Patriots Camp Report: Day 7

July, 30, 2014
Jul 30
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of New England Patriots training camp:
  • Cornerback Brandon Browner is practicing with a physical edge, and at one point, his hands-on approach riled up receivers coach Chad O'Shea. Browner's physicality was the main topic players were asked about after practice. "That's part of intimidation," linebacker Dont'a Hightower said. "He had that in Seattle and before that. That's his style of play. When you're a receiver and watching film, and you see him rag-dolling guys around and choking guys out at the line of scrimmage, that's intimidation. That's definitely a trait he's had and he's definitely using it."
  • Third-year cornerback Alfonzo Dennard met with reporters for the first time since coming off the physically unable to perform list (offseason shoulder surgery) and earlier serving a 35-day sentence in an adult detention center in Nebraska. Dennard deflected questions about his less-than-ideal offseason. "Moving forward," he said. "It’s all about football right now. I’m trying to provide for my family." Dennard, who is one of the top candidates to start at right cornerback when Brandon Browner is serving his season-opening four-game suspension, said he's "feeling better and better every day."
  • More progress for tight end Rob Gronkowski, who continues to push himself as he works his way back from a torn ACL. For the second straight day, Gronkowski was covered by cornerback Darrelle Revis as Tom Brady worked on red zone passing with him. Bill Belichick closely watched the three work while the rest of the team focused on special teams on the opposite field.
  • Some important developments are unfolding at center, as rookie Bryan Stork (fourth round, 105th overall) walked off the field with a member of the athletic training staff midway through Tuesday's practice and was absent for all of Wednesday's practice. It appears he's suffered some type of lower leg injury. Stork is expected to compete for a starting role, but in his absence, veteran Dan Connolly took the majority of reps Wednesday.
  • Nice to see former Patriots tight end Jermaine Wiggins, now working in the sports media, receive warm welcomes from Belichick and Brady, among others. Wiggins, who made big plays for the Patriots in the 2001 Super Bowl season, spent about 10 minutes speaking with Brady after practice, and the two shared an embrace at the end.

LB Jamie Collins gets job done in coverage

July, 30, 2014
Jul 30
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots' second-year linebacker Jamie Collins put on a show with his coverage skills in Wednesday's practice in full pads. The 6-foot-3, 250-pound Collins broke up two passes and shut down most every running back and tight end he matched up with during practice.

Despite his success in coverage, Collins remains focused on his overall development rather than his performance in one practice.

"It was OK, you know, there is always room for improvement," Collins said. "Just coming out here, hopefully I'll get better tomorrow."

Collins has already come a long way from his days at Southern Mississippi where he was a raw, jack-of-all-trades type of a player. Now he is settling in as an outside linebacker who specializes in coverage by using his long frame and agility.

"I hope it's another tool for us to win," Collins said. "All 11 guys need to help us and that's what we need to come out victorious. We all need to bring stuff to the table and hopefully I'm doing it."

Among Collins' notable plays Wednesday were a signature pass break-up on a Tom Brady pass to tight end D.J. Williams during 7-on-7 drills. He also prevented a touchdown by sticking with running back Shane Vereen from the line of scrimmage and forcing Vereen out of the end zone on a Brady pass in the right corner.

In addition to Collins' coverage skills, the Patriots linebackers have a variety of skill sets with Jerod Mayo quarterbacking the defense and Dont'a Hightower stopping the run and even rushing off the edge at times. Collins recognizes that this year's linebackers have potential to be something special, describing the trio and depth of the group as a "brotherhood."

Collins was asked what areas he'd like to focus on as training camp progresses.

"Just to play a little faster, man," he answered. "Just get the playbook down all the way down so I can just go out here and go all out."

Observations from Patriots camp: Day 7

July, 30, 2014
Jul 30
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Observations from the New England Patriots' sixth practice of training camp, held in full pads on another near-perfect morning:

Connolly steps in at center: With rookie Bryan Stork not participating in practice (he walked off with athletic trainers midway through Tuesday's session), it shined a brighter spotlight on the center position in practice. Veteran Dan Connolly, who had missed Tuesday's practice due to a personal matter, returned and took top repetitions at the position. That meant he was back in the spot where he started 14 games in 2011 (including playoffs) before being switched to right guard the following season. "My job my entire career has been kind of the utility guy -- go where the team needs me and I can just do whatever I can to make a job and help this team get better," Connolly said after practice.

