By: Steve Balestrieri
The New England Patriots conducted practice on Tuesday afternoon on the upper practice field in Foxboro from 1:30 – 4:00 under overcast, muggy skies with a bit of rain thrown in for good measure. Nothing like yesterday’s deluge, just enough to make things sticky.
The Patriots practiced in shorts and shells, so it was a far cry from the spirited, physical practice from Monday. The team seemed to be working on getting the players who will get the majority of snaps in Thursday’s night game against the Jaguars, the majority of the work.
In the early work, Brian Hoyer took the majority of the snaps and tried to find WR Jeremy Ross and TE Will Yeatman on a few pass plays.
With Albert Haynesworth and Brandon Spikes again missing the workout, a lot of backups got some reps. Andre Carter got in just a couple of snaps during 11 on 11 work. Mike Wright also missed his fourth straight session. Also missing (although not complete) was Dan Conolly who was injured yesterday, Kevin Faulk, Shane Vereen, Brandon Tate, James Sanders, Ron Brace, Brandon Deaderick, Ras-I Dowling and Marcus Cannon. Rob Gronkowski missed the session after going down in yesterday’s practice.
With Gronk sidelined, Aaron Hernandez had perhaps his best day at training camp. Coming off of hip surgery, it could just be that they’ve been cautious with the second year tight end. He hasn’t had the burst or the speed yet, but today he was a force, especially in the red zone drills making a couple of catches in the end zone and generally owning the field as he did last regular season. A very positive sign. Lee Smith also made his presence felt in red zone drills with a nice catch over a defensive back in the back of the end zone.
The Patriots also started practice with their traditional “Rookie Bath” where the fire hoses were turned on, soaking the field and the rookies sliding across the field going after a supposed fumbled football. The players all got into it, it is always a Tom Brady favorite, and although our visibility on that portion of the field was limited, it seemed to get the desired effect.
DE Carter and assistant coaches have been the first on the field working on some of his pass rushing moves. He came out with Landon Cohen who went to hit the blocking sled on his own before practice.
The answer to the $64 dollar question everyone is asking is, “Yes, they are still practicing in four man fronts with Jermaine Cunningham and Eric Moore as the first unit with Mark Anderson being the first in as a replacement. Not much can be gleamed from these less intense sessions. But the team did work on disguising their looks at times dropping Moore back into coverage for passes out in the flat.
For special teams, Zoltan Mesko has looked solid all camp, with virtually none of the shanked punts that haunted him in camp last year. Rookie K Chris Koepplin kicked pretty well. That is until the coaches soaked the ball, then a bad snap resulted in his next attempt being blocked.
With Tate out, Taylor Price is getting more and more reps and seems to be much more in tune with the offense than he was at this point last year. If the season started today, I think he’d take Tate’s position in the wide receiver slot. He still struggles a bit in the return game so this will bear watching.
Jeff Tarpinian seems to be solidifying a slot for himself as he is getting reps with the first team in the kicking game consistently. I don’t know whether Rookie UDFA LB Christian Cox is doing anything to impress the coaches, but he is impossible to take your eyes off during drills. He sports some of the wildest red high top cleats that you will ever see.
Tomorrow’s practice is scheduled for 10 a.m. inside Gillette Stadium and is open to the public. It is expected to be a walk through for the Jaguars game on Thursday night.
Stay tuned to Pats Pub for further training camp updates and breaking news.
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