PHILADELPHIA — Another day of practice in the books, and another fantastic day for Tom Brady and his receivers against the Eagles defense.
Brady was surgical Wednesday, carving up the secondary in seven-on-seven and 11-on-11 drills with incredible accuracy, and his receivers were borderline dominant against cornerbacks Brandon Boykin, Nate Allen, Curtis Marsh, and others.
The New England rookie receivers were phenomenal: second-round pick Aaron Dobson used his 6-foot-4-inch height to make several great plays on the ball, undrafted rookie Kenbrell Thompkins continued to get open deep, and Josh Boyce made several nice possession catches for first downs.
Tight end Zach Sudfeld once again made a handful of acrobatic catches, catching the eye of several national observers watching the Patriots practice for the first time.
The cornerbacks were better, with Logan Ryan and Aqib Talib bouncing back from shaky practices Tuesday. Kyle Arrington was excellent, displaying impressive ball skills as well as tight coverage.
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: Arrington hurt his right ankle but returned to the field a few minutes later. Dobson appeared to hurt a calf or ankle, but returned to the field as well.
■ Sudfeld displayed tremendous body control on two consecutive touchdown catches — a one-handed grab in the corner on which he tapped his toes inbounds, and a jumping, twisting catch in the back of the end zone on which he again tapped his toes inbounds.
■ Ryan, who has been up and down in his rookie camp, had a terrific diving pass breakup on a comeback route to Ifeanyi Momah, who stands 8 inches taller.
■ Great ball skills by Arrington, who forced a fumble after allowing a completion to Damaris Johnson, and then knocked the ball out of Riley Cooper’s hands to prevent a touchdown after Cooper had gone up to make the catch.
■ Eagles QB Michael Vick had an awesome sidearm throw to DeSean Jackson on a middle crossing route with Aqib Talib in coverage, slinging the ball just under the outstretched arms of a defensive lineman. Vick makes it look so easy sometimes.
■ Dobson made the play of the day, twisting his body around twice to locate the ball in the air, then outjumping two defenders to haul in a 50-yard pass. Dobson also had a great catch on a fade pass over Boykin, who is listed as 5 inches shorter. Haven’t seen a big man catch passes like that for the Patriots since Randy Moss.
■ Thompkins beat double coverage over the top to haul in a deep pass from Brady, which he then ran in for an 80-yard touchdown.
Ryan: Bounced back from a rough day to make a few nice plays in coverage, and even took a few reps with the starting defense.
Arrington: Has arguably been the Patriots’ most consistent cornerback throughout camp, and could end up as one of the starting outside corners, especially if Alfonzo Dennard is suspended.
Sudfeld: Rinse, repeat. This kid is a player. Now if only he can stay healthy . . .
Dennard: Either he’s nursing a minor injury, the Patriots are working in other corners in case he is suspended, or he’s just not performing well enough, because Dennard is losing out on some reps.
WR Kamar Aiken: Began training camp as a starting receiver, but clearly has fallen behind Thompkins, Dobson, and Boyce on the depth chart.
DE Jermaine Cunningham: Every day he doesn’t practice brings him another day closer to losing out on a roster spot.
Tim Tebow again took a bit of a back seat, as the Eagles and Patriots gave their starters and primary backups a lot of the reps. But Tebow actually looked pretty good in seven-on-seven drills toward the end of practice, against the Eagles’ third-team defense. After throwing a deep fade too far for Jonathan Haggerty and throwing too high to Matthew Slater on a play-action rollout, he threw a really nice deep crossing pattern to Aiken and a great play-action buttonhook to Ben Bartholomew over the middle. He completed a screen pass and scrambled out of the pocket on one play, and would’ve had another completion on a nice curl-out to Aiken, but it was dropped. Tebow then posed for a few photos with fans after practice.
ODDS AND ENDS
■ Utility lineman Will Svitek once again filled in at right guard with Cannon and Connolly hurt. Ryan and Duron Harmon each got a few reps with the first defense. The Patriots also had three safeties on the field for a few plays: Devin McCourty, Adrian Wilson, and Steve Gregory.
■ Hard to watch everything at once — the teams performed about eight drills at once during the early portion of practice — but did manage to see Chandler Jones get stonewalled by G Evan Mathis a few times in OL/DL drills.
■ Talib intercepted Vick in one-on-one drills on a pass to Jackson to the end zone that was badly underthrown. Talib had a better day against Jackson, but Jackson still won the battle overall. He also dropped an interception toward the end of practice.
■ Rookie DB Justin Green got some one-on-one coaching from defensive coordinator Matt Patricia on the sideline after being beaten by Cooper for a touchdown.
■ Second-team defense front seven: Marcus Forston, Justin Francis, Jamie Collins, Joe Vellano, Dane Fletcher, Steve Beauharnais, Marcus Benard.
■ The Patriots ran a lot of three-receiver sets with Danny Amendola, Boyce, and Thompkins, and a lot of double-slot sets with Amendola and Julian Edelman. It appeared that Dobson had fallen behind the group, but it may have just been a temporary injury, because he dominated the Eagles defensive backs at the end of practice.
■ QB Ryan Mallett had a really nice low back-shoulder throw to Haggerty for a first down in 11-on-11 drills, but threw too hot to Sudfeld on a short crossing pass over the middle. He also had a nice deep play-action pass to Thompkins, but the receiver dropped it.
■ Brady really picked on Marsh at the end of practice, hitting Boyce three times in a row with Marsh in coverage.
Thursday: Practice, 12:30 p.m. (open to media)
Friday: Preseason game No. 1 at Philadelphia, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday: TBDBen Volin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @BenVolin