Greg A. Bedard looks at what happened at Wednesday afternoon’s light practice of the Patriots and Saints.
Physically unable to perform: LG Logan Mankins (knee), RT Sebastian Vollmer (back), OT Markus Zusevics (unknown), TE Daniel Fells (shoulder), TE Jake Ballard (knee), DT Myron Pryor (shoulder).
Out: CB Alfonzo Dennard (hamstring), LB Tracy White (unknown), TE Visanthe Shiancoe (unknown), DT Jonathan Fanene (unknown), FB Spencer Larsen (unknown), OT Matt Kopa (leg), DT Ron Brace (unknown), OT Kyle Hix (right shoulder), LB Brandon Spikes (unknown).
Not participating fully: WR Deion Branch (no team drills).
Returned to practice: OT Darrion Weems.
Shells and shorts.
■ Saints TE Jimmy Graham made a ridiculous leaping and twisting catch in the seam for a touchdown over LB Dont’a Hightower, who had great coverage. Graham spiked the ball, drew a penalty, and did not appear again. Graham may have dinged his back.
■ Patriots WR Jesse Holley went high into the air to outfight Saints S Jerico Nelson for a deep pass from Brian Hoyer.
Running out of ways to describe how good of a camp TE Aaron Hernandez is having. It sure seems like he has become QB Tom Brady’s favorite target, as Hernandez had six of Brady’s 10 completions in 11 on 11s. If Hernandez stays healthy, he’s going to have a monster season. Had the same feeling about Rob Gronkowski at this point last year.
Not much could really be done about it, but it’s just a shame that the Patriots are about to start games and they’ve only had one player, LT Nate Solder, in his projected starting spot along the offensive line. Dan Connolly hasn’t been seen at center since the first couple days, and the Patriots are without LG Logan Mankins, RG Brian Waters, and RT Sebastian Vollmer. Not ideal, but manageable with a veteran group.
Dropped passes: Jesse Holley.
Nice catches: Holley, Graham, Hernandez.
ODDS AND ENDS
■ Patrick Chung and James Ihedigbo looked at each other after Saints TE Michael Higgins was left wide open for a touchdown. Apparently a communication error.
■ Both teams got a lot of special teams work in. Gronkowski took a bad angle leaping for an onsides kick and Saints WR Courtney Roby was able to tip the deflection back into play.
■ RB Brandon Bolden is getting time on special teams units. That’s pointing him to a roster spot down the line.
■ Amazing that Sergio Brown still shows up on top special teams. You’d figure the Patriots would only have so many spots for special teams-only players. Nate Ebner also getting looks.
■ Brady was 9 for 9 in red zone 7 on 7s.
■ In 11 on 11s with half-speed pass rush, Saints QB Drew Brees had a miscommunication with Graham on the first snap, then hit his next eight passes. Chase Daniels was 2 of 3.
■ Brady, after an off day on Tuesday, didn’t yield any snaps to backups in his session. Brady was 10 of 12 and was in a much better rhythm.
■ Nick McDonald split his time between left tackle and center.
■ Hightower was back full-time at SLB with Dane Fletcher at MLB.
■ Just an observation, but Vollmer didn’t exactly give off a fully healthy vibe as he walked off the field after a rehab workout. Guess we would describe it as a labored walk.
Thursday: 7:30 p.m. game vs. Saints
Friday: No practice.
Saturday: No practice.