Observations from Wednesday practice

June, 13, 2012
6/13/12
4:03
PM ET
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Two days of mini-camp down, one left to go. Here’s a handful of observations from today’s on-field work.

-- With as many injuries as there have been to the tight end position, it’s possible that Aaron Hernandez continues to flash because he’s had so many reps. It’s also possible that he’s already improved from what was a highly successful second season, which is the way it appears. His receiving ability is natural, and the Patriots could continue to find news ways to use him throughout the offense.

-- If there were a theme to today’s on-field work, one could make the argument it was the goal line, as the Patriots worked extensively at or near it in various periods. It makes sense given the progression of the offseason work, and is an area that they’ll likely continue to focus on throughout the preseason. With such a diverse set of skill players on offense, the Patriots would figure to have the ability to attack you in a number of ways, even from a close distance.

-- After drafting Dont’a Hightower in the first round, some suggested he’d find his way on the field in sub situations as an edge rusher. Hightower did some of that in college, but also held coverage responsibilities as one of the leaders of the Alabama defense. He flashed the ability to drop into coverage and break on the ball today, and we’ll continue to monitor his work in space. If he can play on all three downs as a linebacker, that would give the Patriots added versatility on their defense.

-- Strong showing from Wes Welker today. He made a number of nice catches, and looked solid on the whole.

-- The weather played a factor, there’s no doubt about that. Passes were dropped, and the slick fields were less than ideal for precise footwork. Perhaps, however, that’s exactly why Bill Belichick wanted to be out on the field, rain or shine. Emulating conditions like these -- which the Patriots will likely face throughout the season -- can prove beneficial for a team, even if it also results in potential dropped passes or slips on the grass.

-- Although today was not a day dedicated to the return game, Patrick Chung once again aligned as a returner (on the kickoff return scout team). I asked special teams coach Scott O’Brien about that after practice, and he seemed to indicate that Chung could continue to be used there going forward. That’s not to say he’ll handle punts or kick during the regular season, but it at least seems he’ll continue to work there through training camp.

-- Almost the entire defensive line left the visible part of the practice fields for an extended stretch of time during practice. We’re not sure where the group went exactly, although it would seem possible that there was equipment that they intended to use in an area that we simply couldn’t see.

Field Yates has previous experience interning with the New England Patriots on both their coaching and scouting staffs. A graduate of Wesleyan University (CT), he is a regular contributor to ESPN Boston's Patriots coverage and ESPN Insider.

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