Cleaning out the OTA notebook

May, 24, 2012
5/24/12
1:13
PM ET
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Cleaning out the notebook from today's organized team activity:

1. Second-year CB Ras-I Dowling, who was limited to two games in 2011, was a full participant after undergoing hip surgery. I watched him closely as he lined up across from WR Brandon Lloyd, and one thing you immediately notice is his size. This amateur scout also felt he was moving well, running stride for stride with the speedy Lloyd at one point.

2. Spent a lot of time watching the offensive line, and while noting it's very, very early, I was interested to see how the center position would be handled. Dan Connolly lined up there, followed by Dan Koppen. That's what was expected based on the contracts signed by each -- Connolly received a three-year deal with a $3.25 million signing bonus, while Koppen received a two-year deal with a $350,000 signing bonus-- but that's been Koppen's job since 2003. The Patriots usually like their backup linemen to have position versatility (e.g. center and guard) and Koppen has only played center, so his spot on the roster could be something to monitor in training camp.

3. With TEs Rob Gronkowski and Daniel Fells not taking part in the OTA, the position group was thin, so DE Alex Silvestro took some reps there. At one point in practice, he stood side by side with tight ends coach George Godsey, going over what was taking place in front of him. A possible position switch, or just filling in due to the absence of others? Another question to be answered in the weeks to come.

4. Some have wondered about WR Deion Branch's spot on the roster, given the number of receivers brought in. After watching today's OTA, my thought on that would be "not so fast." Still looks quick and Tom Brady was commending him at one point for a sharply run route. I could envision a scenario where having an outside receiver like Brandon Lloyd might help put Branch in better positions to maximize his skills, as he works some more on the inside.

5. Fun to watch WR Brandon Lloyd. Lining up on the outside, with his speed, it is easy to see that he can add a different dimension that this offense didn't have in 2011.

6. Didn't get to lock in too much on the young running backs -- Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley -- but from an eye-test perspective it looked like Vereen was in good condition and perhaps a bit bigger than he was in 2011.

7. Second-year offensive lineman Marcus Cannon has position flexibility -- either as a guard or tackle -- and I saw him primarily at right tackle in this session. He lined up in Sebastian Vollmer's spot.

8. With some of the top offensive linemen not present, a group including Sebastian Vollmer, Logan Mankins and Brian Waters, this was a good chance to watch some of the young linemen. Ryan Wendell lined up at right guard, in Waters' spot.

9. Veteran Robert Gallery lined up at left guard, in Logan Mankins' spot.

10. Owner Robert Kraft came out to watch the OTA toward the end.

EXTRA POINT: Initial quick hits from the OTA were posted here.

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

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