Observations from Patriots camp: Day 4

July, 27, 2014
Jul 27
1:35
PM ET
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Observations from the New England Patriots' fourth practice of training camp, which was held in full pads and was cut about 10-15 minutes short because of heavy rains and the threat of lightning:

Legion of Boom moment with Browner: The play that had many buzzing came when cornerback Brandon Browner de-cleated rookie running back James White in an 11-on-11 running drill, with the crunching pads and thud of White hitting the deck audible to the 10,000-plus in attendance. Browner, who at 6-foot-4 and 221 pounds took pride in being part of the Seattle Seahawks’ “Legion of Boom” secondary, then looked to the sky and roared. On the play, White had attempted to bounce outside to the left side, where Browner was awaiting him with the strong run force. In a credit to White, he held on to the football.

Backup quarterbacks deliver a few gems: Ryan Mallett and Jimmy Garoppolo had two of the offensive highlights, both coming in 11-on-11 drills as they took the reps with Tom Brady getting a bit of a rest. Mallett delivered a beautiful deep ball down the left sideline to streaking receiver Josh Boyce, who had raced past Browner. It can be a challenge to get the ball over the rangy Browner, but Mallett dropped it in the bucket and Boyce caught it in stride for what would have been a touchdown. Prior to that play, Garoppolo had a sweet 15-yard pass to tight end D.J. Williams along the right sideline, arcing it over 6-foot-6 defensive end Michael Buchanan, who was in coverage. Great touch by Garoppolo.

Rookie TE Jones makes his presence felt: Undrafted tight end Justin Jones is an intriguing prospect at 6-foot-8 and 275 pounds, and undrafted linebacker Cameron Gordon (6-3, 240) had the difficult matchup of going up against him in 1-on-1 tackling drills. Jones, who later caught a touchdown from Garoppolo in goal-line drills, ran right over Gordon in an impressive effort.

Who’s winning 1-on-1s? There was one set of pass-rush drills in the practice, with a total of 15 repetitions. Defensive end Chandler Jones stayed on a hot streak and appeared to get the best of left tackle Nate Solder on the opening rep, with Vince Wilfork digging in and powering into left guard Logan Mankins and pushing him back on the next rep. That’s the type of rush we’ve been looking forward to seeing from Wilfork as he continues to gain comfort in coming back from a ruptured Achilles, as he showed some notable explosion from the lower-leg area. ... Center Ryan Wendell, scrappy as always, angled off defensive tackle Marcus Forston. ... There was a heavy collision between right tackle Sebastian Vollmer and veteran defensive end Will Smith that looked like a stalemate. ... Guard Josh Kline stayed hot by standing his ground against defensive tackle Joe Vellano, while rookie center Bryan Stork stood up Forston. We look forward to seeing how Stork (three strong reps in the drill over two days) fares against some higher-level competition. ... Some improvement from rookie right guard Jon Halapio, who had his best rep of camp (on L.T. Tuipulotu) before he was pushed back into the pocket by Sealver Siliga. ... One thing that caught the eye was third-year defensive end Jake Bequette using a nice spin move to record a victory over right tackle Cameron Fleming. Bequette, from our view, most often tries to win with a speed rush to the outside, so the spin was an effective change-up. ... Fleming later had what looked like a nice rep on defensive end Michael Buchanan, using a strong punch to push him out wide, likely behind where the quarterback would have dropped. ... Guard Dan Connolly (against Chris Jones) and reserve offensive linemen Jordan Devey (over Eathyn Manumaleuna), Braxston Cave (over Tuipulotu) and Chris Barker (over Zach Moore) all held their ground on a day in which the offensive line was better than it was Saturday.

Punt returns the focus on special teams: A specific segment of special teams is worked on in each practice, and today was punt return. Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola and Roy Finch were the returners. It seemed like a good day for second-year punter Ryan Allen, who was crushing the ball (the wind might have helped a bit).

Offense does well on the goal line: While the defense has had the upper hand at practice, which is often the case for most NFL teams at this time, the Patriots’ offense fared well in end-of-practice goal-line drills. We counted three touchdowns (two passing, one running) in four attempts, the lone stop coming when undrafted running back Stephen Houston (Indiana) was stopped short of the goal line on a run to the left side.

Cleaning out the notebook: Tight end Michael Hoomanawanui and rookie linebacker Taylor McCuller got into a minor shoving match at the end of a tackling drill, with Hoomanawanui taking exception to McCuller’s overly aggressive approach after the play was over. ... Penalty laps were taken by linebackers Steve Beauharnais and Cameron Gordon (for offsides), as well as Garoppolo and Stork (fumbled snap). ... Reserve offensive lineman Chris Barker, who was on the 53-man roster throughout last season and is competing for a roster spot this year, got some repetitions at left tackle. ... Receiver Brandon LaFell, whose inconsistent hands have drawn notice, had a one-handed catch while working on pass routes (no defense). Undrafted Wilson Van Hooser also had a nice one-handed catch (followed up by a drop). ... Kenbrell Thompkins had another dropped pass after dropping two on Saturday. ... Bill Belichick spent a portion of the practice speaking with assistant to the coaching staff Michael Lombardi, who has been a consistent presence at practice. ... Running back Brandon Bolden and Garoppolo had a miscommunication on a handoff in half-line running drills, and Bolden also had the ball ripped away from him at one point in ball-stripping drills. ... In a light moment during warm-up stretching and running, Wilfork tugged on the back of Tom Brady's jersey to give Mallett a head start as Brady and Mallett continued a playful competition on who is the fastest quarterback. ... There was a play clock on the field for the first time. ... Cornerback Malcolm Butler intercepted Mallett, who was looking for Van Hooser. ... With heavy rain ending practice early, many of the receivers stayed behind to work on catching wet footballs. ... The Patriots had cranked up some music during parts of the practice, which raised the energy level and stressed the communication on offense.

Who returned: The only new players at practice were receivers Cole Stanford (No. 14) and Brian Tyms (No. 84), who were signed Sunday. To make room on the roster, the Patriots waived injured receiver Greg Orton.

New absences: None.

Who else didn’t practice: Receiver Aaron Dobson (foot/PUP), special teams captain Matthew Slater (unknown/PUP), linebacker Deontae Skinner (non-football injury list), cornerback Alfonzo Dennard (shoulder/PUP), 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) and cornerback Daxton Swanson (practiced the first two days).

Notable injuries/health-related incidents: Thompkins, who required some attention late in Saturday’s practice, participated in full and didn’t appear to have any issues. ... Hoomanawanui walked off with members of the athletic training staff after the practice, but it didn’t seem to be anything too serious.

Who’s talking with the media: Edelman, running back Stevan Ridley and fullback James Develin were players drawing the largest media crowds, with Ridley conducting his interview while seated. Safeties Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung and rookies Jon Halapio and Justin Jones also drew some attention. The interviews took place in a tunnel underneath Gillette Stadium because of the rain.

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

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