2012 Patriots Training Camp Observations
Patriots training camp kicked off Thursday. I had the pleasure of attending camp Saturday and Sunday. The following are my observations for the third and fourth days of Patriots training camp. It is a small sample size for sure, but this is what stood out.
–QB: Tom Brady looks spot on, especially his relationship with Brandon Lloyd who he finds often during drills. Yesterday he hit Lloyd on a 45-yard flea-flicker… Backup Brian Hoyer’s deep ball is not all that strong… Ryan Mallett fumbled a snap yesterday and proceeded to take a lap.
–RB: Stevan Ridley has been the exclusive first team running back. Tough to tell how he’s running as the backs continue their runs after initial contact, but he has been solid in the pass catch game… Shane Vereen fumbled a goal line carry on Saturday and did not really stand out (although I wanted him to)… Danny Woodhead looked solid for the most part, but a more embarrassing moment saw Jerod Mayo bulldoze him backward in pass protection drills.
–FB: If there is a competition for a fullback spot, Spencer Larsen is leading it and getting all the first team reps.
–WR: Brandon Lloyd is ready. He made a beautiful hands catch over Sterling Moore Saturday on a ball that was put up there for him and he hauled it in over the cornerback’s head… Wes Welker looked predictably crisp running his routes over the middle. He lined up almost exclusively in the slot… Jabar Gaffney appears to be way ahead of the rest of the receivers as he got most of the first team reps opposite Lloyd… Deion Branch subbed in for Gaffney at times, but it was interesting to see him fielding punts (with Welker and Edleman). Perhaps he will need to contribute on special teams to stick… Matthew Slater, who sees the occasional deep ball throughout the year, did not haul in either that came his way in practice (they normally don’t in games either).
–TE: Gronkowski dropped two balls yesterday. One in the endzone on a goal line play action and one on the left hash-mark on an out route. Probably no big deal. He also left practice Saturday but returned about 15 minutes later… Hernandez showed some nice hands a la Lloyd hauling in a nice catch. He did lose one ball.
–OL: Nate Solder looked rock solid typically holding his assignments down… Marcus Cannon at right tackle looked a tad more shaky… Robert Gallery was lining up at right guard for the missing Brian Waters and too looked shaky… Would be nice to have Mankins, Waters, and Vollmer back out there when the games start rolling around.
–DL: Vince Wilfork looks a bit more lean… The first team defensive ends were LDE Trevor Scott and RDE Rob Ninkovich… When Nink left practice on Sunday, rookie Chandler Jones subbed in and proceeded to use his length to knock down a screen pass attempt to Woodhead… Jermaine Cunningham, entering a make or break camp, is seeing a lot of second team reps… Rookie Jack Bequette appears to be in the fold too at LDE on the second team.
–LB: Dane Fletcher has seen most of the reps at middle linebacker with Brandon Spikes dressed but playing sparingly… Of note Jerod Mayo has stayed on the outside in this scenario… Dont’a Hightower is seeing all first team reps and is noticeably a massive human. He also drove fullback Eric Kettani backward in pass protection drill which knocked over RB coach Ivan Fears… Bobby Carpenter also saw first team snaps rotating with Hightower at times.
–CB: Devin McCourty had a nice breakup on a deep ball down the sideline to Lloyd on Sunday. He however did not turn around on the ball, instead throwing his arm up at the last minute… Ras-I Dowling subbed in during nickel formations which kicked Kyle Arrington into the slot… Sterling Moore looks like a distant fourth on the depth chart and was beat a couple of times.
–S: Patrick Chung had a few nice pass breakups over the middle on balls targeted for Gronk… Steven Gregory saw all first team reps next to Chung.
–ST: Kickoffs were the focus on Saturday and punts on Sunday… Interestingly, in a safety punt situation, it was Gostkowski who punted… Also during that drill the kickoff team lined up deep only to have coach Scott O’Brien scream to them what was going on… Patrick Chung saw work as kick returner on Saturday. Can’t see them risking injury there… Zoltan Mesko worked with a coach on the sideline catching “bad” snaps… Mesko also had a nice run up the far sideline on a fake punt the team ran… Julian Edleman appears to be the primary punt returner outside of field possession returns (inside their own 20), but he caught at least three balls off his chest. If there is no fair catch, he could get lit up and lose that ball before he secures it…
It was a fun few days at camp. It was just two days, but there was a lot to take in. Will be attending Wednesday night, so please let me know if there is anything you want me to hone in on.