Observations from Patriots camp: Day 22

August, 18, 2014
Aug 18
7:00
PM ET
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Observations from the New England Patriots' 16th practice of training camp, which was held in full pads and was the final practice open to the public:

Easley's quickness catches the eye: Rookie defensive lineman Dominique Easley's short-area quickness and explosion showed up in one-on-one and 2-on-2 pass-rush drills. He really turned it on, appearing to catch center Ryan Wendell off guard on his first rep. Easley lined up shaded over Wendell's left shoulder, crossed his face, and surged to the orange cone that would have been the quarterback. It all happened in a flash. The 6-foot-2, 290-pound Easley then teamed with Marcus Forston in 2-on-2 drills and penetrated off the outside shoulder of veteran Dan Connolly with some success. Finally, Easley finished with a flourish, with a dynamic spin move to shake free.

Autograph signing to signal end of camp: At the end of practice, coach Bill Belichick called all the players together and instructed all of them to sign autographs to signal the official end of open public practices. It was a nice touch.

Finch possibly hobbled: We'll keep an eye on rookie running back Roy Finch, who walked off at the end of practice with no shoe on his right foot and had a slight limp.

Big gains on the health front: Linebacker Jerod Mayo who missed the previous three practices and game against the Eagles was a full participant in practice. Rookie center Bryan Stork returned to practice and also suited up in full pads, although he spent most of his time working on his conditioning on the elliptical. Tight end Michael Hoomanawanui who suffered an injury July 27 when linebacker Taylor McCuller tossed him to the ground on a late hit, also returned. Hoomanawanui also spent a lot of his time working on conditioning. Wide receiver Jeremy Gallon joined the team for the first time and saw some action in positional drills before heading to the second field for rehab work.

Dobson participates in 11-on-11s: Second-year wide receiver Aaron Dobson, who has spent the offseason recovering from surgery for a stress fracture in his left foot, took part in 11-on-11 drills for the first time at training camp (one play we saw him collide with linebacker James Anderson). He also made a nice one-handed catch in a light drill against defensive backs and showed a strong effort on a sliding catch on a pass from quarterback Ryan Mallett.

Butler keeps making plays: Cornerback Malcolm Butler has become one of the surprise stories at Patriots camp and he carried the momentum into Monday’s practice. In a drill with eight defenders, Butler matched up with tight end Rob Gronkowski on the outside. Gronkowski had separation to make the catch, but Butler closed in quickly to strip the ball from Gronkowski. A few plays later in a different drill on a pass thrown by quarterback Tom Brady deep down the right sideline to Brian Tyms, Butler stuck with the bigger Tyms and showed impressive body control to turn in the air and haul in the interception.

Cleaning out the notebook: Tight end Rob Gronkowski keeps progressing as he participated in 11-on-11 team drills for the first time at training camp. ... Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo dropped a lob pass in down the sideline to fullback James Develin on a route that Garoppolo looks particularly comfortable with. ... Brady looked off the defense as he stared down Gronkowski over the middle and then delivered a beautiful pass deep on the right sidelines to running back Shane Vereen, who beat linebacker Chris White. ... Two strong rushes off the right defensive edge by linebacker Jamie Collins in 1-on-1 drills. ... Linebacker James Anderson showed his coverage skills as he picked up wide receiver Danny Amendola in the slot and stepped in front to make an interception on Brady. Collins hurried the pass with a strong pass rush. ... After Ryan Allen had a punt blocked during the Philadelphia Eagles game, the Patriots spent a lot of time on punt protection. ... Running back James White missed an assignment on one punt, which drew the wrath of special teams coach Scott O’Brien. ... Newly-acquired defensive tackles Ben Bass and Jerel Worthy participated in their first practices with the Patriots and worked separately on conditioning and technique. ... Tommy Kelly missed the start of practice and came running onto the field about halfway through. ... Offensive lineman Marcus Cannon would have drawn a holding call on defensive end Will Smith, who made a great move on Cannon’s inside shoulder. ... Quarterback Ryan Mallett underthrew a pass in half-speed 11-on-11s and cornerback Brandon Browner turned to make the pick. ... Cornerback Darrelle Revis shut down wide receiver Brandon LaFell on a fade route in the right corner of the end zone. ... Wide receivers Kenbrell Thompkins, Josh Boyce, Tyms and Derrick Johnson, tight end Steve Maneri and Vereen all had drops. ... Rookie offensive tackle Cameron Fleming took some reps at right guard. ... The ball was on the ground on a play in which Ryan Mallett was handing off to rookie James White. ... With rookie snapper Tyler Ott released on Sunday, the Patriots had Rob Ninkovich taking a few snaps behind Danny Aiken.

Who else returned: Safety Kanorris Davis, defensive back Tavon Wilson, and linebackers James Anderson and Ja'Gared Davis returned to full pads and full participation.

New absences: Offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer.

Who else didn’t practice: Offensive tackle Chris Martin (non-football-injury list), tight end D.J. Williams (right leg), linebacker Cameron Gordon (unknown, participated in first six practices), and defensive linemen Chris Jones and Sealver Siliga.

Who’s talking with the media: Tight end Rob Gronkowski; running backs Stevan Ridley and Jonas Gray; defensive tackles Ben Bass, Jerel Worthy and Dominique Easley; safety Patrick Chung; punter Ryan Allen; kicker Stephen Gostkowski; offensive lineman Jordan Devey; fullback James Develin and Hoomanawanui.

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

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