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Observations from 7th practice

8/2/2013

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The Patriots finished their seventh day of on-field work during training camp on Friday, which was also the fifth straight practice that they have donned full pads.

Below are observations from the two-hour and 15-minute session, with follow-up notes from one-on-one pass rush drills to come from Mike Reiss.

1. As head coach Bill Belichick mentioned in pre-practice remarks, Friday was a day to focus on more team concepts rather than individual aspects, including tempo and situational work. With that in mind, the practice was fast-paced and many of the team drills were at a move-the-field tempo in which Belichick determined the down-and-distance for each play on the fly. That aids in simulating game action for the players. Another wrinkle for practice was the presence of music throughout almost the full session. With a road game seven days away, the Patriots are gearing up for crowd noise.

2. Devin McCourty spent another day working at cornerback from time-to-time, which could be tied into the team's relative lack of depth at the position right now. Ras-I Dowling missed practice, while Alfonzo Dennard was limited. Though McCourty will almost assuredly work as a safety this season, he can help even out the workload among cornerbacks by taking snaps there during drills.

3. For those who have been unable to make it out for a practice, there are a handful of players who are routinely among the first on the field: the specialists (punters, kicker, long snapper), which is to be expected as each practice opens with a special-teams walk-through period, as well as quarterback Tim Tebow, safety Kanorris Davis, running back Leon Washington and defensive end/outside linebacker Marcus Benard.

4. The Patriots worked on some special situations on Thursday, and continued to do so on Friday. One of the notable early situations was an end-of-game field goal, practicing taking one last offensive snap before hurrying the field-goal unit on in time for a last-second kick.

5. Among the special guests in attendance today were Boston College men's hockey coach Jerry York and athletic director Brad Bates. Belichick and York have long shared an admiration for each other.

6. We saw the debut (at least that we can recall) of the half-line drill today, which is essentially a way to maximize efficiency for running game repetitions. The offensive line is cut in half, with a corresponding half defensive line and a linebacker challenging the offense. Having two separate groups allows for more rapid-fire action.

7. Danny Amendola's suddenness continues to stand out, allowing him to wiggle free from press coverage at the line of scrimmage. He has a compact but strong frame, which keeps bigger defenders from easily out-muscling him.

8. We saw more three-on-three passing drills today. That goes in line with the attention to more team situations rather than individual work. We also saw two-on-two work between both the receivers and defensive backs and offensive and defensive lines.

9. Julian Edelman has been strong in his return from a foot injury, putting in another productive day on Friday, but he was careless in fielding a bouncing punt that he had called for his teammates to get away from. In a situation like that, it's better to let the opposing team receive a good bounce rather than try to handle a tough punt, something Edelman is well aware of.

10. Nice work on a plus-50 punt (a punt where the line of scrimmage is in an opponent's territory) by Zoltan Mesko. Mesko arced a directional kick toward the front left pylon, which was beautifully downed by rookie cornerback Logan Ryan, who has seen work as a gunner, at about the 1-yard line. Ryan has stood out on special teams in recent days.

11. Play of the day goes to rookie receiver Aaron Dobson, who made an impressive adjustment on a ball thrown by Ryan Mallett, who took a pitch back from LeGarrette Blount on a flea-flicker. Dobson showed good field awareness to track the ball, identify where the defenders were and put himself in a position to make the catch.

12. Another day, another forced fumble for linebacker Jamie Collins. This time he got fullback Ben Bartholomew. This has been an area of strength for Collins in the early goings of camp.

13. Rookie receiver Kenbrell Thompkins has been a player we've watched closely in recent days, and he worked as a punt returner again on Friday. Another way to build value.

14. Speaking of building value, starting defensive end Rob Ninkovich worked as the reserve long snapper on the punt team today. He did the same last camp, and the Patriots are down to just one long snapper after releasing Mike Zupancic earlier today.

15. Defensive play of the day goes to cornerback Aqib Talib, who deftly undercut a route by Josh Boyce and snared a Tom Brady throw that he returned for a score. It looked like Talib may have tried to spike the ball and actually hit his thigh, briefly causing him to walk gingerly. All was good soon, as Talib was back a play later and impressively broke on a hitch route.

16. During the goal-line period of practice (toward the very end), defensive coordinator Matt Patricia was wearing a headset. Another way to counter the "crowd noise" from the music blaring over the speakers. The defense appeared to keep the offense out of the end zone on both running plays in the drill.