New England Patriots: Training camp

Injuries adding up for AFC rivals

August, 18, 2013
8/18/13
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In starting the regular season against the Buffalo Bills and then the New York Jets, the Patriots have a chance to get off on the right foot in the AFC East.

Unfortunately for each of the Patriots' division rivals, Week 2 in the preseason resulted in a critical injury to a player on their respective rosters.

The Bills announced earlier Sunday that rookie quarterback E.J. Manuel -- who some believed to be the presumptive Week 1 starter -- had successful surgery on his knee, a procedure that will keep him out for the remainder of the preseason. That could put his opening day in jeopardy, and may result in the Patriots facing off against Kevin Kolb, the veteran signed by Buffalo this offseason.

Meanwhile in New York, ESPNNewYork.com is reporting that outside linebacker Quinton Coples has a hairline fracture in his ankle that could cost him between three and four weeks. The injury was suffered Saturday night, meaning a possible return could coincide with the Week 2 matchup. Coples, the team's first-round pick last season, has worked as a stand-up outside linebacker this training camp, as the team is hoping to utilize his length to set the edge and also boost its pass rush.

Finally, the Dolphins, who the Patriots don't play until Week 8, suffered a big blow in the passing game, as ESPN's NFL Insider Adam Schefter is reporting that tight end Dustin Keller will miss the season due to a knee injury. Keller, a former Jet, has performed well against the Patriots in his career, averaging four catches and nearly 51 yards per game against them. The Dolphins were hoping he would provide stability for second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill, and Keller has been regarded as one of the team's stars of training camp.

Practice report: Day 1 of Tampa week

August, 12, 2013
8/12/13
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Patriots Colm O'Molloy/The Boston Globe/Getty ImagesThe Patriots returned to the practice fields Monday after two days off. Joint practices with the Buccaneers begin Tuesday afternoon.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The Patriots returned to work on Monday afternoon on the practice field outside of Gillette Stadium for a workout in shoulder pads, helmets and shorts. Today is the only day that the team will practice alone, as joint practices with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers commence on Tuesday afternoon.

Several players who did not travel to Philadelphia for joint practices with the Eagles before the preseason opener were back on the field today, including offensive linemen Dan Connolly, Kevin Haslan and Tyronne Green, cornerback Ras-I Dowling, wide receiver Michael Jenkins and safety Nate Ebner. In addition, quarterback Ryan Mallett, who was shaken up during Friday's win over Philadelphia, was back on the practice field.

Jason Vega was the only new absence from practice, joining defensive linemen Armond Armstead and Jermaine Cunningham, wide receiver Mark Harrison, tight end Rob Gronkowski and offensive lineman Marcus Cannon among those not participating.

Alfonzo Dennard, Dowling and Jenkins were minimal participants in practice, spending much of the session working with the team's strength and conditioning staff. Green and Haslam got plenty of work on the stationary bike as well.

It was a shorter practice than the team has conducted throughout much of training camp, with extensive work on situational football.

Here are some more observations:

1. With both Dowling and Dennard limited in practice (they spent much of the session working with members of the team's strength and conditioning staff on a separate field), the Patriots were thin at the cornerback position. That opened the door for safety Devin McCourty to take some cornerback reps (he was still in the red noncontact jersey), something we've also seen in recent practices. Our read on it: With so many players nursing injuries at the position, it's just one way to get McCourty some reps on a just-in-case basis. His versatility is a critical component to the secondary. We still expect him to stay hunkered down at safety.

2. We often hear the phrase "stringing them together" when Patriots players talk about their positive performances; they don't want to be up one day and down the next; it's about consistency. Quarterback Tom Brady is in a groove right now, as he was, once again, a top performer, particularly during early seven-on-seven drills in the middle of the field. He's strung together a handful of strong days of work.

3. The Patriots had an opportunity to run their two-minute offense at the conclusion of the first half on Friday night, and they worked extensively again on end-of-half/game situations on Monday. Following the game on Friday night, Bill Belichick expounded upon how much opportunity work the team ran into during the game, an invaluable learning tool for the regular season.

4. Another good day catching the football for tight end Daniel Fells, who continues to look comfortable patrolling the slot in the red zone. Fells doesn't have the elite athleticism to generate extensive separation, but he's a capable catcher with good feel for tight-window throws. Brady found him on at least a couple of occasions for scores.

