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Observations from Patriots minicamp

6/11/2013

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- It was an eventful start to Patriots minicamp on Tuesday, as a swarm of media was in town for the arrival of new quarterback Tim Tebow. But, as Bill Belichick spoke about during his pre-practice press conference, Tuesday marked an important day for the entire team to continue its offseason improvement.

Below are our observations from the on-field session, which was held in helmets and shorts on the practice fields at Gillette Stadium:

1. Tebow in focus. To quickly address Tim Tebow's day of work, as there's abundant interest in his performance, we didn't see a ton today as he was officially signed roughly an hour before practice. He worked alongside Tom Brady and Ryan Mallett during individual and position-specific drills, but did not take part in the team drills (7 on 7, 11 on 11), save for a brief "opportunity period" at the conclusion of the session. The opportunity period is designed for younger/new players. Tebow's performance in the drills was in line with what we expected: he didn't throw with the same zip and accuracy as Brady and Mallett, but he did make some nice throws that displayed both touch and anticipation. Tebow is well-built and has short, choppy steps in his pocket movements. He has an elongated release, including a hitch at the top of his deliberate throwing motion. Overall, there was nothing that stood out in an overly positive or negative way; he'll be an intriguing player to watch when the pads come on at training camp.

2. Attendance notes. Four players were not spotted at practice on Tuesday: tight end Rob Gronkowski, wide receiver Julian Edelman, offensive lineman Nick McDonald and defensive lineman Marcus Forston. In addition, wide receiver Donald Jones worked on the stationary bike (he previously had not shown any limitations during OTA's). Tight end Aaron Hernandez continued to work on a limited basis, and a group of roughly a dozen players spent part of the practice working at the Patriots' indoor facility. That group included running backs Stevan Ridley and Brandon Bolden, as well as rookie receiver Aaron Dobson. Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, who went down at a recent OTA, was on the field, but spent most of the session working off to the sideline. He did not take part in team drills.

3. Spikes debuts. As expected, linebacker Brandon Spikes made his offseason debut for the Patriots, as he opted to skip OTA's while training elsewhere. Spikes was part of the group that went indoors for a portion of the session, but he eventually returned and did take some reps in team drills. As far as how he looked, it's still too soon to tell, but he told reporters that he feels "the best I've ever felt."

4. Tryout players on hand as well. Five players were on hand that were not listed on the roster; presumably they are trying out this week, something that is allowed during minicamp. No names are known of the tryout group, but there was a running back, wide receiver, offensive lineman, defensive lineman and linebacker in the group.

5. Good day for pair of wide receivers. A pair of receivers other than Danny Amendola (who was once again all over the field) caught our attention: undrafted rookie Kenbrell Thompkins and Lavelle Hawkins. Thompkins has excellent size (6-1,190) and he's aggressive at the point of the catch. He attacked downfield throws and beat defensive backs in competitive catch situations, including one reception over both Ras-I Dowling and Steve Gregory. Hawkins, who has previously been more of a slot presence, made a couple of nice catches outside of him frame, also showing strong field awareness to keep his feet in bounds.

6. Nice day for Ryan. Rookie cornerback Logan Ryan had a strong day, picking off a pass and breaking up another. The rap on Ryan based off of draft research was that he lacked top end speed. In watching him today, it felt as though he was always just fast enough to stick with whichever wide receiver he was covering. He has good length, too.

7. Wilson flies around. There was talk in Arizona that Adrian Wilson had shown signs of age during his last season with the team, but he was flying around on Tuesday. He broke up a pair of passes on throws across the middle of the field and picked off a pass that was thrown by a wide receiver. With his size, we know Wilson can and will be a factor against the run. His ability to defend the pass would be a nice boost for the secondary.

8. Some general notes. The quarterbacks worked on move-the-pocket throws early in practice. After taking a snap, they'd drop back, slide to one side or another and direct their receivers to open space. It looks nearly effortless for Mallett to make strong throws down the field. He's not lacking in that department... The offense worked on some move-the-field situations, and it also looked like there was a brief period dedicated to two-minute offense type situations... The punt and punt return teams were in focus for special teams today.

9. Brian Kelly in attendance. A special guest was on the field for the Patriots, as Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly (and another gentleman wearing Notre Dame apparel) took in the practice. Kelly, a native of Everett, Mass., enters his fourth season as the Notre Dame head coach. The Patriots have one player from Notre Dame, as they recent signed kicker David Ruffer.

10. Daboll aids in opportunity session. A thought on the role of assistant coach Brian Daboll: During opportunity periods, it's a plus to have someone like him around given his recent experience as a coordinator. Daboll, Dante Scarnecchia, Ivan Fears and Chad O'Shea were on the field for the opportunity period (while other offensive coaches focused on the veteran players on the other field), and Daboll is likely a valuable resource for communication with the quarterback.