Browner's physical play stands out: It was tough to take one's eyes off the 1-on-1 matchup between cornerback Brandon Browner and receiver Kenbrell Thompkins, mainly because Browner turned his physical play up a notch. It would have been interesting to see how many penalty flags would've been thrown had officials been present, as Browner toes the line. He said as much after practice, noting, "Let the chips fall where they may, you know that's my style of play, play aggressive. You don't want to cost your team any penalties but you let the officials do their job."

Who's winning 1-on-1s? There was one long pass-rush drill, with a total of 22 repetitions. After that, there was a 2-on-2 drill in which offensive linemen worked on passing off rushers. ... Defensive tackle Tommy Kelly had a decisive win over right guard Marcus Cannon, as Cannon failed to get his hands on him at the snap. Kelly later beat left guard Logan Mankins with some initial quickness as he appears to have come back nicely from a torn ACL that limited him to four games in 2013. ... Left tackle Nate Solder had two strong reps, holding his ground against Chandler Jones and Will Smith, but Jamie Collins powered into him with success on another rep. ... Right tackle Sebastian Vollmer stonewalled defensive end Rob Ninkovich but later had his hands full with Dont'a Hightower. ... Defensive tackle Sealver Siliga had two strong rushes to give center Dan Connolly and Cannon trouble. ... Rookie right guard Jon Halapio held his own against defensive tackle Joe Vellano, locking him out with his right arm, but defensive tackle Chris Jones beat him on his outside shoulder later in the drill. Halapio had a second rep against Jones and moved his feet to mirror him with success. ... Vellano had a decisive win over left guard Jordan Devey, beating him with quickness. ... Vince Wilfork continues to generate power in his rushes (against Logan Mankins and Connolly). ... Rookie right tackle Cameron Fleming was competitive against Ninkovich.

Kickoff coverage focus on special teams: A specific segment of special teams is worked on in each practice and today was kickoff coverage. With core special teamer Chris White not present, it opened the door for third-year linebacker Darius Fleming to take reps. It also caught the eye that second-year linebacker Steve Beauharnais seemed to factor a bit more into the special teams mix than we've seen in the past.

Cleaning out the notebook: Totaled up 10 dropped passes in the practice. ... For the second straight day, tight end Rob Gronkowski was covered by cornerback Darrelle Revis in a drill in which Tom Brady worked on end-zone routes with Gronkowski. Bill Belichick stayed to watch the three, while there was special teams work taking place on the opposite field. ... Interceptions for Brandon Browner and cornerback Justin Green. ... Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard spent most of the practice working off to the side and on conditioning. He looked a bit rusty, as one would expect. ... Linebacker Taylor McCuller worked as a fullback on the goal-line. ... A down marker and first-down stick were used on the sideline. ... Running back James White, who can be tough to locate behind big blockers, had a notable touchdown on the goal-line off the left side. ... Big hit delivered by linebacker Ja'Gared Davis on running back Stevan Ridley along the right sideline that planted Ridley on his backside. ... Vince Wilfork had a notable pressure in two-minute work. ... Receiver Brandon LaFell had a good set of reps in 1-on-1 drills, consistently beating his man. ... Rookie cornerback Malcolm Butler showed up with a few pass breakups. ... At the end of practice, Belichick had players go to the hill behind the fields for conditioning-based running. ... CBS News correspondent Armen Keteyian was a guest ... Music blared during practice, with Bruce Springsteen's "Glory Days" and "Mary's Place" among the highlights.

Who returned: Center Dan Connolly.

New absences: LB Chris White (unknown, participated in first five practices),WR Josh Boyce (leg/knee, participated in first five practices), C Bryan Stork (lower leg, left in middle of fifth practice).

Who else didn't practice: Receiver Aaron Dobson (foot/PUP), special teams captain Matthew Slater (unknown/PUP), linebacker Deontae 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), TE Michael Hoomanawanui (unknown, participated in first four practices).

Notable injuries/health-related incidents: None.

