What else did we see this morning? Thanks for asking …
* Tom Brady mentioned a while back that the leadership void left by last year’s veteran exodus fell, in part, on his shoulders. And even though he hasn’t been a full participant in the offseason program, it was clear today that he’s taking it seriously. Brady was very, very vocal with his teammates, at one point directing the receivers how to run a look route, and set up a screen, while using Kevin Faulk as the example of how it’s done. To be clear, Brady’s always been a team leader. It just seemed ratcheted up a little today.
* Nick Kaczur lined up in Logan Mankins’s spot at left guard, which is worth noting for a couple reasons. First, it means that, for the time being, Sebastian Vollmer’s entrenched at right tackle. And it means that Kaczur could be becoming the sort of “utility man” of the offensive line. I wouldn’t be too concerned about Mankins’s availability for the season quite yet.
* While Bill Belichick has said he’s taken on more responsibility on the defensive side, and he certainly showed it from what I heard about last week’s OTAs (was in Dallas for the NFL meetings), it seemed like today he floated more and spent significant time with the defense. In 7-on-7s and the passing skeleton, Matt Patricia was running the defense. It’s worth noting, though, that Pepper Johnson wasn’t there because, obviously, he was running defensive line drills.
* There was lots of rotating on defense, and not just from player to player, but drill to drill. The outside linebackers alternated their time between the 7-on-7 and passing skeleton and line drills, which makes sense for those spots in training players to play both on the line and on their feet.
* As for the attendance … Mankins was missing, as you know. And you know about Taylor Price’s league-mandated absence, too. Defensive linemen Ty Warren and Kade Weston were the only other two we believe were missing.
* Say this: TE Aaron Hernandez looks like he’s ticketed for a significant role as a rookie. We all know why he fell to the fourth round, and if the kid has his act together — as I’ve said in the past — he could be a big-time steal. The offense rotated a bunch too, but Hernandez was with Brady’s group a lot, and seems to be getting a lot of personal attention from the coaches. His fellow rookie TE, Rob Gronkowski, is working behind Alge Crumpler as the in-line tight end for now. Hernandez looks aware in recognizing coverage, sitting down in zones, and smooth running routes and catching the ball.
* LB Brandon Spikes is being coached pretty hard too, and with a purpose. Coaches seemed to be working on him as a signal caller. Told you back at the rookie minicamp that this guy’s ability to diagnose plays and react was uncanny. Well, this is another encouraging piece to the puzzle — The coaches feel comfortable enough with him, and his progress, to drill him on setting the defensive front. Not earth-shattering or anything. But worth mentioning, at least.