FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Cleaning out the training camp notebook with some random observations, thoughts and news items after the Patriots' sixth training camp practice on Wednesday night:
1. The Patriots like versatility among their offensive linemen, because if players can factor on the depth chart at two positions, it allows the team to dress seven linemen on the 46-man game-day roster and open a spot elsewhere (often for special teams). This is where veteran center Dan Koppen's value to the team interests me. Koppen is a center-only and in a practice when the Patriots gave Ryan Wendell top-unit reps at that spot, it bumped Koppen from the top five. The Patriots were thin at guard with Dan Connolly out of practice, so Robert Gallery (right) and Donald Thomas (left) flanked Wendell. Lingering question: If Koppen isn't a starter, do the Patriots see enough value to keep him on the roster?
2. Rookie safety Tavon Wilson (2nd round, Illinois) seemed to show up more in Wednesday's practice (pass defenses, strong blitz off edge). In addition to making a few plays on defense, he was on the top punt coverage unit. When young players are worked into the special teams mix early, it's usually a good sign for their chances to contribute on the 46-man game-day roster.
3. Punters are often overlooked, but the Patriots got it right when they selected Zoltan Mesko in the fifth round of the 2010 draft. Mesko was 3rd in the NFL in net punting last season (41.5 avg.), and he looked strong in Wednesday's session.
4. Backup quarterback Brian Hoyer's work in the two-minute offense was efficient last night. There was a decisiveness to it that seemed to reflect his confidence when he's running the show (this is his fourth year in the system). While Ryan Mallett has made "great strides" in the team's system, according to Bill Belichick, I don't think he's at Hoyer's level when it comes to command of the team's complex offense.
5. When rookie running back Brandon Bolden powered into the end zone in red-zone work, it had a BenJarvus Green-Ellis feel to it. Through seven days of camp, when Bolden and Stevan Ridley have had the football in their grasp, they've run it with a hard-nosed edge.