FOXBOROUGH – Sunday’s practice was about giving the youngsters and backups a lot of work. Monday was an off day for the players. Tuesday, though, belonged to the superstars.
The Patriots returned to the practice field on Tuesday morning, and the team’s brightest stars got the most work and made the most plays. Darrelle Revis was fantastic in pass coverage drills, blanketing Kenbrell Thompkins and other receivers. Tom Brady got most of the work in 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills, and connected with Julian Edelman and Brandon LaFell on several spectacular throws. And at one point during special teams drills, the Patriots’ three biggest stars all worked off to the side by themselves – Brady throwing to Rob Gronkowski, with Revis in coverage (at half speed).
It was also a long, physical practice, with the Patriots going almost 2½ hours and doing a lot of 1-on-1 work between offensive and defensive linemen and doing a lot of inside running game work. Tuesday’s practice was only the third time in 2014 that the Patriots were able to go full contact, so they have a lot of catching up to do in regards to practicing drills in the run game.
The Patriots didn’t suffer any significant injures on Tuesday, but there was some minor injury news, both positive and negative. With that, let’s get on with today’s practice report:
Physically unable to perform: WR Aaron Dobson, WR Jeremy Gallon, WR Matthew Slater.
Non-football injury: DL Dominique Easley, OL Chris Martin, LB Deontae Skinner.
Missing: TE Michael Hoomanawanui, G Dan Connolly, S Jemea Thomas.
Removed from PUP: CB Alfonzo Dennard
Non-contact: TE Rob Gronkowski, Dennard
The Patriots did not appear to suffer any major injuries on Tuesday. However, Hoomanawanui and Connolly were unexpectedly absent. It is unclear what injuries, if any, they are suffering, although Hooman appeared to favor his left leg at the end of Sunday’s practice.
Full pads and full contact.
■ LaFell made maybe the best play in camp so far with an awesome catch over S Nate Ebner and CB Malcolm Butler for a 60-yard touchdown from Brady. LaFell out-jumped both defenders and showed tremendous concentration in making the catch in traffic.
■ Edelman made two tremendous plays. In 7-on-7 drills, he actually out-maneuvered Darrelle Revis and caught a deep sideline fade pass over him from Brady. And in 1-on-1 drills inside the 10-yard line, Edelman made a phenomenal one-handed catch with his left hand on a corner fade from Brady despite pass interference from Kyle Arrington, and still managed to tap his toes down and come down with the football after Arrington tried to shove him out-of-bounds when he was in the air.
■ Logan Ryan read Brady’s eyes the whole way and wasn’t fooled by Edelman’s in-and-out cut, jumping the route and intercepting Brady for a pick-six in 1-on-1 drills.
■ Edelman and LaFell: Edelman looks like he’s picking up from where he left off last year, and is having a fantastic camp catching the ball so far. And you’ve got to love how LaFell gives Brady a bigger target and is catching deep passes in double coverage.
■ Ryan: Looking like the Patriots’ best cornerback in camp not named Revis. In addition to his pick six, Ryan had a phenomenal diving pass break-up with his left hand on an out-pass to Danny Amendola.
■ G Marcus Cannon: Connolly’s absence is Cannon’s gain, as he got a lot more work with the offense on Tuesday. He is competing with Connolly, Josh Kline and others for the starting right guard job.
■ Thompkins and Amendola: Still having a little trouble getting on the same page with Brady. They misfired a few times during 1-on-1 drills due to communication errors.
■ RB Roy Finch: Undrafted rookie from Oklahoma has speed to burn, but won’t make the squad if he fumbles during 1-on-1 tackling drills like he did when S Devin McCourty stripped him.
■ Connolly: Already an endangered species due to decreased production and a high salary. An injury now could seal his fate.
Gronkowski was once again limited in practice and sat out of the team’s contact drills. He still gets a lot of good work with Brady off to the side, but it doesn’t compare to taking hits and practicing 11-on-11 work. Gronk said he’d like to take a hit in practice before returning to the field in the regular season, but it’s unlikely that will come in a preseason game.
Odds and ends
■ Former offensive coordinator Charlie Weis, now the head coach at Kansas, was a guest at practice. Bill Belichick and Brady spent a few minutes before and after catching up with him.
■ Good to see Dennard (offseason shoulder surgery) taken off PUP, but like Gronkowski his work is limited for now and he didn’t participate in any 7-on-7 or 11-on-11 drills.
■ Someone upset Belichick, who could be heard screaming his head off from 100 yards away. He was watching the tight ends and linebackers practice pass rush/pass protect drills.
■ Josh Boyce, Travis Hawkins, Finch and LaFell worked as the kickoff returners.
■ DJ Williams got a lot of work in with the offense with Hooman’s absence, as did Justin Jones. Asa Watson appears to be lagging behind the rest of the TE group and might only be a candidate for the practice squad at this point.
■ In addition to McCourty stripping Finch in the tackling drills – both players start on their backs, and have to bounce up and engage in 1-on-1 combat – Revis also stripped WR Wilson Van Hooser of the ball.
■ Light day for QB Jimmy Garoppolo, and Tuesday’s practice was only the second time out of five that he wasn’t forced to run a penalty lap for fumbling a snap. But he did throw one interception, a great pick by Hawkins who leaped high in the air to snag a deep sideline pass at the top of his jump.
■ Pretty disappointed to see Brady and Amendola still having communication issues more than a year into their tenure. They should have this stuff figured out by now.
■ Amendola, however, did have a really nice catch down the right seam, out-leaping Patrick Chung for the 20-plus yard catch.
■ LT Nate Solder didn’t have a great day in OL-DL drills, letting both Chandler Jones and Jake Bequette get around him with relative ease. C Ryan Wendell did a good job standing up Vince Wilfork, and RT Sebastian Vollmer looked good in stoning DE Rob Ninkovich.
■ Rookie RB James White continues to have a great camp and is getting a lot of work in the running game. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him split the workload almost evenly with Stevan Ridley on first and second downs this year.
Wednesday: Practice, 9:15 a.m.
Thursday: Practice, 9:15 a.m.
Friday: Ty Law Patriots Hall of Fame induction ceremony, 4:30 p.m.; practice in Gillette Stadium for season ticket holders, 7 p.m.
Saturday: Off day
Sunday: Travel to Richmond, Va., for joint practices with the Redskins.