FOXBOROUGH — The Patriots practices Tuesday and Wednesday in Philadelphia figure to be intense and fast-paced, with a lot of physical contact between them and the Eagles and the defense having to keep up with Chip Kelly’s frenetic fast-break offense.
In that regard, it wasn’t a surprise to see Bill Belichick take it a little easy on his players Monday. The Patriots held their shortest practice of the summer, just 1 hour 45 minutes, and it wasn’t the most intense day of work.
They were in shorts and shells and worked mostly on esoteric situations that come up only a handful of times: Hail Mary tip drills, onside kicks, spike plays, safety punts, home run throwbacks, fake field goals, and kneeldowns.
Monday was also a day for the Patriots to continue to rest players who are slightly banged up.
With that, let’s get on with the practice report:
Physically unable to perform: Rob Gronkowski (back); WR Mark Harrison (foot); DE Armond Armstead (non-football illness.).
Red jersey: S Devin McCourty (didn’t wear it Saturday).
Returned to practice: RB Brandon Bolden, CB Alfonzo Dennard, TE Jake Ballard.
Missing: OL Marcus Cannon has been missing for four straight practices. CB Ras-I Dowling missed his third straight practice. DE Jermaine Cunningham missed his second straight day. WRs Matthew Slater and Michael Jenkins did not practice and rode the exercise bikes. RB Shane Vereen and OLs Dan Connolly, Markus Zusevics, Kevin Haslam, and Tyronne Green were all limited.
Shells, no contact.
■ In a scramble drill, rookie WR Aaron Dobson made a ridiculous leaping catch in the back corner of the end zone over two defenders. Tom Brady fired the ball high and into the corner, and Dobson used his body to box out the defenders and catch the ball at its highest point.
■ Brady also dropped a gorgeous throw into TE Zach Sudfeld’s breadbasket on a deep corner throw to beat the Cover 2 defense.
■ Brady did it again on the next throw, lobbing the ball perfectly over two defenders and into Kamar Aiken’s outstretched arms.
Sudfeld: Undrafted rookie is practicing almost exclusively with the starters now, and caught a Hail Mary pass during one of the drills.
OL Will Svitek: With Cannon and Connolly down, Svitek worked at right guard Monday.
WR Josh Boyce: Rookie fourth-rounder continues to get a lot of snaps with the first team and could be in the four-receiver rotation right away.
Jenkins: Won’t be able to impress the coaches and beat out some of the kids if he’s not practicing.
Dowling: Also falling behind Dennard, Kyle Arrington, and Logan Ryan by not being able to practice the last week.
K Stephen Gostkowski: Missed wide left on a 45-yard field goal in the two-minute offense.
Tim Tebow ran the third-team offense in team drills again, and while the starters worked on the various situations, the third unit did 11-on-11 drills. Tebow completed several short, high-percentage throws, but also had a horrible interception to Arrington on an out pattern to Jonathan Haggerty. But Haggerty tapped his chest several times after the play, perhaps signifying that he ran the wrong route. Tebow was mostly a spectator during this practice but did work on his throws for about 20 minutes after it ended.
ODDS AND ENDS
■ The Patriots have lots of little dings and bruises, especially on the offensive line, and could have several rookies and third-stringers playing significant snaps with the starters this week in Philadelphia
■ Good to see Ballard back out on the field running with the first unit after sitting out Saturday’s practice with a little knee soreness. Daniel Fells is the likely No. 1 tight end at this point, with Michael Hoomanawanui working mostly at H-back, leaving Ballard to fight with Sudfeld to be the No. 2 tight end.
■ Danny Amendola, Dobson, Julian Edelman, Kenbrell Thompkins, and Boyce clearly are the top five receivers at this point; personnel groupings were mixed and matched throughout the practice.
■ Here’s one you might not see too often: Brady on a quarterback draw up the middle for a touchdown.
■ Zoltan Mesko, battling Ryan Allen for the punting job, worked a decent amount as field goal holder. Allen had been handling much of those duties for the first two weeks.
■ Edelman was the main punt returner, and muffed one.
■ Some players wore sweat shirts under their jerseys because A. it was in the 60s and B. they knew practice wouldn’t be too intense and they wanted to work up a sweat
Tuesday: Practice 12:30 p.m. (at Philadelphia)
Wednesday: Practice 12:30 p.m. (at Philadelphia)
Thursday: Walkthrough (closed to media)
Friday: Preseason game at Philadelphia, 7:30 p.m.Ben Volin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @BenVolin