Patriots Training Camp Notes: Trench Battle Ensues In First Padded Practice

Rob Gronkowski and the rest of the Patriots strapped on the pads for the first time on Saturday. AP photo

FOXBOROUGH — Thuds and cracks were aplenty on Saturday in the New England Patriots’ first practice in full pads of this year’s training camp.

With a new level of physicality comes a new focus on the battles in the trenches between offensive linemen and defensive linemen. The two sides took part in one-on-one pass-rush drills, which allow the linemen to work on their skills in a phone booth as opposed to thinking about assignments and line stunts.

There is an element of unknown with these drills, however; at different points, a coach may tell a player to use a technique that is not comfortable for them. This coaching tactic is in an attempt to refine that technique by teaching them a new move to broaden the player’s array of moves that can help them win their matchup.


With that said, here’s a look at how each side fared in the battles, and some of the standouts, along with more notes from the Patriots’ third practice of training camp:

— Attendance: WR Greg Orton, DB Jemea Thomas, DB Daxton Swanson, and OL Chris Martin were not spotted at practice. WR Aaron Dobson, WR Matthew Slater, CB Alfonzo Dennard, LB Deontae Skinner, DT Dominique Easley, and WR Jeremy Gallon were present but wearing shorts and t-shirts instead of pads. DT Tommy Kelly, who had previously been among that group, was wearing his shoulder pads but no pads on his legs.
— Drops: WR Kenbrell Thompkins (2), RB Brandon Bolden
— Interceptions: CB Darrelle Revis (2), S Tavon Wilson, CB Malcolm Butler, LB Taylor McCuller, S Duron Harmon, CB Logan Ryan
— Take a lap: QB Jimmy Garoppolo (fumbled snap), C Bryan Stork (fumbled exchange)
— OL vs. DL results: The offensive line beat the defensive line 8-6 in the first session of one-on-ones, but the defensive line came back in the second session to win 15-11 over the offensive line.
— DL results: DT Sealver Siliga (2-3), DT Marcus Forston (3-1), DE Michael Buchanan (3-1), DE Zach Moore (0-4), DE Rob Ninkovich (3-0), DT Joe Vellano (1-2), DT Chris Jones (0-3), LB Dont’a Hightower (2-0), DE Jake Bequette (2-0), DT Eathyn Manumaleuna (2-0), DT L.T. Tuipulotu (0-2), DE Chandler Jones (1-1), DT Vince Wilfork (1-1), DE Will Smith (1-1)
— OL results: RG Jon Halapio (1-5), OL Josh Kline (4-0), OL Braxston Cave (3-1), RG Dan Connolly (2-1), OL Chris Barker (2-1), C Bryan Stork (1-2), OL Marcus Cannon (1-2), OT Jordan Devey (1-2), OL Cameron Fleming (0-3), RT Sebastian Vollmer (0-3), LG Logan Mankins (2-0), LT Nate Solder (1-1), C Ryan Wendell (1-0)
— Dont’a Hightower took part in the second session of pass-rush drills on Saturday and won his only two matchups, beating LT Nate Solder and RT Sebastian Vollmer with a shoulder dip. Hightower has not participated in these drills in past years, so this is an interesting development. Hightower has expressed an interest in rushing the passer more this year, and he may get an opportunity to do so.
— Another standout from the one-on-one battles was OL Josh Kline, who won all four of his matchups, beating DT Chris Jones, DT Joe Vellano, and twice beating DE Zach Moore. Kline has earned praise from the Patriots’ coaching staff this offseason, and figures to be in the mix for a backup spot at guard.
— Rookie DE Zach Moore is a work in progress, as shown by his 0-4 outing against the offensive line. He had a hard time shedding a block by Kline, and couldn’t bull-rush his way past Halapio.
— Dobson, Dennard, Slater, and Gallon were doing rehab work on the opposite side of the field (away from the media); Dobson and Dennard were on stationary bikes, while Slater and Gallon were on step machines.
— TE Rob Gronkowski continues to not participate in team drills. However, there was a promising sign of his progress on Saturday when the tight end was participating in a blocking drill on the far side of the field, running into a player holding a red foam pad and pushing him back.
— Darrelle Revis had the play of the day with a leaping interception off a pass from Tom Brady to Julian Edelman, who was running a fade route down the right sideline. It was one of a pair of picks by Revis on the day.
— S Kanorris Davis spent long stretches working on some drills as a gunner with special teams coordinator Scott O’Brien and some trainers. Davis spent 2013 on the practice squad, and with Matthew Slater still not participating in practice, the Patriots are getting a look at some other players who could be gunners for them.
— Tavon Wilson once again got a lot of attention with the first-team at safety, sharing the reps with Harmon. This has been a continuing trend over the first few days of training camp, but may not necessarily mean anything, as the team may simply want to get a better look at what he can do at safety after spending much of last season on the bench and on special teams.
— On multiple occasions, while the rest of the team was doing special teams work, the quarterbacks went to the adjacent field to work with Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Kenbrell Thompkins, Rob Gronkowski, Michael Hoomanawanui, and James Develin on passing drills and goal line work. One session saw this group working on fades and corner routes, and another saw them working on go-routes with the receiver delayed before beginning the route, simulating a jam as the receiver had to run around a trainer at the line of scrimmage.
— During one-on-one passing drills with cornerbacks against receivers, Edelman ran a beautiful comeback route that shook Malcolm Butler to the ground.
— Tyler Ott took on the long-snapping duties on Friday, but Danny Aiken resumed his role as the long snapper on Saturday, with Ott standing watch to catch the ball after it had sailed into the VIP and/or friends and family section of fans.
— The Patriots did some goal line work toward the end of practice, working on runs to the left. On one particular play, Develin got a hard block on a defender and put him to the ground, clearing the way for RB Stevan Ridley to score off the left side. This got Brady fired up, and he yelled enthusiastically in congratulating Develin for his block.
— QB Jimmy Garoppolo had another rough day of practice. He threw a trio of interceptions, one in one-on-one drills and the other two in team drills. Today marked the second consecutive day with a fumble, today’s fumble coming on the snap exchange. Both he and C Bryan Stork took a lap.
— Brady had a nice day, and was firing on all cylinders during a hurry-up drill at the end of practice, going 6-for-6 after missing his first attempt of that drill.
— RB Brandon Bolden did not get his first significant touch until more than two hours into practice, with RBs James White and Jonas Gray getting looks ahead of him. This is Bolden’s third camp with the team, and the Patriots know what they have in him at this point, so the increased number of looks for White and Gray could simply be to get a better look at those two.
— After practice, the trio of Zach Moore, L.T. Tuipulotu and Eathyn Manumaleuna worked on disengaging a blocker using their hands. One would stand in front of the other with his hands on the other person’s chest, and they would swipe the hands off their chest to practice getting off blocks.


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