PHILADELPHIA – The first two days of the Patriots’ joint practices with the Eagles were intense. The practices were long — about 2-plus hours each — the pace was frenetic and the hitting was hard.
Thursday’s practice was, well, not.
The session was just a light walk-through as the two teams prepared for Friday night’s preseason opener at Lincoln Financial Field. The teams worked on a lot of situational drills — onside kicks, squib kicks, spiking the ball, hurry-up field goals, the lateral play on last-second kickoffs — as well as some 7-on-7 work in the red zone. But every drill was done at half speed, so it was a little hard to take much away from Thursday’s practice.
With that, let’s get on with the report:
Physically unable to perform: Rob Gronkowski (back); WR Mark Harrison (foot); DE Armond Armstead (non-football illness).
Red non-contact jersey: S Devin McCourty.
Missing: TE Brandon Ford, OL Marcus Cannon, WR Michael Jenkins, CB Ras-I Dowling, OL Dan Connolly, DB Nate Ebner, OL Markus Zusevics, OL Tyronne Green, OL Kevin Haslam, and DE Jermaine Cunningham. Ford was the only new absence.
New injuries: CB Alfonzo Dennard left the field with the head strength and conditioning coach early in practice and walked with a slight limp. Although he returned to the sideline, don’t be shocked if the Patriots hold Dennard out on Friday as a precaution.
Shells, no contact.
• In squib kick drills, Stephen Gostkowski drilled one off of Eagles linebacker Jacob Knott, standing 10 yards off the ball, and Patriots linebacker Jeff Tarpinian recovered it. This was probably the most exciting play of the day.
• Tom Brady once again showed impeccable touch and accuracy by perfectly floating a pass to Josh Boyce streaking toward the corner of the end zone for a touchdown over Eagles defensive backs Bradley Fletcher and Nate Allen.
• Tight end Zach Sudfeld had another nice one-handed catch, but he does this every day now.
• Tim Tebow threw a nice deep fade pass to Quentin Sims in 7-on-7 drills at the end of practice.
CB Marquice Cole: With Dennard and Dowling banged up, Cole should get a lot of playing time Friday night and can help his chances to win a roster spot.
WR Josh Boyce: Fellow rookies Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins have been getting most of the attention, but Boyce continues to get more work with the first unit and has had a good camp so far.
DL Marcus Benard: Played with the first unit at left defensive end a little bit on Thursday. Don’t be surprised if he gets a ton of snaps on Friday.
Dennard: The last thing he or the Patriots needed was for him to get injured in camp and miss out on valuable reps.
Dowling: See above.
Cannon: Can’t win the right guard battle if he’s not practicing.
Tim Tebow didn’t get much work in the walk-through until the end of practice — Brady took most of the reps on Thursday — but he completed a few passes in 7-on-7 drills, although the defense wasn’t really contesting the passes. He threw slightly behind Jonathan Haggerty on a crossing pass (still completed), threw a nice fade to Sims, tossed a deep corner pass to Kamar Aiken for a 35-yard touchdown and also scrambled up the middle on a designed QB draw. Tebow and Ryan Mallett also did some work off to the side with Haggerty, Sims, Aiken and Ben Bartholomew while Brady worked with the starters. Tebow said after practice that he doesn’t know if he will play Friday against the Eagles.
ODDS AND ENDS
• Utility lineman Will Svitek once again filled in at right guard with Cannon and Connolly hurt, and he will likely start there on Friday.
• With Dennard and Dowling out, the top four cornerbacks are Aqib Talib, Kyle Arrington, rookie Logan Ryan and Marquice Cole. After th
at it’s Justin Green and Brandon Jones, and Devin McCourty can play cornerback as well.
• Brady did take a ton of reps in Thursday’s walk-through, suggesting he might get a series or two in Friday’s game, but it’s still hard to tell at this point. Mallett figures to get most of the work, and don’t be surprised if Tebow gets the fourth quarter.
• Stephen Gostkowski drilled a 45-yard field goal in a hurry-up situation.
Friday: Preseason game No. 1 at Philadelphia, 7:30 p.m.