FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Observations from the Patriots’ practice at mandatory minicamp today:
Eye-opening attendance report. Every player on the roster was present for the minicamp except for Logan Mankins. That is significant on two fronts: 1) The attendance reflects a strong commitment on the part of the players who have been here over the last three weeks; 2) From an injury standpoint, there are no major issues outside of Wes Welker (individual drills only) that appear to be holding players back.
Offensive line movement in focus. With Logan Mankins not attending workouts, the team’s movement on the offensive line was under the spotlight. Tackle Nick Kaczur worked at Mankins’ left guard spot, with Sebastian Vollmer at right tackle. Dan Connolly was the first guard worked into the rotation. Player reaction to Mankins’ situation seemed to be the same across the board. Players asked about Mankins said they were worrying about their own situation.
First look at receiver Taylor Price. This was the first practice for Price -- the team’s third-round draft choice out of Ohio – catching passes from Tom Brady. He was thrown immediately into the mix, with Brady seeming to take some extra time in working toward developing a rapport with him. Price’s size stood out to me in a David Givens-type way. One area to watch in ensuing practices will be Price's conditioning and health, as he seemed to be pushing himself hard in this session, and some reporters saw him limp off the field late in the session during 7-on-7 drills.
Robert Kraft in attendance. Owner Robert Kraft was in attedance for the practice. In addition to Kraft, scouts and others from the personnel department watched the session.
Terrence Wheatley shows up. Third-year cornerback Terrence Wheatley, who is vying for a backup role on the right side behind Leigh Bodden, made two plays that had his fellow defenders excited. On one, he ran stride for stride with David Patten down the middle of the field and had solid coverage on an incomplete pass. On another, he had tight coverage on Randy Moss on an out route, batting a Brian Hoyer pass away. Had the pass from Hoyer been more to the outside, it could have been completed, but Wheatley still got his hands on the ball.
Situational field goals. Even though it’s June, the Patriots are covering a variety of situations. One example of this came in special teams work, where the field-goal operation of snapper Jake Ingram, holder Zoltan Mesko and kicker Stephen Gostkowki worked on coming in from the sideline to kick a field goal with the team trying to beat the clock with no timeouts.
Zoltan Mesko’s powerful leg. Rookie punter Zoltan Mesko’s performance will ultimately be judged by his consistency over time and directional punting, but on this day, it was enjoyable to watch him simply crush the ball. On one punt from his end zone, he had returner Brandon Tate running 10 yards behind him to get under the ball.