The Patriots opened their offseason practice to reporters on Thursday. Tom Brady and Wes Welker were among the players in attendance. Globe football reporter Greg A. Bedard breaks down what he thought of the workout:
There was a lot of teaching going on, which is what these OTAs are designed for. But it wasn’t only the coaches. Players were helping other players. Saw Vince Wilfork showing Jermaine Cunningham the finer points of leverage during a drill. Jerod Mayo was helping Dont’a Hightower. The safeties were doing a lot of talking amongst themselves.
The secondary seems to have a bunch of moving parts with different players playing in different groupings, though there appeared to be a solid core (NFL rules prohibit reporters from revealing formations).
Devin McCourty was at cornerback.
It seemed clear to me that CB Ras-I Dowling, who went on IR last year after hip surgery, is working his way back from the ground floor. He appeared to be lacking some reps and when he was on the field, he didn’t possess the same explosiveness that we saw early last season that got him immediately in the lineup. He appeared very stiff and lacked fluidity. On a couple of occasions he was easily beaten down the field. But it’s very, very early and he may need some easing back.
Another thing that really jumped out was the S Josh Barrett was noticeably slimmer, which is something that needed to happen. I thought Barrett was way too big last year – he almost looked like a linebacker – and that often showed up in his play when he had trouble changing direction. Maybe Barrett hasn’t lost weight, but it sure looked like he has changed his body – and for the better.
Dan Connolly was the top center, even missing both guards and one tackle. To me, that reinforces that it’s his job to lose against Dan Koppen – unless injuries prove such a problem closer to the season that the team is better off moving Connolly to guard to give them a “best five.”
None of the rookies just assumed a starting role. That’s no surprise at all. But Chandler Jones, Dont’a Hightower and Tavon Wilson didn’t appear to be far off from being in the mix.
Not much jumped out about Jones that we didn’t already know. He’s learning his way around this defense. Same with Jake Bequette.
Somewhat surprised Hightower ran solely with the linebackers. Figured he might get some DE work, but he could be working on different things in other practices.
LB Bobby Carpenter was on the field a lot.
Jonathan Fanene looked bigger than I pictured. The Patriots have some bulk inside with Wilfork, Kyle Love, Fanene, Brandon Deaderick, Gerard Warren, Myron Pryor, Marcus Harrison, Marcus Fortson and Ron Brace. A lot of competition there again in this camp, just like last year.
Josh McDaniels’ spin on the offense was noticeable and there was a lot of carryover from what he did in Denver. Probably didn’t help things that Aaron Hernandez was the only real tight end on the field (aside from UDFA Brad Herman, who was playing with a limp). Rob Gronkowski was present but rehabbing his ankle injury.
WR Chad Ochocinco seemed to pick up where he left off. Deion Branch had to tell him where to line up at one point, and then Ochocinco went offsides and had to run a lap.
WR Wes Welker had an uneven day catching the ball. Found it a little amusing that at one point Brady threw a pass to Welker in the seam that was reminiscent of the Super Bowl play. Brady threw it high – but slightly to the inside this time – and Welker snagged this one while leaving his feet.
WR Brandon Lloyd looks like he’s been living in this offense for a while – which he has in Denver and St. Louis. He catches everything with ease. Can definitely see what scouts said -- not a burner but a long strider who can cover ground -- about him.
There were not many “wow” moments for anybody today. Not a whole lot stood out. There were on a few sessions of 7-on-7.
Ryan Mallett underthrew a ball and was picked off by Marquice Cole. Mallett didn’t look sharp. Brian Hoyer was on his game.
Brady seemed solid. Nothing outrageously good or bad. The one thing that stood out was his rapport with this group. With Jabar Gaffney and Donte’ Stallworth returning, it had a “getting the band back together” feel. The WRs were having a lot of fun being around each other.