Bed check: Wrapping up Day 6

July, 31, 2012
7/31/12
9:10
PM ET
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Wrapping up the sixth day of training camp and the key storylines:

Spikes increases his workload. The Patriots were in full pads for the third straight practice, and linebacker Brandon Spikes saw his workload expand. Spikes had been present at the first four practices, but hadn't taken part in many drills. So Tuesday marked another step in his return from offseason knee surgery. He worked at middle linebacker, flanked by Dont'a Hightower and Jerod Mayo.

Jones-Solder duel draws notice. In what is becoming one of the more entertaining duels of camp, defensive end Chandler Jones and left tackle Nate Solder squared off in 1-on-1 drills. Jones delivered one of the individual efforts of the day with an impressive push/pull move to knock Solder off balance and score the "sack." One line of thinking on Jones is that he is a raw prospect who might need time, but that doesn't come to mind when watching him rush in 1-on-1 drills.

Thomas rewarded for strong start. Guard Donald Thomas put together a strong start to camp, which was noted in this space over the weekend, and the coaches seemed to reward him by having him line up in Logan Mankins' left guard spot with the club's top blockers. Thomas is winning the majority of his 1-on-1 battles in drills, and has appeared to be more consistent than some of his competition for a roster spot, such as veteran Robert Gallery.

Cunningham's strong camp continues. Third-year defensive end Jermaine Cunningham, one of the team's 10 offseason award winners, is off to a sizzling start in 1-on-1 drills. Rushing off the left edge, he had a spin move today that resulted in a quick "sack." The 2010 second-round draft choice has been one of the surprising stories of camp.

Carl Banks in the house. Former Giants linebacker Carl Banks, who played under Bill Belichick in the 1980s, was a guest at practice.

Star performer of the day. Dan Connolly. Center/guard handled two of the toughest interior linemen in 1-on-1 drills, holding off Vince Wilfork and Jonathan Fanene. Fellow interior lineman Ryan Wendell also had a good day.

Tough day at the office. Dan Koppen/Matt Kopa. Both blockers couldn't hold their ground in 1-on-1 drills. Kopa, who as a member of the practice squad in 2011 had an impressive streak of top practice performances, had a tough time with defensive end Jermaine Cunningham on two rushes.

Storyline to monitor. Situational football and special teams. With Wednesday's in-stadium evening practice for season ticket holders, it figures to be a chance to use the videoboards, get the chain-gang out, and work on situations. Also, special teams traditionally is a big part of that practice.

Rookie watch. In 2-on-2 rush drills, defensive end Jake Bequette showed up with a nice effort against Marcus Cannon (who was strong in 1-on-1s) ... Running back Brandon Bolden fumbled ... Defensive end Justin Francis continues to excel in 1-on-1 drills, as he beat offensive tackle Kyle Hix.

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

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