Observations from Patriots camp: Day 2
July, 25, 2014
By Mike Reiss & Lee Schechter | ESPNBoston.com
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Observations from the New England Patriots' second practice of training camp, which was held in light shoulder pads and helmets, and under sunny skies:
Competition level rises as Arrington and Edelman spar: One example of the competition level rising at training camp came when cornerback Kyle Arrington and receiver Julian Edelman exchanged some forceful shoves after one play in 7-on-7 red-zone drills. They quickly separated before others got involved, and Arrington explained it this way: “At the end of the day, we’re teammates on Sunday. It’s just two competitive guys. Things get chippy every now and then, but everything stays on the field. We’re all best friends in the locker room; it’s like fighting with your sibling.” Arrington, by the way, had a few solid pass-breakups in practice -- one coming against Danny Amendola on the sideline as he “played through the pocket” and jarred the football out of Amendola’s hands.
Heavy focus on the red zone: One day after working on fade passes in practice, the Patriots continued to focus on the red zone in Friday’s session. This previews Saturday’s practice, which will be the first held in full pads, as the Patriots are expected to spend significant time in the red zone in their initial contact practice. Running back Shane Vereen caught three touchdown passes in Friday's session, and tight end Michael Hoomanawanui made a diving catch in the back right-hand corner of the end zone on a nice Tom Brady pass (Devin McCourty in coverage), receiver Kenbrell Thompkins made his second diving touchdown catch in two days (cornerback Malcolm Butler in coverage), and rookie tight end Justin Jones caught a laser from Ryan Mallett under the goal posts.
Belichick coaches up every player -- from 1 to 90: In his opening news conference, Bill Belichick talked about the specialization of the game and how coaching staffs have expanded. When asked if he missed the old days, Belichick said one of the nice parts of being the head coach is that he could pick and choose how to spend his time. One example of this came Friday when he provided individual instruction to third-year linebacker Darius Fleming in 7-on-7 drills. Fleming, a 2012 fifth-round draft choice of the 49ers out of Notre Dame who missed his first two seasons with ACL injuries, was working along with some lesser-experienced players on the roster. Thought this was a good example of how Belichick is hands-on with pretty much every player.
Penalty lap report: When Patriots players make a mental mistake in practice, they are required to run a lap by Belichick. This led to a somewhat humorous moment early in the session when left guard Logan Mankins was sent on a lap around the field and the crowd roared as he made his way to the bleachers. Garoppolo and running back Bolden later ran a lap together, and left tackle Nate Solder was also a lap-taker. The bleachers and hillside were once again packed, with hundreds lined up before the gates opened at 8:30 a.m. ET.
Punting game in focus: The Patriots worked on punt coverage in the special teams portion of practice. On the first day of training camp, the team focused on kickoff return. In an ode to former Boston Globe NFL writer Greg A. Bedard and former MassLive.com reporter Nick Underhill, who used to bring a stopwatch to practice, we got out ours to chart Allen’s hang time. Allen’s hang time ranged from 4.16 to 4.94. As part of the overall focus on the punting game, there was one individual drill in which kicker Stephen Gostkowski bounced a ball into the air and gunners had to high-point it at the goal-line. At the end of the drill, Gostkowski turned into a soccer player and rainbow kicked the ball. Amendola and running back Roy Finch were the punt returners today.
New absences: Defensive back Jemea Thomas, the sixth-round draft choice from Georgia Tech, was the lone new player not spotted. Thomas caught our eye in Thursday’s practice with his versatility to potentially play in the slot, something he also did in college.
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) and defensive tackle Tommy Kelly (knee/PUP).
Notable injuries/health-related incidents: First-year receiver Greg Orton was carted off the field about halfway through the session. As Orton remained on the ground, several players came over to him, as did Belichick. Orton was helped into the front seat of the cart and driven off.
Who's talking with the media: Gronkowski and Revis drew the largest crowds. Fleming, Hoomanawanui, Mankins, defensive end Chandler Jones, Arrington, and receivers Edelman and Thompkins also stopped in the media area for interviews.