Cleaning out the Patriots notebook in anticipation of tonight's in-stadium practice which is a ticketed event for season-ticket holders and Foxborough residents:
1. First impressions of rookie running back Shane Vereen -- fast. He accelerates quickly. I think he'll add a different dynamic to the Patriots' backfield as a nice complement to the powerful BenJarvus Green-Ellis and quicker Danny Woodhead atop the depth chart.
2. The defense looks to be well ahead of the offense at this point and I think a big part of that is the lack of offseason camps and limited practices early in camp. Even a simple handoff, and getting the right depth between quarterback and running back, has been a challenge at times (e.g. Tom Brady and Stevan Ridley on Tuesday).
3. Linebacker Rob Ninkovich has been handling all snapping duties with Matt Katula remaining on the sidelines. It's been a while since the Patriots had a long snapper who also contributed in other areas (tight end Mike Bartrum from 1996-99), and one reason teams don't do it is the need for dedicated practice time between kicker, holder and snapper. If Ninkovich is working with the defense, that would pull him away from Stephen Gostkowski and Zoltan Mesko in practice.
4. Keeping an eye on the interior offensive line, which will obviously benefit from the return of Logan Mankins at practice tomorrow. It wouldn't be a surprise if the Patriots consider a free-agent here (they had Chris Morris in Tuesday), as the group is young and has had its hand full with Vince Wilfork and Albert Haynesworth, who have been one of the early stories of camp. Linemen like Rich Ohrnberger, Thomas Austin and Corey Woods have received some quality repetitions in recent practices as the depth has been thinned. Wilfork and Haynesworth have made life tough on them.
5. Add offensive lineman Sebastian Vollmer to the list of players who have made an impression, along with inside linebacker Brandon Spikes and cornerback Leigh Bodden, among others. I looked up at Tuesday's practice and saw him maul a defender in one-on-one work. He looks like he hasn't missed a beat.