By: Steve Balestrieri
The New England Patriots conducted their 13th practice of training camp in light shoulder pads (shells) and shorts on Monday, August 11, 2014 under sunny skies and temps hovering in the low 80s.
For the most part it was a very low-intensity workout, with little of the fireworks we’ve seen in other practice sessions. With the Eagles coming into Foxboro tomorrow for joint practices prior to their pre-season game, it was probably on the coach’s radar to do so.
MIAs: Ryan Mallett, Brandon Browner, Brian Stork, D.J. Williams, Michael Hoomanawanui, Jeremy Gallon, Kanoris Davis, Cameron Gordon and Ja’Gared Davis were amongst those who didn’t practice.
The big news of the day had to be the return of both Aaron Dobson (PUP) and Dominique Easley (NFI) to the squad for the first time in 2014. This was huge news for the team as Dobson is expected to make a big jump in 2014 as the outside or “X” wide receiver.
Easley was the Patriots first draft pick in 2014 NFL Draft and is expected to be a penetrating disruptor along the defensive line. Easley did take part in the walk-thru at the beginning of practice and then both took part in only in positional drills and worked with the training staff on the side for most of the session.
Rob Gronkowski wore a red, non-contact jersey today and took part in some 7-on-7 work for the first time. Today was another big step for the Pat’s big tight end who continues to work on the side with Tom Brady and Darrelle Revis at other times. But for Gronk, he looks like he will indeed be ready to go for the opener in Miami.
I watched the new tight ends today, (Ben Hartsock, Steve Maneri and Terrence Miller) and they’re still all trying to assimilate in the Patriots offense as quickly as possible. But none did anything to stand out today.
Malcolm Butler continues to impress: Butler, who made such an impression in Washington, had perhaps the play of the day. With Brandon Browner missing, Butler got some first team reps opposite Revis. Brady threw a rocket to the left sideline intended for Kenbrell Thompkins. Butler got a great break on the ball, knocked it up into the air and seemed to haul in the ball for an interception as he went to the ground.
He also made a nice play in positional drills, hauling in a deep pass in the back of the end zone. With the log-jam at cornerback, Butler remains on the outside looking in, but is going to make the decision a tough one if he continues to play like this.
Josh Boyce had a rough afternoon, failing to hold onto a few passes that were easily catchable. One bounced up high and was eventually picked off by Nate Ebner. Another pass may have hit his hands but was picked on a nice play by Jemea Thomas.
With Ryan Mallett out, Jimmy Garappolo got a lot of snaps today and had a decent day, most of his throws were accurate and he showcased his wheels on another play of the day when rolled out left and threw a bb to Brian Tyms who made a tiptoe catch along the sideline. Those two continue to work well together and bring to mind the team work of Tebow and Sims in 2013.
James White continues to impress in the passing game and Brandon LaFell is starting to gel with Brady. With Dobson returning, LaFell is looking to find a role and he’s hauling in many more passes coming his way now in week 3.
Julian Edelman made a beauty of a catch on a deep Brady bomb right down the middle of the field. But while the crowd loved it, there was a blatant push off by Edelman with one hand, while hauling in the ball with the other.
Bob Kraft was on hand and greeted some people in the crowd which was a bit of a surprise to see the Pats owner walking up the hill during practice.
Interesting to watch edge players Chandler Jones and Michael Buchanan take some reps with the linebackers in positional drills. And for what it is worth this early, the Patriots continue to tinker with their front, sometimes 4-3, sometimes a 3-4 or a 4-3 under but it has been intriguing to watch.
The Eagles joint practice begins at 2 p.m. on both Tuesday and Wednesday, we’ll be there to cover both so stay tuned to PatsFans.