Who's talking with the media: Linebackers Dont'a Hightower, Jerod Mayo, Jamie Collins and Darius Fleming; safeties Devin McCourty and Duron Harmon; cornerbacks Brandon Browner, Logan Ryan and Alfonzo Dennard; receivers Kenbrell Thompkins and Danny Amendola; center/guard Dan Connolly, offensive tackles Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer; fullback James Develin, defensive ends Rob Ninkovich and Chandler Jones; and tight end D.J. Williams.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – When safety Rodney Harrison first came to the Patriots in 2003, he buzzed around the practice field and delivered some big hits on teammates. Such intensity was part of what made him great, but it also came close to putting some of his teammates at risk in practice.

Some of the same things we remember seeing back then have returned to Patriots practice, in the form of cornerback Brandon Browner.

The 6-foot-4, 221-pound Browner plays with a physical edge and he was mauling receiver Kenbrell Thompkins at the line of scrimmage throughout Wednesday’s practice, sometimes beyond the legal 5-yard limit. Then during the middle of practice in one-on-one drills, Browner’s physical play reached a point that receivers coach Chad O’Shea fired his hat into the ground and the two exchanged some words, with Browner needing to be restrained.

After practice, Browner didn’t want to get into the fiery exchange with O’Shea.

“Me and him hugged it out,” he said. “As a coach, I have to respect him, but that’s nothing I want to talk about or put on TV like that because I respect him.”

Browner was more willing to speak about what unfolded throughout the practice and how he made a concerted effort to play with an edge at the line of scrimmage.

“It was a physical one, man. We had to compete out there. I’m tired of giving up balls, so I just turned it up a little bit,” he said.

That made the Browner-Thompkins matchup one of the most notable things to come out of practice. They went at it multiple times, with some extra pushing and shoving at times.

“It’s part of the game. There will be fights. There will be scuffles. But at the end of the day, we’re all close friends and teammates,” Thompkins said. “We’re just trying to make each other better.”

Browner was complimentary of Thompkins.

“KT’s got routes at the line of scrimmage that are unmatchable,” he said. “Some guys aren’t as quick as that dude, so it’s been competitive going against that guy. And it’s only going to make me better."

Browner, practicing like Harrison once did, seemed to get the better of the matchup on Wednesday, while picking up what would have been a few penalties along the way.

“Yesterday we gave up a few balls and let some of those guys off the line a little easy,” Browner said. “So that was my mentality going into this practice, to win my one-on-one matchups.

“You give those guys too many balls, they’re going to get confident. You want to take away a little of that confidence and give confidence to yourself.”

Rookie center Bryan Stork sidelined

July, 30, 2014
Jul 30
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The New England Patriots are holding their sixth practice of training camp Wednesday morning, and rookie center Bryan Stork is not present.

Stork, the fourth-round pick out of Florida State, is competing for a starting job with incumbent Ryan Wendell and veteran Dan Connolly. He appeared to suffer a lower-leg injury midway through Tuesday’s practice and walked off with members of the athletic training staff and did not return.

[+] EnlargeBryan Stork
Jim Rogash/Getty ImagesRookie Bryan Stork is competing for the starting center job with Ryan Wendell and Dan Connolly.
A potential extended absence from Stork (6-foot-4, 310) in training camp could significantly alter the competition at center, which is one the team’s most important position battles in camp.

Speaking in general terms in his Wednesday morning news conference, Bill Belichick touched on how missed practice time in training camp can be extremely tough for young players to recover from.

“With the limited number of practices we have now, relative to what we had in the 80s when I was with the Giants -- we were in the 50s number of practices before the first game -- now we’re at half that, maybe a little less,” Belichick said. “So if a player with no experience isn’t able to participate and misses two weeks, 5, 6, 8, 10 practices whatever it is, that’s like missing half of training camp. It’s a lot of ground to make up.”

With Stork not on the field, Wendell (6-2, 300), Connolly (6-4, 305) and first-year player Braxston Cave (6-3, 305) will likely take the bulk of the center repetitions.

A few other notes and sound bites from Belichick and the Patriots:

  • Belichick called this the “grinding through camp” period for the team. He is attempting to create stress for the players, which is part of establishing a strong foundation for any team, and that is reflected in how Wednesday’s practice is once again being held in full pads.
  • Asked about former Brown University fullback James Develin by a Providence-based television station, Belichick compared his role to a relief pitcher in baseball. You never quite know going into a game what situation he might be used, but he fills a valuable role. Belichick also mentioned Develin’s impressive 1-yard touchdown run against the Texans last season in which he broke four tackles in a remarkable effort.
  • Receiver Josh Boyce, who reporters spotted walking off the field Tuesday with a limp, is not present at practice this morning. Linebacker Chris White is also a new absence.