5. LeGarrette Blount looked like much more than a bruiser on Friday night, dashing for a 51-yard score and adding another touchdown later. Though we've seen him work on the kickoff-return team as an up man (the player adjacent to the returner), we even saw him take a rep as a returner on Monday (on a miss-hit kick). There aren't too many 250-pound players who can return kicks.

Practice report: Day 3 in Philly

August, 8, 2013
8/08/13
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PHILADELPHIA -- The Patriots and Eagles wrapped up their week of joint practices on Thursday, conducting a light workout in helmets and shells with a focus on special teams and situational work.

It was the third joint practice of the week, an experience that both teams seemed to view as productive.

From an attendance standpoint, second-year cornerback Alfonzo Dennard left the field early with strength and conditioning coach Harold Nash. He eventually returned alongside Nash, though he did not participate in drills from that point on. It is unclear the nature of the issue he is dealing with.

The following players were not spotted during the workout: receivers Michael Jenkins and Mark Harrison, cornerback Ras-I Dowling, safety Nate Ebner, tight ends Brandon Ford and Rob Gronkowski, offensive linemen Marcus Cannon, Markus Zusevics, Tyronne Green and Kevin Haslam, and defensive linemen Jermaine Cunningham and Armond Armstead.

Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. EST on Friday, the first exhibition game for both teams.

Practice report: Day 2 in Philly

August, 7, 2013
8/07/13
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PHILADELPHIA -- The Patriots and Eagles called an audible on Wednesday, pushing their practice up by two hours to avoid potential weather issues later in the day.

The second of three scheduled joint practices mirrored the first in many ways, with the teams beginning the practice working on their own before joining together for a series of positional and team drills.

As it relates to attendance, the only new absence for the Patriots was tight end Brandon Ford. Other players not spotted were receivers Michael Jenkins and Mark Harrison, cornerback Ras-I Dowling, safety Nate Ebner, offensive linemen Marcus Cannon, Dan Connolly, Marcus Zusevics, Tyronne Green and Kevin Haslam, tight end Rob Gronkowski and defensive linemen Jermaine Cunningham and Armond Armstead.

A pair of Patriots rookie receivers, Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce, briefly received attention from members of the team's training staff during practice, but both returned to action.

Though the offense was perhaps not as sharp as it was during a lights-out Tuesday afternoon, Tom Brady was able to work the vertical passing game with his rookie targets during team drills.

The specials teams focus for the day was on the punt and punt return teams, as well as some late field goal/field goal block work. The teams did not tackle again today, typically working to a wrap-up/thud.

They'll conduct a final joint session on Thursday that will focus primarily on special teams.

Observations from 10th practice

August, 6, 2013
8/06/13
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PHILADELPHIA -- The Patriots and Eagles kicked off their joint practices on Tuesday, sharing the four fields outside of the NovaCare complex, just blocks away from where they'll open preseason action on Friday night at Lincoln Financial Field.

Below are some observations from the nearly two-and-a-half hour session.

1. Perhaps it was the competitive aspect of going against another team, but quarterback Tom Brady was locked in and as sharp as we've seen him throughout training camp. In our estimation, Brady was easily the best player on the field. Great day for him to go along with receiver Danny Amendola (minus one drop). Amendola made a sprawling catch in the end zone on a corner route that drew extensive handshakes and high-fives from his teammates.

[+] EnlargeKamar Aiken
AP Photo/Matt SlocumKamar Aiken, one of the wide receivers vying for a job with the Patriots, pulls in a pass while being defended by Eagles cornerback Brandon Boykin.
2. Speaking of Amendola, he was -- as he has been throughout camp -- effective in one-on-one receiving drills. Patrick Chung, a former Patriot, and Kurt Coleman, another Eagles safety, were no match for Amendola in the slot, who nimbly dodged each in press coverage for easy catches.

3. Eagles head coach Chip Kelly noted after practice that the two teams had decided that if players got involved in a scuffle, they'd simply be removed for the balance of practice. A scuffle took place between Eagles cornerback Cary Williams and Patriots receiver Aaron Dobson, each of whom sat following it. Before he departed, however, Dobson made a highlight-reel one-handed catch, reaching behind his frame to haul in a throw down the sideline.

