Camp Observations: Day 20

August, 14, 2012
8/14/12
6:00
PM ET
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The Patriots held their second straight full-pads practice on Tuesday. Here are some observations:

Defense plays big. Patriots fans are accustomed to strong outings from their offense, but it was the defense's day on Tuesday. The secondary forced a number of turnovers, getting their hands on the ball and making good on opportunties to intercept passes. Steve Gregory, Patrick Chung and Kyle Arrington were all able to corral picks, and the defense was especially strong overall during situational work.

Play of the day. The aforementioned Chung interception came on a beautiful play in the end zone, as he rose high to snare a Tom Brady pass with one hand. Chung's ball skills continue to impress this training camp, and he looks the part of a very good all-around safety.

End of half/game situational work. The Patriots continued situational work focused on end-of-half/end-of-game situations on Tuesday, as Bill Belichick would call out the time remaining, difference in score (down by 5, etc.) and the number of timeouts remaining for the offense. This was a period that the defense got the upper hand, but each side of the football will have a bevy of tape to use for coaching points.

Extensive card work. Perhaps as a sign that the team has begun to focus some attention on its upcoming opponent, the Philadelphia Eagles, the Patriots brought out scripted card plays, which allow one side of the football to practice plays that an opponent typically runs. In the case of the Eagles, squaring off against an athletic quarterback (Michael Vick) is typically a consideration coaches make as they draw up their cards and prepare for the week ahead.

Mankins absorbs minimal workload. Standout left guard Logan Mankins is back on the field for New England, but continues to ease into the workload. He did not take any one-on-one reps against the defensive line and was held out of team work. No surprise there, and we'll see if Mankins is on the field Monday night against Philly.

Connolly held out of one-on-ones, team work. Center/guard Dan Connolly also was held out of both one-on-ones and team work, although the reason is less clear. Connolly has no documented injury and had been a consistent performer prior to yesterday, when he began his scaled-back workload.

One-on-one notes. For those who did participate in one-on-ones between the offensive and defensive lines, here are some highlights: Chandler Jones put on a neat countermove against offensive tackle Nate Solder, rushing inside after initial charging upfield. ... Jermaine Cunningham burst off the edge. He is arguably the quickest defensive linemen on the Patriots' roster. ... Tough to gauge Nick McDonald's ability to consistently anchor in the middle of the line, as he had struggles against Vince Wilfork followed by more success against Marcus Forston. Wilfork routinely defeats interior linemen on his own, and Forston is a developmental undrafted rookie. McDonald's versatility and athleticism are strong points. ... Ron Brace's power can be overwhelming. Impressive stuff from a guy who needs to have a good week.

Ridley as receiver. We continue to monitor the ability of running back Stevan Ridley catching passes out of the backfield, specifically to see if he looks comfortable enough to play in the Patriots' up-tempo empty offensive set. It's an area that he looks to be improving in, and the route tree he seems to be accountable for appears to be increasing. BenJarvus Green-Ellis occasionally was used as a split-out receiver for the Patriots, and Ridley could be stepping into his role this season.

Cannon's power. Offensive tackle Marcus Cannon has had an up-and-down training camp from this vantage point, but one trait of his that continues to catch the eye is his power in short areas. When Cannon is able to engage defenders and get his hands on them, he has excellent power and pop to knock them off their center of gravity. On two occasions today we saw Cannon use such force against defenders that it almost seemed to catch them by surprise.

Drops for Stallworth. Receiver Donte' Stallworth continues to look fast and his route running has been sharp, but he had at least three drops today. In a tough position battle, these receivers must show they can be reliable with the ball in the air.

Loose ends. Wes Welker hauled in a deep ball from Brady, splitting the safeties between the hashes. ... Marquice Cole limped off the field at one point and was addressed by head trainer Jim Whalen. We'll keep an eye on this one, but he was able to return to the field. ... Brady's mechanics are one of the many areas of strength in his game, but he really stepped into some throws today and zipped the ball. ... Quarterback Ryan Mallett was the first Patriots quarterback to land a throw in the barrel during the infamous "bucket drill." Nice touch from the second-year signal-caller.

Attendance report. Offensive lineman Logan Mankins, who was removed from the Active/PUP list on Sunday, was in full pads for the first time, but did not participate in one-on-one or team drills, along with guard Dan Connolly. ... Cornerback Malcolm Williams returned in uniform for the start of practice, but had his pads, uniform and helmet off by the end (team drills). Safety James Ihedigbo also returned. ... Players spotted rehabbing or watching practice were fullbacks Spencer Larsen (unknown) and Eric Kettani (calf?); wide receiver Brandon Lloyd (unknown); tight ends Daniel Fells (leg) and Rob Gronkowski (unknown); offensive linemen Sebastian Vollmer (back), Kyle Hix (arm/shoulder) and Markus Zusevics (pectoral); defensive lineman Myron Pryor (shoulder); and cornerback Alfonzo Dennard (hamstring) ...Players not spotted: tight ends Visanthe Shiancoe (hamstring), Aaron Hernandez (unknown) and Jake Ballard (ACL); offensive linemen Brian Waters (did not report) and Matt Kopa (ankle); defensive linemen Jonathan Fanene (unknown) and Gerard Warren (unknown); and linebacker Tracy White (unknown).
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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