Catching up with Ty Law

July, 30, 2014
Jul 30
New England Patriots reporter Mike Reiss sits down with the newest player elected to the Patriots Hall of Fame, Ty Law.

Wake-up call: Patriots camp Day 7

July, 30, 2014
Jul 30
Every day of the New England Patriots training camp, we'll have a wake-up call that previews the day ahead.

9:15 a.m. ET -- Bill Belichick news conference
9:45 a.m. ET -- Practice
approx. 12 p.m. ET -- Player interviews

This is the sixth overall practice of training camp. The Patriots have had two practices in light shoulder pads and helmets and three in full pads. There was one day off.

Here are a few storylines we'll be following today:

1. Rookie center Bryan Stork, who left Tuesday's practice midway through and didn't return, and if he is on the field with his teammates.

2. With Michael Hoomanawanui not practicing, valuable team-based opportunities for D.J. Williams, Justin Jones and Asa Watson.

3. With Marcus Cannon getting his first work at right guard, assessing if that is the best fit for him or if it's tackle.

4. Logan Ryan vs. Kyle Arrington's competition for the top duties in the slot, with Ryan getting the majority of snaps Tuesday.

Patriots Camp Report: Day 6

July, 29, 2014
Jul 29
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of New England Patriots training camp:
  • Tight end Rob Gronkowski continues to work only in individual drills, and one of those drills today came as he caught passes from quarterback Tom Brady while being covered by cornerback Darrelle Revis at a walkthrough-type pace. "It’s good to get that work in. It’s good to have him around you so you know what it’s like to have a defender right up on you for when you go full speed," Gronkowski said after practice. Brady, Revis and Gronkowski -- that's a terrific trio that in many ways holds the keys to the team's high hopes in 2014.
  • As is often the case in training camp, injuries and absences are starting to accumulate. Most notable was rookie center Bryan Stork leaving Tuesday's practice midway through with a member of the athletic training staff. Stork, the team's fourth-round draft choice from Florida State, walked to the locker room under his own power. A potential extended absence could represent a turning point in the highly-anticipated competition at center with incumbent Ryan Wendell, which is one of the Patriots' top positional battles in camp.
  • Receiver Julian Edelman put on a show with a one-handed/one-arm highlight reel catch on a fade pass in the end zone, and maybe that explains why he was all smiles after practice. Seems like a good time to point out that Edelman, who led the team with 105 catches in 2013, has put together a strong camp as Tom Brady's go-to guy.
  • In a variation of a live tackling Oklahoma drill (ball-carrier vs. defender in a confined space), safety Devin McCourty delivered one of the defensive plays of the day by forcefully ripping the ball out of the grasp of rookie running back Roy Finch. The play reflected what a significant portion of the practice was all about -- the fundamentals of tackling, continuing to get players acclimated to contact, and the defense practicing with an edge.
  • With cornerback Alfonzo Dennard being actived off the physically-unable-to-perform list, the Patriots' secondary continues to take shape. Dennard, who underwent offseason shoulder surgery, participated mostly in individual drills on Tuesday. He is a top candidate to start in place of Brandon Browner while Browner serves his season-opening four-game suspension, along with second-year player Logan Ryan, who took extended reps as the top nickel corner in this practice.

Tommy Kelly thrilled with return to field

July, 29, 2014
Jul 29
FOXBOROUGH, MASS. -- Veteran Patriots defensive tackle Tommy Kelly donned full pads for the first time on Tuesday, marking yet another step in the process of returning from a torn right ACL suffered a season ago.

 And while Kelly was very cognizant that the “process” still had a long way to go -- he didn’t participate in any contact drills -- strapping on the pads and taking reps with the first-team defense was a welcomed sight for the 33-year old.

“It felt wonderful, absolutely wonderful,” Kelly said. “I’ve been itching to get back on the field so it felt real good baby, real good.”

The 6-foot-6, 310-pound Kelly initially began camp on the physically-unable-to-perform list but was removed on July 26. He’s slowly easing into a more rigorous schedule, but referenced on numerous occasions that the coaching staff had a process and a plan in place for him and indicated his rehab has been a positive experience.

