Tuesday, July 30, 2013
Observations from fifth practice
By Field Yates
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Tuesday marked the Patriots' final practice before the first day off for players during training camp, as the team put on full pads for one last time before the miniature break.
Below is a recap of observations taken during the two-hour-plus session, with a further focus on the 1-on-1 pass rushing drills coming later from Mike Reiss.
Rookie Kenbrell Thompkins was one of the best performers at practice, making several nice grabs and running crisp routes.
1. After struggling in practice on Monday, his 25th birthday, rookie receiver Kenbrell Thompkins was arguably the best player on the field Tuesday, making several noteworthy grabs and showing precise route running. Thompkins both stretched the field vertically and impressed with his underneath route running. His ability to set up defenders in press coverage with nimble footwork at the line of scrimmage continues to stand out. Cornerback Aqib Talib recently lauded his ability to release off the line.
2. Tim Tebow had his best day of work in training camp, showing steady improvement from recent performances. He showed good arm strength and accuracy on throws down the field, and looks to be more decisive with each live rep. In addition, the team walked through some read option work early in practice, something Tebow's movement skills can be used in. From afar, it seems as if Tebow's work with offensive assistant coach Brian Daboll is paying early dividends.
3. With Dan Connolly working his way back from offseason shoulder surgery, there's been a steady dose of Marcus Cannon aligning with the top offensive line unit. Cannon left practice early today (reason unknown), opening the door for Tyronne Green to take extensive reps with the top five linemen. Green was signed as a free agent this offseason after starting his career with the Chargers, where he was a starter for 13 games in 2012.
4. With just 10 days until they take the field for their first preseason game, the Patriots appeared to turn their focus extensively to red zone and goal-line work today. Quarterback Tom Brady said on Monday that the team hadn't started work on those phases of the game yet, but it appears Tuesday was the day to get started. Receivers worked against defensive backs in 1-on-1 drills both in the high and low red zone areas.
5. Rookie defensive back Stephon Morris briefly pulled up after appearing to tweak his right hamstring, but he was back in practice later. It appears that the issue is insignificant.
6. We've often evaluated Danny Amendola in the construct of Wes Welker and how the two compare as players. On Tuesday, we saw Amendola haul in a long pass from Brady on a seam-stretching route. Though Welker was called upon to run vertical routes on occasion, he, of course, was at his best patrolling the slot. Amendola has the long-range speed to stress a defense down the field more. This particular throw and catch got Brady fired up.
7. Rookie linebacker Jamie Collins is, in our estimation, among the most fascinating defensive players to watch in camp. He seems to have the versatility to be used all over the formation, including as a stand-up strongside linebacker. Our early sense was he might be used more on the edge as a rusher, but it seems like the best approach is to wait and see his full skill set and how the team plans to use him. His size and movement skills aren't common.
8. The Patriots did a ball-security drill in which an offensive player carried two footballs across the width of the field with a pair of defenders attempting to dislodge them. Running back Stevan Ridley, who has had fumbling issues in the past, had one ball stripped. We'll continue to closely watch his ball handling throughout the preseason.
9. Play of the day goes to rookie tight end Zach Sudfeld, who hauled in a pass from Brady in the end zone on a third-and-1 play near the goal line. Sudfeld made the acrobatic catch with both Adrian Wilson and Jerod Mayo in coverage.