Observations from Tuesday practice

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Checking in with a handful of additional observations from the Patriots’ opening day of mini-camp, which was best described by head coach Bill Belichick as a continuation of the OTA work:

  • Unlike previous offseasons, the NFL has mandated that mini-camps are conducted without the use of pads. And while that may restrict the number of drills that teams can turn to during their on-field work, it doesn’t limit their ability to work on technique. It appeared as though today was a day of technical emphasis for the Patriots. During the special teams period, players worked on proper form to block a punt, while the defensive line and linebackers appeared to talk and walk through a number of methods for taking on blocks.

  • During the individual drills portion of practice, new offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels got some time to work one-on-one with second-year quarterback Ryan Mallett. While the sense is that Mallett will take on the number three quarterback role again this season, his development remains a focus with backup Brian Hoyer set to enter free agency in 2013.

  • Bill Belichick has often highlighted a couple of tasks that are imperative for his receivers to accomplish in order to be successful, and they are getting open and catching the football. Without the pads on, it’s hard to accurately gauge a receiver’s ability to separate, but Brandon Lloyd continues to display steady hands.

  • The Patriots road scouting staff was present on the field today. Scouting staffs don’t spend much time together in the same place, but will congregate periodically throughout the calendar year to prepare for the next phase of the scouting season. With college and pro teams heading into a summer hiatus in the coming weeks, this is arguably the quietest time of the year for scouts.

  • Rookie cornerback Alfonzo Dennard made another pass-breakup this afternoon, dislodging a pass thrown down the sideline for Jabar Gaffney. That’s the second consecutive on-field session that he’s flashed ball skills.

  • After earning praise from head coach Bill Belichick during his morning press conference, defensive end Jermaine Cunningham was not spotted during the team portion of practice. It’s unknown the reason behind this, and if Cunningham could be dealing with some sort of injury.

  • As noted by Mike Rodak, Patrick Chung fielded punts during the closing special teams period of practice. It’s not something reporters have seen him do during his three years in New England. In fact, he didn’t return a single punt during college either.