“At the end of the day, [the coaching staff] is looking out for your best interest,” he said. “I’m a veteran, I want to get out on the field, I’m the type of guy that I can’t roll out of bed and my game is going to be great. I gotta go out there every day and work on my hands, work on my get-out, work on my explosions, read my keys. I’m the type of guy that loves practice.”

 If Kelly has any doubts on returning to the player he was a season ago, he didn’t show it on Tuesday. He spoke at length about having confidence in himself and noted how prior experience -- he originally tore the same ACL in 2007 -- prepared him for his rehabilitation process this time around.

“I’ve been down that dark road,” Kelly said. “I know how it feels and how you doubt yourself. But I also know that if you work your tail off every day, it’s going to come back ... come in here and work your butt off, and your knee is going to be fine.”

One of his goals is to quickly gain the trust back of both his teammates and the coaching staff so he can be relied upon to be an anchor on the defensive line.

“You don’t want anybody out there thinking you’re the weak link,” Kelly said. “And I’ve never been the weak link in my career, and I’m not going to start being a weak link.

“I’m not trying to come back and be the player I was. I’m trying to come back and be a better player than I was,” he continued. “Because this is a very hard team to make, so if you don’t go out and put it on the line every day you’re not going to be here, simple as that.”

Observations from Patriots camp: Day 6

July, 29, 2014
Jul 29
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Observations from the New England Patriots' fifth practice of training camp, which was held in full pads on a beautiful morning:

Potential shift in center competition: This could turn out to be a crucial turning point in the team’s competition at center, as rookie Bryan Stork (fourth round, Florida State) walked off with a member of the athletic training staff midway through the practice after the team had been working on a run-game drill. Stork did not participate in the rest of practice, leaving the majority of reps to incumbent Ryan Wendell. His status now becomes an important storyline to monitor as it relates to one of the top competitions on the roster.

Physicality is taken to a new level: This is the time of camp when Bill Belichick had traditionally attempted to create stress for players, as the physicality and intensity was ratcheted up and there was live tackling in a variation of the Oklahoma drill (ball carrier vs. defender in a confined space). Second-year linebacker Steve Beauharnais caught our eye in the drill with a good pop on tight end D.J. Williams, and he followed it up later in practice with a strong run fit on the goal line. Belichick has noted that a big part of training camp is working on fundamentals and this was a fundamental tackling drill type of day.

Cannon gets his work at right guard: With incumbent right guard Dan Connolly among those not spotted at practice, we had expected second-year player Josh Kline to slide into his spot based on the first four days of practice. But it was four-year veteran Marcus Cannon instead, which marked his first work at the position after spending the first 17 practices of the year (OTAs plus training camp) at both tackle spots.

Who’s winning one-on-ones? There were two sets of one-on-one pass-rush drills, with a total of 28 repetitions. Wendell, the starting center, had three very good reps, with his best coming against Vince Wilfork as he got under Wilfork and held his ground on a bull rush. A real good example of how an undersized player like Wendell can still win against bigger players with good technique. Wendell later held his ground against L.T. Tuipulotu and Eathyn Manumaleuna, but had a little struggle with Sealver Siliga, who slipped off his block to penetrate off Wendell’s right shoulder. Wendell’s extensive work tied to the theme of the day – a bit of a spotlight shined on the center position. … Siliga also gave backup Braxston Cave some fits. … Right tackle Sebastian Vollmer pancaked defensive end Rob Ninkovich when Ninkovich tried to come inside on him and might have lost his footing a bit. … Defensive tackle Tommy Kelly showed he still has life in his 33-year-old legs, aligning over guard Jon Halapio’s outside shoulder, delivering a strong initial thrust, and beating him to the outside. … Big collision with left guard Logan Mankins and defensive end Will Smith, with Mankins seemingly doing a nice job to push Smith out wide. Mankins later showed a nice combination of power and light feet to stymie rookie Zach Moore, rocking him back and then shuffling his feet as Moore attempted to disengage and rush inside. … Two solid reps for left tackle Nate Solder against defensive end Chandler Jones, the second of which he got his hands into Jones’ chest and locked him up. … Also two strong reps for third-year defensive end Jake Bequette, the second of which he beat Solder on an inside move. … When Cave and Kline seemed to get too high in their stance, Chris Jones (on Cave) and Smith (on Kline) made them pay. The 6-foot-3, 282-pound Smith is a power rusher and you can hear the pads pop when it’s his turn in the drill.

