FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The Patriots held their fourth straight full-pads practice on Thursday. Passing along some observations from the session:
Ridley, Wilson shelved early with injuries. Second-year running back Stevan Ridley and rookie safety Tavon Wilson both spent a substantial portion of practice on the sideline after each suffered an injury. Ridley's ailment looked like a right knee/leg issue, while Wilson's left ankle appeared to be the area of concern. No word on the severity of either.
Ball security drills. The team worked on ball security early on in practice, with offensive players running the width of the field with defenders hawking at the football. Seems like a drill you can never do enough.
Receivers & defensive backs working the back end line. Both the wide receivers and defensive backs focused attention towards passes thrown near the back end line of the end zone. Receivers worked on tip-toeing catches, while the secondary focused on defending receivers hovering near the line.
Brady picked near goal line. Linebacker Mike Rivera, who has seen increased reps with Dane Fletcher on injured reserve, intercepted Tom Brady during an early period focusing on goal line offense and defense.
1-on-1's head to red. The wide receivers and defensive backs took part in 1-on-1's again on Thursday, starting with a period focused on the red zone. During those, I thought both Patrick Chung and Nate Ebner did well to square up and jam tight end Rob Gronkowski near the line of scrimmage. Nonetheless, Gronkowski was able to fight through and get open.
Marcus Harrison's first step. Continue to notice a quick first step from defensive tackle Marcus Harrison, which helped him win in a couple of 1-on-1 situations.
Jones' counters. A defensive end who can make the first move often finds himself with the edge against an opposing tackle, and so far we've seen Chandler Jones show some of that in the early part of camp. It also appears as though he can also counter when he loses the initial joust of a 1-on-1 pass rushing situation. The ability to counter often results in pursuit sacks for ends.
Ebner impressing. Hard not to notice rookie safety Nate Ebner, sort of the unknown from the Patriots' draft class. Billed as a special teams stud, Ebner has caught my attention on the defensive side of the ball too. He broke up a pass and snuffed out a reverse. He has impressive ball skills and a quick trigger in his movements.
Some 11-on-11 notes. Aaron Hernandez briefly limped off the field, but was quick to return. He looks fine. ... Wes Welker dropped a pass. For the day, I had Welker, Brandon Lloyd, Julian Edelman and Donte' Stallworth each with a drop (there may have been more from others that I was unable to see). ... Jermaine Cunningham was lightning quick coming off the edge in the first play of team work. He's flashed during camp, but has experienced waves of up-and-down production. ... Dan Connolly took part in 11-on-11 drills for the first time in a couple of days. Logan Mankins continued to see his fair share of reps. ... Marquice Cole had a nice pass break-up of Tom Brady. ... Chandler Jones blew up his blocker and running back Brandon Bolden on a handoff. ... Marcus Forston, the undrafted rookie defensive lineman from Miami, had a massive backfield stuff of his own. ... Welker and Shane Vereen were sent for penalty laps after false starting. ... Ryan Mallett managed to fool almost the entire defense on a ball fake that led into a boot leg. No fooling safety Patrick Chung, however, who met Mallett in his attempt to scramble to open space. ... Zoltan Mesko dropped a virtually perfect punt that landed at what looked to be about the two yard line. ... Brandon Bolden muffed another Mesko punt.
2-on-2's thoughts. More of a general observation that something specific to today: It seems as though 2-on-2's between the offensive and defensive line are even more valuable evaluation tools than 1-on-1's. The reason? The presence of two linemen on each side of the football adds additional landmarks for the play, and more accurately spaces out the players. It's rare for an offensive guard to isolate on a nose tackle with no moving bodies around him. Adding the extra linemen seems to help simulate more realistic game action.
Plays of the day. We'll hand out two. First, Donte' Stallworth extended in the end zone for a nice grab from a rifle of a throw from Ryan Mallett. Mallett seems to make a throw once a day, or at least every couple of days, that catches your eye. Consistency is his key. Second play of the day goes to Aaron Hernandez, who rose above Tavon Wilson and Steve Gregory for a sweet grab from Brady. Hernandez has been sharp in the seam.
Attendance Report. Receiver Jabar Gaffney was held out of practice after suffering what appeared to be a right quad injury yesterday. ... Players spotted rehabbing or watching practice were fullbacks Eric Kettani (calf?) and Spencer Larsen (unknown); tight end Daniel Fells (leg); offensive linemen Sebastian Vollmer (back), Kyle Hix (arm/shoulder) and Markus Zusevics (pectoral); defensive lineman Myron Pryor (shoulder); cornerback Alfonzo Dennard (hamstring); safety James Ihedigbo (unknown); and linebacker Tracy White. ... Players not spotted: tight ends Visanthe Shiancoe (hamstring) 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 defensive back Malcolm Williams (unknown).