4. One of the areas where the Patriots struggled last season was with their safeties gaining depth and width in Cover 2, something that eventually improved when Devin McCourty was shifted to free safety. Second-year safety Tavon Wilson has had some struggles during training camp thus far, and it appeared as though he fell victim to a deep pass in Cover 2 on Tuesday. The completion down the right side of the field came behind both him and rookie cornerback Logan Ryan. Not knowing the coverage, it's tough to say with certainty where the breakdown occurred, but it looked like Cover 2 from afar.

5. Receiver Julian Edelman has had struggles with staying on the field throughout his career, and though he has good strength and explosiveness for his size, we'll be watching closely to see him take on press coverage when he aligns on the perimeter of the offensive formation. An Eagles defensive back was able to get underneath him and derail his route early during a one-on-one rep, and that's an area in which he'll need to be strong during game action. His ability to play physical and stay on the field is critical for this offense.

6. Today marked the first time that either team has been able to work against players with a different uniform on, and it seemed to pick up the pace in many of the team drills. One of the challenges for players on the kickoff-return team was to sort through not just one different color jersey (the Patriots split their team into white/blue), but four in total (Patriots white/blue; Eagles white/green). Kickoff returns can get jumbled up in a hurry, and it looked like players from both teams had a couple issues in sorting through which players were on their own team and which were on the opposing team.

[+] Enlarge Julian Edelman
AP Photo/Matt SlocumAlthough WR Julian Edelman hauled in this pass on Tuesday, an Eagles defensive back was able to get underneath him and derail his route early during a one-on-one rep.
7. While Patriots fans are used to seeing extensive pre-snap shifts and motions from their team, it was interesting to see the Eagles' offense in person. Kelly has installed an up-tempo approach that features multiple formations and personnel groups, and also calls for its own fair share of pre-snap movement. In fact, it looked like the Eagles were moving around even more than what we see from the Patriots. Should be fun to see this offense in action on Friday night.

8. With two lefty punters on the roster, we thought one of the advantages of a joint practice for the Patriots would be to have their returners work against right-footed punters. Turns out that wasn't the case, as the Eagles have their own pair of lefty punters. That'll change next week when the Bucs come to town, as they boast a pair of righty punters.

9. A group of NFL officials were on the field today, overlooking the practice and treating the 11-on-11 periods as opportunities to simulate plays. This helps the players get a feel for how they'll call all the rules, both the old and new ones, during games. Sarah Thomas, who hopes to become the NFL's first full-time female game official in 2014, was among those in the group.

10. Odds and ends: The Patriots aren't the only team that has used a quarterback on one of their special-teams units, as the Eagles had quarterback G.J. Kinne working as a member of the kickoff-return team... For those who recall the Patriots' use of tennis rackets to simulate defensive linemen with their hands up, they'll appreciate the Eagles ingenuity: A trio of staffers wore shoulder pads with a built-in board during passing drills to simulate long defensive linemen. In a division that features Jason Pierre-Paul and DeMarcus Ware, that'll help... The Eagles have routinely worked without a huddle throughout training camp, but they bucked that trend on Tuesday, huddling often during their 11-on-11 drills. In addition, no music was played during practice, a change from their regular routine... While the Patriots have just three quarterbacks on their roster, the Eagles have five. Interesting to see how they split the reps up... Aqib Talib appears to be becoming a vocal defensive leader, often leading the cheer for teammates departing the field after a good play.

Joint practice rundown of drills

August, 6, 2013
8/06/13
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PHILADELPHIA -- The Patriots and Eagles took the practice fields together for the first of three days on Tuesday, and below is a rundown of the drills they conducted. The practice schedule gives a feel of how the teams approached the joint work, and which periods lent themselves to working against an opposing team.

12:30 p.m.: Walk-through (offense/defense)

12:35 p.m.: Stretching

12:40 p.m.: Individual position group drills

12:50 p.m.: Some walk-through running-game drills (offense and defense split up for this)


After these four periods, the two teams came together and the joint work of the practice commenced.