Kickoff returns the focus on special teams: A specific segment of special teams is worked on in each practice and today was kickoff return. Receiver Josh Boyce, running back Roy Finch and defensive back Travis Hawkins were the primary returners, working alongside Shane Vereen, Brandon LaFell and Derrick Johnson.

Cleaning out the notebook: Former Patriots offensive coordinator Charlie Weis, now head coach at Kansas, was present at practice, and after the session, he spent time with current offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and quarterback Tom Brady, among others. … Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Mark Buehrle and former Red Sox bench coach Demarlo Hale were guests at practice. … Belichick was feisty throughout the practice, at one point lambasting Smith for jumping offside before sending him on a penalty lap. … Defensive lineman Marcus Forston took some quality reps in the practice with some of the club’s returning starters. … Second-year cornerback Logan Ryan got the most extensive work in the slot, where we’d normally see Kyle Arrington. … Offensive highlights came with receiver Julian Edelman making a diving one-handed catch (Arrington pushing him in the process of making the catch) and LaFell hauling in a long bomb from Brady in double coverage (Nate Ebner, Malcolm Butler). … The deep ball was a focus in practice for the first time in camp. … Some trickery on offense, as the Patriots emptied out parts of their playbook. … Cornerback Darrelle Revis, switching from his neon cleats, had another notable pass breakup. … Revis shadowed tight end Rob Gronkowski in more of a one-on-one type setting while special teams work was the focus on the other field. Brady was at quarterback for the drill. … Hawkins and second-year cornerback Logan Ryan had interceptions. … No-huddle work was featured, with Vereen having quite a few footballs thrown in his direction.

Who returned: Cornerback Daxton Swanson -- he had missed the last two practices due to the death of his father. Also, as previously noted, cornerback Alfonzo Dennard came off the PUP list and he did individual drills and mostly one-on-one work with coaches.

New absences: G Dan Connolly (unknown), TE Michael Hoomanawanui (walked off with trainers at end of Sunday’s practice).

Who else didn’t practice: Receiver Aaron Dobson (foot/PUP), special-teams captain Matthew Slater (unknown/PUP), linebacker Deontae 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), Connolly, Hoomanawanui.

Notable injuries/health-related incidents: Stork, who left midway through the practice.

Who’s talking with the media: Defensive tackles Tommy Kelly and Sealver Siliga, tight end Rob Gronkowski, center Ryan Wendell, receivers Brandon LaFell and Julian Edelman, safety Duron Harmon, running backs Shane Vereen and Jonas Gray.

Weekly Patriots mail is delivered

July, 29, 2014
Jul 29
Every Tuesday on, questions from New England Patriots followers are answered as part of a weekly mailbag. This week's mailbag has been posted and includes some of the following topics:

1. Considering how quickly tight end Rob Gronkowski will be a full-time contributor and how much his knee will affect his performance.

2. Looking closer at the competition at center (Ryan Wendell vs. Bryan Stork) and right guard (Dan Connolly vs. Josh Kline).

3. Cornerback Brandon Browner and his potential impact.

4. Chandler Jones, Will Smith and the pass rush from the defensive end spot.

5. Have the Patriots done enough on offense?

6. Cornerback Kyle Arrington -- is he a weak link?

7. Tight end Zach Sudfeld keeps coming up in the discussion.

CB Alfonzo Dennard comes off PUP

July, 29, 2014
Jul 29
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – New England Patriots cornerback Alfonzo Dennard joined teammates at practice for the first time on Tuesday after opening camp on the active/physically-unable-to-perform list following offseason shoulder surgery.

Dennard’s presence highlights the solid depth the Patriots have at the position, with Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner, Kyle Arrington (slot), Logan Ryan and Dennard the top players.

The Patriots will be without Browner for the first four games of the season due to NFL suspension. Dennard, who has started 20 games (including playoffs) in his first two NFL seasons, is a top candidate to fill that void, as is Ryan, who started seven games last season and led the team with five interceptions.

Dennard’s on-field presence was the most notable news item from Patriots headquarters on Tuesday morning, as coach Bill Belichick held a news conference before practice.

