FOXBOROUGH — For the New England Patriots, it’s officially the dog days of training camp.
Wednesday’s practice marked the sixth session of camp, and the Patriots have just two more practices on Thursday and Friday before flying to Washington Sunday. On Monday, the team will begin joint practices with the Redskins.
“Just our grinding through camp area now,” Belichick said Wednesday as he addressed the media before practice. “We need to just keep stringing together good practices, good days, consistent improvement and there’s really no shortcut.
“This is where we build our fundamentals, where our team comes together from a chemistry standpoint, also from a communications standpoint, there’s just no shortcuts. We’ve got to grind away day after day. Eventually, here towards the end of the week we’ll start pulling more things together, more late-game-type situations. Right now, things are segmented, red area, short area, special team phases, and we shuffle those around day to day.”
During this time of camp, it’s also where the coaching staff sees marked improvement from younger players, like wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins and fullback James Develin.
Belichick praised the progress of the second-year receiver, saying Thompkins “can generally play faster. He’s had another good camp this year, and is way considerably ahead of last year.”
Belichick also lauded the versatility of Develin, who excelled last season as a run blocker and hard-nosed rusher in short yardage situations.
“He’s very smart, very dependable, and does a lot of things well,” Belichick said. “He can step in and do a lot of different things for us and it’s valuable to have a dependent player who’s consistent like that.
“It’s a little bit like a relief pitcher. He has a role, but sometimes you don’t know when that role is going to occur. He’s just always got to be ready, but that’s the impressive thing about James. You don’t really know when exactly you’re going to need him, but you know you are going to need him.”