1 p.m.: One-on-one drills. The wide receivers faced off against the cornerbacks, the linebackers took on the running backs in passing drills, the safeties worked against the tight ends, while the offensive linemen squared off against the defensive linemen in pass-rushing drills.
1:12 p.m.: Special-teams work. The Patriots' kickoff team worked against the Eagles' kickoff-return team
1:16 p.m.: Special-teams work, continued. The Patriots' kickoff-return team worked against the Eagles' kickoff team.
1:20 p.m.: The offensive and defensive linemen squared off in two-on-two pass-rushing drills, while the remaining players took part in seven-on-seven drills.
1:30 p.m.: Special-teams work. The Patriots' punt team worked against the Eagles' punt-return team.
1:36 p.m.: Special-teams work, continued. The Patriots' punt-return team worked against the Eagles' punt team.
1:42 p.m.: 11-on-11 drills began. The Patriots began on defense, and the two teams alternated, taking roughly eight-to-10 reps apiece before switching back. Each offense ran approximately 24-30 plays.
2:08 p.m.: 11-on-11 work, continued. At this point, the tempo picked up a little bit and the two teams moved the football up and down the field, with a less scripted feel to it.
2:32 p.m.: 11-on-11 work, finished. The teams concluded practice with situational 11-on-11 work, focusing on end-of-half and end-of-game situations. This included working in some reps for both the field-goal and field-goal block teams.

WR Dobson sits after scrap

August, 6, 2013
8/06/13
3:53
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PHILADEPHIA -- The Patriots and Eagles practiced for nearly three hours on Tuesday, and there was a lot to digest on the field. By all accounts, it was a productive practice for both teams.

There were also some fireworks.

About midway through the practice, Patriots rookie receiver Aaron Dobson was blocking on a running play during 11-on-11 drills and was engaged with five-year veteran Cary Williams when Williams appeared to take exception and raised his hands toward Dobson's helmet.

There was some brief pushing, officials on hand were blowing their whistles constantly, and players from both teams formed a minor scrum around Dobson and Williams before the situation was quickly extinguished.

Dobson and Williams didn't participate in the rest of practice.

After the practice, Eagles coach Chip Kelly explained that he spoke with Bill Belichick beforehand and they both agreed that players involved in scraps would be held out for the remainder of practice.

"We didn't want this to turn into a wrestling match," Kelly said.

Practice report: Day 1 in Philly

August, 6, 2013
8/06/13
2:47
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PHILADELPHIA -- The Patriots joined the Eagles for the first of three practices on Tuesday, which was held across the four fields at the NovaCare Complex, located within blocks of Lincoln Financial Field, where the Eagles play their home games.

The two teams worked on their own for certain portions of practice, opening the roughly two-hour session with their customary stretching and individual position group drills.

They eventually shared the fields, working through a number of periods together, including 7-on-7, 11-on-11 and other drills for the offensive and defensive linemen. The teams also repped special-teams drills together, focusing on both punts and kickoffs (plus returns for each).

Head coach Bill Belichick mentioned during his pre-practice remarks that working with a team other than your own helps not only the young players, but veterans and coaches as well. The spirited atmosphere appeared to lend itself to a productive day for both teams.

The following Patriots were not in attendance: receivers Michael Jenkins and Mark Harrison, cornerback Ras-I Dowling, safety Nate Ebner, offensive linemen Dan Connolly, Marcus Cannon, Tyronne Green and Kevin Haslam, tight end Rob Gronkowski and defensive linemen Armond Armstead and Jermaine Cunningham.

The teams did not tackle during the practice, though they did do several drills to a "thud" (defenders wrapping up offensive players).

One scuffle took place between Patriots rookie receiver Aaron Dobson and Eagles cornerback Cary Williams, though it was quickly diffused.

Quarterback Tom Brady had one of his best days of camp, starring during both 7-on-7 and team drills.

The teams will practice together again on Wednesday.

Observations from Day 9

August, 5, 2013
8/05/13
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The Patriots dialed back the tempo for Monday’s practice, opting to work in just helmets and shells, while conducting several walk-through periods.

Passing along a handful of leftover notes/observations from the session.

1. A handful of players spent time on a separate field with members of the Patriots’ strength and conditioning staff, presumably as a measure of rehabilitation for various dings, bruises and injuries. Among them were running back Shane Vereen, safety Nate Ebner, wide receiver Matt Slater and offensive linemen Marcus Zusevics and Kevin Haslam.

2. Right guard has become a revolving-door position for the Patriots in training camp. Dan Connolly, the starter in 2012, has been limited as he returns from offseason shoulder surgery, while the player with the first shot at replacing him, Marcus Cannon, has been absent in recent days. Same goes for Tyronne Green, who has been on the field but limited in what he can do. Ditto for Marcus Zusevics, who spent much of Monday’s practice working with the team’s training staff.