A few notes from Belichick:
  • With a players off on Monday, Belichick said the coaching staff had a chance to catch up on planning-based things.
  • Third-down, two-minute and down-and-distance situations will be a big part of practice this week as the staff prepares the team for more game-like situations.
  • Belichick on claiming rookie running back Tyler Gaffney (sixth round, Panthers) off waivers: “He had a real good year last year, went to Stanford, and then was in baseball for a year. I think he’s a good all-around back that we want to work with. He was available and we’ll see how it works out.”
  • Asked about veteran defensive tackle Vince Wilfork and his recovery from a ruptured Achilles tendon, Belichick acknowledged there are “a lot of positive signs” before adding that no player or coach is where he needs to be at this point.
  • When asked about players working with others in the offseason, such as Tom Brady with throwing coach Tom House, Belichick said the organization supports those decisions. He lamented that the team’s own coaches don’t have more time with players.
  • Asked about the progression made by center Ryan Wendell over the years, Belichick lauded Wendell for coming as far as almost any player he could think of in his 40-year career. “When he first got here, he couldn’t even make our practice squad,” he said. Belichick sidestepped a question when asked if the arrow is still pointing up for Wendell, who dipped in 2013 after a strong 2012 season, adding that’s what training camp competition will determine for all players.
  • Belichick on first-year offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo: “He’s smart, well-prepared, and he has a good rapport with his players. He’s a good communicator, works hard. Has a good level of experience. I’m definitely pleased with the job he’s doing. … We all have a long way to go.”

James White: More than a 3rd down back

July, 29, 2014
Jul 29
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Bill Belichick's annual sit-down with Sirius XM NFL Radio usually enhances one's knowledge of the New England Patriots and this year was no different. Belichick was interviewed by co-hosts Jim Miller and Pat Kirwan, with the segment airing Monday, and the biggest takeaway was how public perception of rookie running back James White (4th round, Wisconsin) might differ from the internal view.

[+] EnlargeJames White
AP Images/Michael DwyerPatriots coach Bill Belichick says rookie running back James White will compete in "both the running game and the passing game."
Specifically, White has been labeled by some as more of a "passing back" in the mold of Kevin Faulk. But that doesn't mean he won't be part of the consideration in more traditional running situations as well.

"It’s been good working with James White. He’s a very interesting and versatile player," Belichick said on the program. "He does a good job in the passing game and in the running game -- both inside and outside. Blitz pickup -- we have a pretty extensive offense for him to learn, but he’s working hard at it. We’ll just let him go and see how it goes, but I think he has the ability to compete on all three downs, in both the running game and the passing game."

White is listed at 5-foot-10 and 205 pounds on the Patriots' roster, which might be slightly generous height-wise and puts him closer to the physical profile of Ravens running back Ray Rice (5-8, 206).

Traditionally, the Patriots' "lead" back has been a bit bigger than that, with Stevan Ridley (5-11, 220) the most recent example. LeGarrette Blount (6-0, 250) was the biggest of them all, and when he signed with the Steelers in free agency this offseason, it was easy to assume the Patriots would look for another big back to fill the void.

Instead, they went the smaller route with White, who gives the Patriots a potential different look in that he can sometimes be tough for defenders to locate behind bigger blockers. We've seen that early in training camp, such as the time White squirted through the right side with a strong burst, something he did often at Wisconsin in averaging 6-plus yards per carry.

So while White's pass-catching ability has been noted often in recent months, Belichick's remarks about him competing on "all three downs" remind us that White should also be part of the consideration when it comes to early-down running plays.

Wake-up call: Patriots camp Day 6

July, 29, 2014
Jul 29
Every day of the New England Patriots training camp, we'll have a wake-up call that previews the day ahead.

9:15 a.m. ET -- Bill Belichick news conference
9:45 a.m. ET -- Practice
approx. 12 p.m. ET -- Player interviews

This is the fifth overall practice of training camp, as players were off on Monday. The Patriots have had two practices in light shoulder pads and helmets and two in full pads, and now have four straight practices this week, plus a possible Saturday walkthrough, before traveling to Richmond, Virginia, for joint practices against Washington early next week.

Here are a few storylines we'll be following today:

1. The possibility of any players on the physically-unable-to-perform list or non-football-injury list to start practicing.

2. Bill Belichick's thoughts on claiming rookie running back Tyler Gaffney on waivers from Carolina.

3. Following up on tight end Michael Hoomanawanui, who might have been nicked up at the end of Sunday's practice.

4. If it's a full-pads practice, rookie center Bryan Stork possibly getting some reps against top defenders in one-on-one rush drills.