Thursday, August 15, 2013
Observations: Day 3 of Pats' Tampa week
By Mike Reiss
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The Patriots and Buccaneers held a second straight full pads practice on Wednesday afternoon outside of Gillette Stadium. While the big story was quarterback Tom Brady's knee injury, there was plenty more to digest and here were some of the things that caught the eye:
1. At 6-foot-7, rookie tight end Zach Sudfeld has height that can be an asset and that especially showed up in the red zone, when space can get tight. On one play, Brady fired a high pass to Sudfeld in the back of the end zone during 7-on-7 drills, with Sudfeld reaching up outside of his frame to snare it. Sudfeld did have an uncharacteristic drop in the end zone, but overall, he continues to show up in practices. He mostly lined up alongside veteran Jake Ballard in the team's two-TE package on Wednesday. Veteran Daniel Fells didn't practice (undisclosed injury).
2. When the teams worked on red-zone passing in 7-on-7 drills, Patriots coach Bill Belichick and Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano both stayed on the field where the Tampa offense worked against the New England defense. Belichick was the point person for the drill, calling out situations on each play while defensive coordinator Matt Patricia wore a headset and called in the plays from the sideline as fellow assistant Steve Belichick was jotting down notes after each play. That left offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels to mostly handle things on the other field for the Patriots. While Belichick is regularly seen working with different groups over the course of practice, this was a day in which the defense seemed to draw more of his attention.
3. Buccaneers receiver Vincent Jackson is a tough matchup, especially in the red zone because of his size (6-5, 230). So if a cornerback like Aqib Talib (6-1, 205) is going to have success, he's going to have to play near-perfect technique and that's what unfolded in 7-on-7 drills. Talib had a solid jam, maintained leverage on Jackson into the end zone, and turned just as Josh Freeman's throw arrived to record an interception. Overall, it looked like a pretty good day for defensive backs, as Kyle Arrington and Marquice Cole also notched interceptions.
4. We've touched on the athleticism of linebacker Jamie Collins, the Patriots' top draft pick, and we got a good look at a different element of his game on Wednesday -- power. In 7-on-7 passing drills in the red zone, Collins was called upon to cover tight end Tom Crabtree and his powerful jam knocked Crabtree off his route, effectively disrupting the timing of the play as the pass fell incomplete. The jam not only seemed to impact Crabtree, but also another receiver who was aligned on the left side who was forced to alter his route.
5. Linebacker Brandon Spikes returned to practice after missing Tuesday's session and was right back into the mix, alongside Dont'a Hightower and Jerod Mayo.
6. A lot of punt team work for both clubs, and the Patriots were sloppier than the norm. Zoltan Mesko couldn't handle a low snap from Danny Aiken, and later, rookie Ryan Allen had a punt blocked. Safety Steve Gregory served as the top personal protector, while Julian Edelman, Leon Washington, Danny Amendola and Kenbrell Thompkins worked as the returners. It was a challenging day to handle punts, with the wind cutting through. Another player who caught the eye in the drill with his aggressiveness in coverage: rookie safety Kanorris Davis (Troy).
7. In interviews after practice, running back LeGarrette Blount wore a big brace over his thumb. Didn't seem to affect him much during practice, but something to keep an eye on if he's called upon to catch passes.
8. Quarterback Tim Tebow fired about a 30-yard touchdown strike to Edelman later in practice, which was one of his better throws in all of training camp. While Tebow doesn't always look comfortable as a drop-back passer, he'll still make a throw or two each practice that makes one take notice.
9. Overall, this was one of the best crowds of training camp, which created an energy and excitement that made this one of the best atmospheres since camp began on July 26. Thursday marks the final open practice of training camp and it is expected to be a walk-through, so it's unlikely we'll experience that again until next year.