3. That opened the door for veteran Will Svitek, believed to be a candidate to serve as the team's top swing tackle, to take reps at right guard. Svitek was called upon to replace Sam Baker as the left tackle in Atlanta during the 2011 season, but missed all of 2012 due to an injury. Will be interesting to see him work in game action this preseason.

4. More focus on special situations today. As they've done at times during camp, the quarterbacks emphasized hard counts (attempting to draw defenders offsides). This is an area of strength for Tom Brady, who has successfully lured defenders into the neutral zone throughout his career.

5. The offense also spent some time working on end-of-game/end-of-half offensive plays, specifically throws to the end zone. The points of emphasis in "Hail Mary" situations is getting the receivers aligned in a configuration to get them in the best position to catch a tipped ball. Most offenses will call for four receivers to one side, with a designated jumper (a player with good length). The other three players, ideally, will compete for a ball if it is tipped. Zach Sudfeld is an example of a leaper. Defenses will do the same thing (many recall Randy Moss playing as a defensive back to be the player to leap and deflect a Hail Mary throw).

6. More special situations work included: onside kicks, punts following a safety, and punts from deep in their own end zone.

7. Even with just one kicker on the roster, Stephen Gostkowski remains in a competition (teams are constantly keeping tabs on players around the league and on the street), and we've been monitoring his performance. He came up several yards short on an attempt from 50 yards today, though he's been striking the ball well throughout camp.

8. Jake Ballard was back on the field today after sitting out Saturday's scrimmage. No official word on the reason behind the absence, but given the nature of his major knee injury in February of 2012, it's possible the team is building in some maintenance days for him during camp.

Practice report: Scrimmage Saturday

August, 3, 2013
8/03/13
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The Patriots mixed things up on Saturday, adopting a scrimmage style atmosphere for their final workout before a player's day off on Sunday.

The team split up into two teams -- blue and white -- spending the majority of practice working through 11-on-11 drills.

Many of the projected offensive starters were in white, while many of the top defensive players wore blue jerseys. There were some exceptions, however, as, for example, rookie receivers Josh Boyce and Aaron Dobson were in blue, while linebacker Jamie Collins was in white.

Tom Brady, who turns 36 today, and Ryan Mallett quarterbacked the white team, while Tim Tebow led the blue team.

Several players were not spotted at practice: tight end Jake Ballard, defensive end Jermaine Cunningham, cornerback Ras-I Dowling, safeties Nate Ebner and Tavon Wilson, offensive linemen Marcus Cannon and Kevin Haslam, wide receiver Lavasier Tuinei and defensive lineman Armond Armstead, who remains on the non-football injury list.

Veteran receiver Michael Jenkins, who appeared to tweak his left hamstring on Friday, wore a tee shirt and shorts as an observer.

The session took place in shells and shorts, breaking a streak of five straight days of full pads practice.

The scrimmage appeared to be a blend of scripted and unscripted situations, with head coach Bill Belichick often calling out the down and distance at his own discretion between snaps. The team worked extensively on special teams during the scrimmage as well.

As perhaps a sign of his progression in a recovery from offseason shoulder surgery, defensive back Devin McCourty shed his red non-contact jersey.

Wide receiver Danny Amendola and tight end Zach Sudfeld were among those players that stood out as positive performers.

The Patriots will return to the practice field on Monday morning before departing for Philadelphia to spend a pair of days practicing with the Eagles in advance of the preseason opener on Friday night.

Day 6 practice observations

August, 1, 2013
8/01/13
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Passing along our observations from Thursday's practice, the fourth straight day the Patriots have worked in full pads. More notes spotlighting one-on-one pass-rushing drills are forthcoming from colleague Mike Reiss.

1. There was a heavy emphasis on situational work, which is something we'd expect with the first preseason game just eight days away. The Patriots not only focused on specific offensive down and distances (3rd-and-3, 2nd-and-7, etc.), but they also worked through a number of less common situations that could come up during the course of the season. For example, they worked on a punt following a safety, punts from the back of their own end zone, and a pooch punt. The team also worked at an up-tempo clip throughout many of the 11-on-11 periods, often playing music to simulate crowd noise.

2. Though Devin McCourty seems firmly entrenched as the starting free safety, we did see him do some work at cornerback during two-on-two coverage drills. Not sure we'd read anything into this other than seeing it as an opportunity to work on man coverage, something he'll continue to do as a free safety.

