Wednesday, July 31, 2013
Cleaning out the Patriots notebook
By Mike Reiss
Cleaning out the Patriots notebook with some random thoughts/observations that may have slipped through the cracks through the first five days of training camp:
1. Jamie Collins & the pass rush. Top draft pick Jamie Collins arrived from Southern Mississippi with a reputation as a versatile player from having played safety, off-the-line linebacker and defensive end over his college career. He's worked at linebacker in training camp and hasn't taken part in 1-on-1 pass-rush drills. Entering camp, I wondered if he might factor into the nickel rusher mix, but that hasn't manifested itself at this point.
2. Can't overlook special teams with Collins. The other area in which the Patriots are working Collins into the mix is special teams. I saw him on the top punt team and kickoff coverage units. With core special teamer Tracy White not re-signed, it's a reminder of the turnover on special teams and how a player like Collins will be asked to step in. Other players who have shown up from a special teams perspective early: Brandon Bolden, Tavon Wilson, Nate Ebner, Niko Koutouvides and Dane Fletcher.
3. Tim Tebow, the deep ball & contested catches. While he isn't a conventional drop-back pocket passer, Tim Tebow has been equal to the task of Tom Brady and Ryan Mallett when it comes to the deep ball along the sideline, throwing to the back shoulder, and giving the receiver a chance to make a contested catch. Tebow delivered a few gems in that area on Tuesday, as the receiver went up to make the catch.
4. Michael Hoomanawanui's sure hands. The tight end has made a few head-turning catches in 1-on-1 drills, mainly of the one-handed variety (in-stadium practice on Monday). For a player with 25 career catches over three seasons, it stood out. Throw the ball in a tight window toward Hoomanawanui, and he has some stick 'em on those hands.
5. Tavon Wilson & the safety position. Seems like there has been a clear cut-off when it comes to the starting safeties; it's been Devin McCourty and then veterans Steve Gregory and Adrian Wilson have rotated alongside him. Second-year man Tavon Wilson, who some might have viewed as a starting candidate, hasn't been as big of a part of that top-unit mix. Gregory has been around the ball.
6. Stephen Gostkowski and leg strength. Kicker Stephen Gostkowski, as we've grown accustomed to seeing over the last eight years, has been booming his kickoffs through the end zone.
7. Marcus Forston carries heavier load with DT shortage. Because the Patriots have a shortage at defensive tackle, and the repetitions in 1-on-1 drills are managed closely for starters Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly, it has created a heavier workload for former practice squad player Marcus Forston. For example, in Sunday's practice, Forston took seven reps in 1-on-1 rush drills (as a comparison, Wilfork had 3). Forston isn't a sudden penetrator, but seems to have a competitive mix of power and quickness. Some analysts believed he would have been drafted in 2012 if not for a knee injury at Miami.