- Field Yates, ESPN Insider
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The Patriots and Buccaneers kicked off their week of joint practices with a full pads session on Tuesday afternoon outside of Gillette Stadium. The work was in many ways similar to the practices the Patriots conducted last week with the Eagles.
Below are some notes and observations from the opening workout between the two teams.
1. It wasn't the nearly-flawless performance that he opened up last week's joint practice with, but quarterback Tom Brady was locked in for much of Tuesday's practice, including a hot early stretch during 7-on-7 drills. The highlight of the opening 7-on-7 period was a laser to Danny Amendola on a throw that threaded between a safety and cornerback up the seam. Early in the practice, the Buccaneers secondary provided little resistance to Brady & Co., but they eventually tightened things up.
2. As was also the case last week in Philadelphia, there were NFL officials present for practice. Any time you can have a set of eyes to overview your practice and drills, that's a plus for the team. The refs were actively calling penalties throughout practice when they judged that one had occurred.
3. Not in a bad or good way, but it was interesting to notice the difference in how the two teams approached the early portions of practice when they were working separately. The field where the Buccaneers worked was a perhaps more animated atmosphere, with the team opening practice by congregating for a huddle that included a clapping routine before it. The Patriots stretching and individual position group drills were less colorful. The Bucs also have a huge coaching staff, something that stands out.
4. As they do each day, the Patriots got receiving work in for their running backs. After taking stock of the six backs on the roster, we'd rank them like this in terms of receiving ability: Shane Vereen, Leon Washington, Brandon Bolden, Stevan Ridley, LeGarrette Blount and George Winn. The top four are particularly comfortable handling the football in the receiving game, with Bolden getting the slight edge over Ridley due to route-running ability.
5. Speaking of Bolden, he remains a player of interest for us. He doesn't have any glaring deficiencies to his game, and we saw in small doses last season that he can be an effective runner. Whether or not he's shown the coaching staff enough since his suspension in the middle of last season to take carries away from Ridley and others is a big question entering the season. He appears to be behind Blount as things currently stand, but with as much talent as Bolden has, he should have a chance to earn some carries back with a strong rest of his preseason.
6. The teams worked all four phases of core special teams drills, and on a kickoff return by the Patriots, Bucs linebacker Jonathan Casillas ran right through an attempted block by rookie safety Duron Harmon. That one might have qualified as Harmon's "welcome to the NFL" moment.
7. Minor housekeeping note: unlike in Philadelphia when each team was split into two separate uniforms (blue and white for the Patriots), all members of the Patriots were in blue today (except the quarterbacks), while all of the Bucs were in white jerseys.
8. With Ras-I Dowling and Alfonzo Dennard essentially limited to being spectators during practice, Devin McCourty was once again worked into the cornerback rotation. Until the pair of injured cornerbacks returns, we'd expect this to remain the case.
9. The injuries at cornerback have also opened up more reps for players such as veteran Marquice Cole, who has stepped up admirably when called upon. Though not a player the team likely wants to rely on as a starter, Cole has been sharp in recent practices. As usual, he's also been good on special teams.
10. Play of the day was going to go to receiver Johnathan Haggerty for an impressive leaping catch during the early portion of 1-on-1 drills, but that changed when fellow wideout Kenbrell Thompkins corralled a pass from Brady around an opposing defender. The coverage was airtight and the throw from Brady wasn't perfect, but Thompkins showed tremendous tracking skills to reach around and secure the ball with one hand. It wasn't all perfect from Thompkins, however, as he later muffed a punt (which he managed to pick back up) during a punt return period.
11. The Bucs have a few players who are hard to miss on the field due to their imposing frames, led by receiver Vincent Jackson and safety Dashon Goldson. Jackson is a matchup nightmare for cornerbacks, while Goldson is the type of safety who makes wideouts think twice before coming across the middle.
12. Defensive lineman Armond Armstead, who recently had surgery to remove an infection and is on the non-football injury list, was spotted for the first time on the field on Tuesday. He was dressed in sweats and didn't partake in any drills, but his presence could be a sign that he's creeping closer to a return to action. The Patriots could use the depth along the interior of the defensive line.
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