Patriots coach Bill Belichick watches over practice. (Yoon S. Byun / Globe Staff)
FOXBOROUGH – The Patriots held their seventh overall practice of training camp this morning (9:30-11:15) and were once again in full pads. That is seven straight practices in full pads to start camp.
Receiver Randy Moss practiced in the morning for the first time in camp. Cornerback Jonathan Wilhite, defensive lineman Richard Seymour, and offensive linemen Ryan O’Callaghan and Al Johnson are a few players who have missed consecutive practices and might be tending to physical ailments.
Here are a few observations that stood out from the practice:
1) Patrick Chung practices hard. When Rodney Harrison announced his retirement, Patriots coach Bill Belichick referred to him as the best practice player he’s ever seen. Harrison practiced as if he was playing in a game. It is early, but I see a bit of the same approach with second-round draft choice Patrick Chung. He goes at it hard. At one time over the weekend, he pounded his helmet in frustration when he felt his pass coverage was off. This morning, he lassoed Wes Welker to the ground after a catch. Chung is most often working alongside veteran safety Brandon McGowan.
2) Who matches up against opposing gunners? With the Patriots spending time on the punt return game, it was a chance to watch not only the returners, but also who will line up across from opposing gunners in the vice. Patrick Chung, Terrence Wheatley, Leigh Bodden, Brandon Meriweather, Darius Butler, James Sanders and Herana-Daze Jones drew the assignment. The Patriots were a top-10 punt return unit in 2008 – averaging 10.3 yards per return – in part because they generally did a solid job eliminating opposing gunners, who are often the first players down the field.
3) Some burst from Laurence Maroney. While working 11-on-11 in the red zone, one play stood out – a handoff to Laurence Maroney that he took into the middle, before making a quick cut to the outside for an easy touchdown. It looked like linebacker Gary Guyton got sucked into the middle, leaving the edge open for Maroney. From this view, it was a decisive run by Maroney, one in which he showed no hesitation. If Maroney consistently runs like that, the Patriots are going to be tough to defend.
4) Scouts take a closer look. In what has become a common occurrence early in training camp, Patriots scouts watched the practice from the middle of the two practice fields. From the perspective of a scout, it is often nice to watch players they scouted in college and how they are adapting to the Patriots’ system. When those scouts hit the road this fall, they’ll be projecting how college prospects will fit into the team’s system. So watching a live practice helps them.
5) Rookies – and special teams coach Scott O’Brien – slip and slide. The annual rookie slip-and-slide took place at the start of practice. Quarterback Tom Brady sprayed a hose on the far side of the field, creating a slick area that the rookies all slid their way through. One surprise came when special teams coach Scott O’Brien took the plunge as well.