PHILADELPHIA — After two relatively light practices sandwiched around an off day, the Patriots had their most intense, physical practice of training camp Tuesday when they squared off against the Eagles in a full-contact workout.
The session lasted 2 hours and 30 minutes, and featured lots of hard hitting and a ton of reps in seven-on-seven and 11-on-11 action. Bill Belichick and Eagles coach Chip Kelly, who are good friends, knew this practice would get intense and warned their players not to fight each other. So when Patriots WR Aaron Dobson and Eagles CB Cary Williams tussled midway through practice, the coaches sent them off the field for the rest of the day.
Tom Brady was incredibly sharp, and WR Kenbrell Thompkins and TE Zach Sudfeld had another great day as well. But some of the cornerbacks weren’t especially sharp, including rookie Logan Ryan, Alfonzo Dennard, and Aqib Talib, who each got burned badly at times.
The conclusion of practice included a press conference from Eagles WR Riley Cooper, who addressed the incident in which he used a racial slur. Cooper talked for eight minutes and said he also spoke with each member of the team individually before practice.
With that, let’s get on with Tuesday’s practice report:
Physically unable to perform: Rob Gronkowski (back); WR Mark Harrison (foot); DE Armond Armstead (non-football illness).
Red jersey: S Devin McCourty.
Missing: 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. All had missed practices over the past week.
TE Daniel Fells came up limping after one play, but it didn’t appear serious.
■ WR Danny Amendola had a beautiful diving touchdown catch in the corner of the end zone after Brady floated the ball perfectly away from the outstretched defender’s reach.
■ Dennard had a great leaping breakup on a deep pass intended for WR Russell Shepard in one-on-one drills.
■ Eagles WR Damaris Johnson had a great cutback to the left on a kickoff return to fake out Tavon Wilson and Duron Harmon for a big return, potentially a touchdown.
■ LB Jerod Mayo had a great leaping pass breakup on a wheel route to RB Bryce Brown.
■ Brady had another perfect lob on a wheel route to TE Michael Hoomanawanui, which was caught for a sliding touchdown. Hooman also had a great block to set the edge and spring Brandon Bolden on a sweep to the right.
■ Sudfeld made a great diving catch on a post pattern from Brady for a touchdown with LB DeMeco Ryans in coverage.
■ Rookie WR Josh Boyce beat triple coverage to catch a deep post pass from Brady for a touchdown.
Sudfeld: Running exclusively with the first unit at this point, he is catching everything thrown his way and looks potentially like the best tight end on the field.
Thompkins: Had the Philadelphia media saying, “Who is this guy again?” after making catch after catch after catch in team drills.
LB Jamie Collins: Got a lot of work with the first unit, especially in nickel and dime situations. At one point, he was lined up across from Cooper.
CB Aqib Talib: Was absolutely destroyed by WR DeSean Jackson in one-on-one drills, getting beaten on a buttonhook, a slant, and then burned badly on a double move for a touchdown.
Dennard: Appears to be running behind Talib and Kyle Arrington at this point, and got beaten badly twice by Cooper in 11-on-11 drills for touchdowns.
Dobson: He’ll learn quickly that when Belichick says, “Don’t fight,” it means, “Don’t fight.”
Tim Tebow took a few goal line reps with the first unit, but once again spent most of the day working with the threes and fours. He threw a nice slant pass to TE Jake Ballard for a touchdown and a quick hitch to WR Kamar Aiken for another score, but threw low and incomplete to Sudfeld and had a pass batted down at the line of scrimmage. He also didn’t show great touch, throwing too far on deep fade patterns and a few wobblers that were dropped by receivers. Tebow addressed the media after practice, and while he said, “I was definitely praying for [Cooper],” he said he hadn’t spoken yet to his former college roommate and declined to say anything about their relationship or Cooper as a person.
ODDS AND ENDS
■ Utility lineman Will Svitek once again filled in at right guard with Cannon and Connolly hurt. The practice included a lot of red zone and two-minute drills. The Eagles ran five plays in about 1:40 in Kelly’s no-huddle offense.
■ Amendola did have a bad drop at the end of practice on a wide-open slant pass in the middle of the end zone but otherwise was pretty flawless. On one play, he ran a double move on CB Curtis Marsh and absolutely broke Marsh’s ankles.
■ DB Justin Green finally flashed a big play with a great breakup of a slant pass intended for WR Ifeanyi Momah. Ryan badly bit on a pump-fake from QB Nick Foles and allowed an easy touchdown to Jackson.
■ The usual suspects returned kickoffs: Boyce, Thompkins, Shane Vereen, Stevan Ridley, Leon Washington, and Jonathan Haggerty. Amendola, Julian Edelman, and Washington returned punts.
■ Didn’t see much from QB Ryan Mallett, who took a sack in 11-on-11 drills and had one pass batted away by CB Trevard Lindley. Mallett hasn’t looked too crisp in the last week.
■ Cooper had three nice catches in 11-on-11 drills at the end of practice. QB Michael Vick scrambled out of the pocket on one and floated up a jump ball into the end zone, which Cooper caught over Dennard. Cooper also beat Dennard on a deep flag route for another touchdown, and then caught a 30-yard fade over Ryan, to mild applause from Eagles fans.
■ DE Chandler Jones got his hand on a field goal at the end of practice, but the ball still pushed through the uprights.
Wednesday: Joint practice with Eagles in Philadelphia, 12:30 p.m.
Thursday: Walk-through (closed to media)
Friday: Preseason game No. 1 at Philadelphia, 7:30 p.m.
Follow Ben Volin on Twitter at @BenVolin.