FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Observations from the New England Patriots' eighth practice of training camp, which was held in full pads inside Gillette Stadium before a crowd of 22,886:
Backups get most of the work: In a night practice in front of Patriots season-ticket holders and Foxborough residents, the fans did not get to see much of the starters as the practice focused on backups. With the team heading to joint practices with the Washington Redskins Monday through Wednesday, the backups earned valuable repetitions, likely with Thursday’s preseason opener in mind. Joint practices should have a heavy focus on the starters working against the Redskins, whereas the game should have backups getting most of the action.
Plenty of special teams work: The special teams units worked extensively on punt coverage in the previous practice, but mostly shifted gears to kickoffs in Friday’s practice. Free kicks/safety kicks, onside kicks and more traditional kickoffs were all points of emphasis on special teams. Safety Patrick Chung and wide receiver Brandon LaFell returned some kickoffs.
Who’s winning one-on-ones? With the starters watching from the sidelines for the bulk of practice, reserve offensive and defensive linemen took the reps. Rookie defensive end Zach Moore (6-foot-6, 275 pounds) showed his potential with an impressive speed rush under the arms of rookie Cameron Fleming. He then followed it up with a powerful push to beat second-year offensive lineman Chris Barker while lining up on the other side. Second-year defensive lineman Marcus Forston (6-3, 305) had a couple of strong rushes by aggressively using his hands on Fleming and first-year offensive tackle Jordan Devey. Rookie Jon Halapio (6-2, 320) was the lone offensive lineman to hold his ground throughout the drill, as he utilized his wide frame to his advantage.
Ty Law and company back at Gillette Stadium: After cornerback Ty Law’s induction into the Patriots Hall of Fame, he and many of the former Patriots players in attendance at the ceremony watched practice from the sidelines. Bill Belichick and Tom Brady spent most of the practice catching up with Law, former safeties Lawyer Milloy and Rodney Harrison, former wide receiver Troy Brown and owner Robert Kraft. After the practice, Belichick said how nice it was to have the former players in attendance.
Cleaning out the notebook: Tight end Rob Gronkowski engaged in blocking drills with his fellow tight ends and appeared to be planting his legs stronger and driving with more force. ... Wide receiver Derrick Johnson dropped a few passes, including a nicely thrown ball by quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo on a slant route in the end zone. ... Defensive lineman Marcus Forston, who had an active practice, burst into the backfield during a running drill to break up the play. ... Coaches brought out racquets to make it tough for the quarterbacks to see while making throws. ... Cornerback Logan Ryan intercepted quarterback Ryan Mallett on a pass intended for tight end D.J. Williams. ... Zach Moore brought the pressure throughout practice, especially when he collapsed the pocket on Garoppolo to force an overthrow on a ball intended for running back Stephen Houston. ... Mallett, who is not known for his running skills, managed to escape pressure and roll out for a touchdown scamper during 11-on-11s. ... Running back Stevan Ridley made a slick one-handed catch on a deep pass down the sideline during an unmanned drill. ... Houston showed good vision as he split a small gap between the guard and tackle on the left side in 11-on-11s. ... Linebacker Taylor McCuller, who is taking some reps at fullback, caught a touchdown on the goal line from Mallett. ... Punter Ryan Allen booted a punt that stopped on a dime perfectly inside the 5-yard-line. ... Wide receivers Julian Edelman and Cole Stanford, running back Brandon Bolden, tight end Justin Jones and D.J. Williams all had drops. ... Defensive lineman Sealver Siliga blew up a run play in 11-on-11s. ... Rookie cornerback Malcolm Butler had a nice pass breakup against Derrick Johnson on a pass thrown by Garoppolo.
Who returned: None.
New absences: None.
Who else didn’t practice: Receiver Aaron Dobson (foot/PUP), center Bryan Stork (lower leg, left midway through fifth practice), linebackerDeontae Skinner (non-football-injury list), offensive tackle Chris Martin(non-football-injury list), defensive lineman Dominique Easley (non-football-injury list), receiver Jeremy Gallon (unknown/PUP), defensive back Jemea Thomas (unknown, only practiced Day 1), tight end Michael Hoomanawanui (unknown, participated in first four practices), linebacker Cameron Gordon (unknown, participated in first six practices).
Notable injuries/health-related incidents: Rookie running back Roy Finch was pushed out of bounds into teammates on the sideline. He collided with safety Kanorris Davis. Finch stayed down for a few moments and then tried to walk it off. Finch then headed to the locker room and did not return to practice.