Greg A. Bedard gives a rundown on what went on at Patriots’ practice on Thursday:
Reserve/did not report: G Brian Waters.
Physically unable to perform: G Logan Mankins (knee), T Sebastian Vollmer (back), C Nick McDonald (unknown), T Markus Zusevics, TE Daniel Fells (shoulder), TE Jake Ballard (knee), DT Myron Pryor (shoulder), WR Jeremy Ebert (hamstring).
Red jerseys: WR Matthew Slater, S James Ihedigbo.
Not participating: S Nate Ebner (unknown).
LB Tracy White and DL Justin Francis both seemed to be dealing with something as they walked off the field with a trainer after practice.
■ QB Tom Brady and WR Jabar Gaffney hooked up on the play of the day – a bomb of some 55 yards down the right sideline – over CB Alfonzo Dennard and ahead of late-charging S Josh Barrett.
■ Brady went deep middle to Donte’ Stallworth, who had gotten behind CB Devin McCourty with no safety help.
■ WR Matthew Slater made a very difficult catch of a deep pass from QB Brian Hoyer as DB Will Allen hit Slater in the air.
■ LB Dane Fletcher had an interception when Hoyer underthrew TE Aaron Hernandez.
■ First-round pick Dont’a Hightower showed off his terrific instincts when he read a screen pass perfectly, made a beeline to FB Tony Fiammetta and promptly dropped him for a 2-yard loss.
■ DT Ron Brace had a strip sack of Hoyer. Yes, you read that right.
■ Brady came ready to play by completing 26 of 29 passes (with a sack) in 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 situations, including his first 15 passes and 21 of first 22. There wasn’t a lot of high degree of difficulty, but it was still impressive. Especially when you consider . . .
■ The offensive line was a disaster. With three starters missing (Mankins, Waters, and Vollmer), there is a ton of instability and the defense was feeding off it. Jerod Mayo had back-to-back sacks, and Hightower got into the mix. The QBs only completed a lot of passes because they couldn’t be hit.
Dropped it like it’s hot: Fiammetta, WR Britt Davis, WR Jesse Holley.
Nice catch: Gaffney, Slater, Hernandez, and Deion Branch.
Fumbling men: None.
Interceptions: Fletcher (of Hoyer)
ODDS AND ENDS
■ Of the other quarterbacks, Hoyer was sharper than Ryan Mallett, who continues to play on the slow side and throwing late. He also seemed to be aiming the ball. Still, he showed off his arm when he went up top for a touchdown to Julian Edelman over Sterling Moore. Most of Mallett’s completions came on checkdowns. He was 12 of 17 and should have been picked off by Moore on an underthrown ball.
■ Hoyer (8 of 12) was decent, nothing spectacular. His line was really bad.
■ You should hope and pray the defensive line stays deep because that would give Jerod Mayo a true shot at showing his stuff at weakside linebacker. He was all over the field, including a couple sacks. He was robbed of the opportunity last year with injuries and the failed Albert Haynesworth experiment.
■ All three tight ends — Hernandez, Rob Gronkowski, and Visanthe Shiancoe — looked ready for the season. Gronkowski’s conditioning didn’t appear to be perfect, but he had no problem in the open field. Hernandez looked terrific, and his moves in the open field are something else. It would nice to see him be healthy for all 16 games.
■ Nothing stood out about the running backs.
■ CB Ras-I Dowling, apparently, made it through the practice unscathed, which is better than he did last season. Dowling was unimpressive. He got beat over the top three times. It doesn’t appear he has learned how to use his size (6 feet 1 inch, 198 pounds). At times he’s in the right position, but he’ll come toward the quarterback (making himself shorter) rather than positioning himself on the receiver. The offense had its way with the cornerbacks as a group.
■ Friday: 1:30-4 p.m.
■ Saturday: 1:30-4 p.m.
■ Sunday: 1:30-4 p.m.