3. Cornerback Ras-I Dowling left practice early with an unspecified injury, spending the rest of the session on the sideline and near members of the team's training staff. Running back Brandon Bolden, who returned after a one-day absence, and offensive lineman Elvis Fisher spent part of practice working on the stationary bikes.

4. Top draft choice Jamie Collins continues to show off ball-disruption skills. He forced two fumbles during drills, including one in an open-field tackling drill. Collins has shown a knack for well-timed punches and rips at the ball when attempting to take a runner down. His unique length helps him in this regard. Collins also had a mini dust-up with tight end Michael Hoomanawanui, though it didn't materialize into much.

5. One more note on Julian Edelman: Early in practice, the quarterbacks and offensive skill players take part in a "pat-and-go" drill in which a quarterback pats the football, signaling for the skill player to run down the field before he arcs a throw to him. Tom Brady, perhaps as a preservation method, would throw to the first two receivers in line, then allow an assistant equipment manager to throw to the remaining receivers, except Edelman. Brady, who has always spoken highly of Edelman's work ethic, stepped up to throw to Edelman when he was up in the drill.

6. Rookie Duron Harmon earned some work with the top defensive group on Thursday, but his presence has been most notable on special teams. He was part of the kickoff team during special-teams drills today, and it's a reminder that a player like him -- who plays at a position that is crowded with depth -- may well make his biggest mark as a core special-teams player early in his career.

7. Defensive end Jermaine Cunningham did not finish practice, and observers say that he was getting his knee looked at by team medical personnel. We'll continue to monitor his status in the coming days.

8. First time we've seen -- at least that we can recall -- rookie wide receiver Josh Boyce working as a kickoff returner, which he did as a member of the scout team. Perhaps this is an area where he'll get more work down the line.

9. We've written previously about the value of having Brian Daboll on the offensive staff to serve as a tutor of sorts for quarterback Tim Tebow. Same goes for director of player personnel Nick Caserio, a former coach who continues to work on the field with players. He's been spotted assisting with some of the team's younger wideouts.

10. Ben Bartholomew, a college fullback at Tennessee, got some work as a tight end today. That's perhaps just as much a reflection of how the fullback position isn't a particularly prominent part of the offense as it his skill set. That was the case in 2012 as well, as the Patriots went without a fullback for much of the season.

11. Play of the day goes to rookie wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins, who hauled in a long play-action pass from Brady. Thompkins effectively took the top off of the defense, something the team lacked in 2012. He plays faster than his timed speed (4.54 in the 40).

12. Rookie linebacker Steve Beauharnais has been solid in tackling drills in camp, and he showed up in red-zone defense today, picking off Brady on a throw intended for Danny Amendola.

Pats sign four, waive DB Morris

August, 1, 2013
8/01/13
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The Patriots signed defensive lineman Travis Chappelear and wide receiver Johnathan Haggerty on Thursday, in addition to the previous reported signings of defensive lineman Scott Vallone and wide receiver Lavasier Tuinei, the team announced. Also, the team waived defensive back Stephon Morris.

Chappelear was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Bengals this April after a career at Northwest Missouri State. The 6-foot-5, 263-pounder was released by the team on May 13.

Haggerty, 25, went undrafted out of Southwest Oklahoma State in 2010. The 6-foot-1, 195-pound wide receiver has previous NFL stops with both the Browns and the Bears.

Morris was signed as an undrafted free agent following the 2013 draft out of Penn State. He appeared to suffer a hamstring injury during Tuesday's practice, but finished the session on the field.

The Patriots roster is once again full at 90 players.

Observations from fifth practice

July, 30, 2013
7/30/13
5:47
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Tuesday marked the Patriots' final practice before the first day off for players during training camp, as the team put on full pads for one last time before the miniature break.

Below is a recap of observations taken during the two-hour-plus session, with a further focus on the 1-on-1 pass rushing drills coming later from Mike Reiss.

[+] EnlargeKenbrell Thompkins
AP Photo/Charles KrupaRookie Kenbrell Thompkins was one of the best performers at practice, making several nice grabs and running crisp routes.
1. After struggling in practice on Monday, his 25th birthday, rookie receiver Kenbrell Thompkins was arguably the best player on the field Tuesday, making several noteworthy grabs and showing precise route running. Thompkins both stretched the field vertically and impressed with his underneath route running. His ability to set up defenders in press coverage with nimble footwork at the line of scrimmage continues to stand out. Cornerback Aqib Talib recently lauded his ability to release off the line.

