in the practice. Looking at my notes, I noticed that Sebastian Vollmer was lined up at left tackle with a group that included left guard Billy Yates and center Al Johnson. I thought that was a reflection of how a rookie was hanging with the veterans.
Things I would look for: Julian Edelman competence; Tom Brady polish; Darius Butler progress.
Edelman wasnít as noticeable in the passing game in this practice, but I did see him special teams wise. When the Patriots broke down into specific positions, he was one of the players who didnít go with the receivers, but was part of a special-teams-only group with Matthew Slater and running backs BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Omar Cuff (since released) which was working on blocking in the punt return game. Edelmanís transition from quarterback to receiver has been discussed, but his potential contributions on special teams are probably more important at this point in terms of earning a roster spot, a la David Givens in 2002. So that will be an area to keep watching. I thought Brady looked polished, and I think Butler isnít doing anything to dispute my feeling that he was a steal at the 41st overall pick.
I would like to know if Mike Richardson is doing well. I remember in 2007 he had a good camp.
Richardson wasnít on the field for this practice. I presume he is recovering from something medically.