FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Observations from the Patriots' fourth practice of rookie minicamp, held Saturday afternoon in perfect conditions:
Number of players reduced. For the first three practices of minicamp, the Patriots had a total of 26 players, five of which were in on a tryout basis. Only one of those tryout players made the cut into Saturday afternoon, an unidentified receiver who the Providence Journal reports is Brown's Buddy Farnham.
Bill Belichick leads the defense. After three practices in which he was mostly an overseer of all areas on the field, Bill Belichick seemed to take control of the defense in a 7-on-7 drill toward the end of practice. The Patriots don't have an official defensive coordinator, although Belichick said that he will begin the year having more involvement with the unit. This looked like a clear case of that coming to life on the practice field.
Jermaine Cunningham and dropping into coverage. One of the big challenges for any rookie making the transition from college defensive end to NFL outside linebacker is pass coverage, which is what second-round draft choice Jermaine Cunningham will attempt to do in New England. This looked like a practice in which Cunningham spent more time in coverage than he did "rushing" (as much as one can rush in 7 on 7 work), so it was a good chance to see how he looked going backward instead of forward. To the layman, he does not look out of place, although on one of the final plays of practice he might have missed his assignment when sprinting down the middle of the field, because linebackers coach Matt Patricia quickly addressed him after the play.
Footwork in focus. Coaches worked a few different drills into the mix to test players' footwork. Quarterbacks coach Bill O'Brien, for example, threw a blocking "bag" at Zac Robinson, forcing him to move his feet before setting and delivering a throw. On the defensive side, linebackers coach Matt Patricia threw a large medicine ball at the feet of linebackers Jermaine Cunningham, Brandon Spikes and Dane Fletcher, forcing them to use their hands to shed the ball as if it was a blocker cutting them, before they continued on the way to the quarterback.