2. Tim Tebow had his best day of work in training camp, showing steady improvement from recent performances. He showed good arm strength and accuracy on throws down the field, and looks to be more decisive with each live rep. In addition, the team walked through some read option work early in practice, something Tebow's movement skills can be used in. From afar, it seems as if Tebow's work with offensive assistant coach Brian Daboll is paying early dividends.

3. With Dan Connolly working his way back from offseason shoulder surgery, there's been a steady dose of Marcus Cannon aligning with the top offensive line unit. Cannon left practice early today (reason unknown), opening the door for Tyronne Green to take extensive reps with the top five linemen. Green was signed as a free agent this offseason after starting his career with the Chargers, where he was a starter for 13 games in 2012.

4. With just 10 days until they take the field for their first preseason game, the Patriots appeared to turn their focus extensively to red zone and goal-line work today. Quarterback Tom Brady said on Monday that the team hadn't started work on those phases of the game yet, but it appears Tuesday was the day to get started. Receivers worked against defensive backs in 1-on-1 drills both in the high and low red zone areas.

5. Rookie defensive back Stephon Morris briefly pulled up after appearing to tweak his right hamstring, but he was back in practice later. It appears that the issue is insignificant.

6. We've often evaluated Danny Amendola in the construct of Wes Welker and how the two compare as players. On Tuesday, we saw Amendola haul in a long pass from Brady on a seam-stretching route. Though Welker was called upon to run vertical routes on occasion, he, of course, was at his best patrolling the slot. Amendola has the long-range speed to stress a defense down the field more. This particular throw and catch got Brady fired up.

7. Rookie linebacker Jamie Collins is, in our estimation, among the most fascinating defensive players to watch in camp. He seems to have the versatility to be used all over the formation, including as a stand-up strongside linebacker. Our early sense was he might be used more on the edge as a rusher, but it seems like the best approach is to wait and see his full skill set and how the team plans to use him. His size and movement skills aren't common.

8. The Patriots did a ball-security drill in which an offensive player carried two footballs across the width of the field with a pair of defenders attempting to dislodge them. Running back Stevan Ridley, who has had fumbling issues in the past, had one ball stripped. We'll continue to closely watch his ball handling throughout the preseason.

9. Play of the day goes to rookie tight end Zach Sudfeld, who hauled in a pass from Brady in the end zone on a third-and-1 play near the goal line. Sudfeld made the acrobatic catch with both Adrian Wilson and Jerod Mayo in coverage.

National view on Patriots camp

July, 29, 2013
7/29/13
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PatriotsESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss wrote ESPN.com's Patriots "Camp Confidential" feature, which takes a more national view on the biggest storylines than you're used to seeing in this spot.

Click HERE for the piece, which identifies three hot issues at camp, gives reasons for optimism and pessimism and kicks off with the challenge facing Tom Brady at the receiver position. The Patriots opened training camp with 12 receivers on the roster, six of whom are rookies.

Day 3 practice report: Contact drills

July, 28, 2013
7/28/13
11:41
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The pads came on for the first time on Sunday morning as the Patriots took the field for their third practice of 2013 training camp.

For the second time in three days, moderate temperatures prevailed, with a thick layer of clouds overhanging for much of the early part of practice.

From an attendance standpoint, things remained status quo from Saturday's workout. Just two players, defensive linemen Armond Arsmtead and Corey Grissom, were not spotted at all, while tight end Rob Gronkowski (back/forearm), wide receivers Julian Edelman (foot) and Mark Harrison (foot), and offensive lineman Nick McDonald (unknown) were the players who were spotted but not dressed to participate in practice. Safety Devin McCourty (shoulder) once again wore a red non-contact jersey.

The pads afforded the Patriots the chance to more extensively evaluate the roster, especially the linemen, who took part in various contact drills.

In the first viewing of one-on-one pass rush drills, second-year defensive end Chandler Jones impressed in duels with left tackle Nate Solder, while it appears that Dan Connolly (shoulder) is not quite 100 percent, as he was withheld from the drill, with Marcus Cannon taking top right guard reps.

The Patriots will next practice in front of season-ticket holders on Monday night in Gillette Stadium, with a ceremony to induct former linebacker Tedy Bruschi and longtime radio voice Gil Santos into the team's hall of fame prior to the on-field work.

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