Postcard From Camp, Day 3: Patriots in pads for physical practice
FOXBORO -- Every day from Patriots training camp, we'll be providing you news and observations from what occurred on the field with Bill Belichick's club. Day 3 of on-the-field work was the team's first day of work in pads. Here's what we saw...
* The Patriots had a few new absences on Saturday. Rookie receiver Malcolm Mitchell was not present, nor was rookie defensive lineman Vincent Valentine, who traveled to Nebraska for a friend's funeral. Running back Brandon Bolden was also a new absence.
Running back Dion Lewis (on the physically unable to perform list) was not present, though other players on PUP (Sebastian Vollmer, Tre' Jackson, Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman and Clay Harbor) were around as spectators. Defensive lineman Alan Branch (on the non-football injury list) was also not spotted. Nate Washington, who became ill at the end of the first day of practice of camp, did not participate for the second consecutive day, but he was present.
* Soon after the start of practice, offensive lineman Shaq Mason and running back DJ Foster went to a lower practice field for some conditioning.
* Guard Jonathan Cooper went down about an hour into practice during a drill where offensive linemen worked on finding their blocking assignments and hit other offensive linemen carrying foam pads. Trainers tended to what appeared to be his right foot. He walked slowly off the field with the help of the training staff. He was eventually carted off. According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Cooper is battling plantar fascia.
* The first contact drills of camp appeared to focus on the running game. While at one end of the field tight ends and fullback James Develin blocked defensive ends setting the edge, at the other end, corners tried to get by run-blocking receivers. Edge defender Chris Long put a good pop on tight end Bear Pascoe to start the drill.
* After a set of one-on-ones between receivers, corners and safeties, Tom Brady congratulated Aaron Dobson for an impressive grab. Chris Hogan went airborne to give Dobson a congratulatory bump, and Matthew Slater went out of his way to give both Dobson and Hogan a fist-bump.
* The first good collision of camp came when LeGarrette Blount took a handoff from Tom Brady and ran hard into Jamie Collins. Collins felt the brunt of the impact, but Blount fell down. One snap later, Dont'a Hightower filled a running lane and pushed rookie guard Joe Thuney back behind the line of scrimmage. Later, during the same drill, Long had another noticeable rep where he set a firm edge and ripped rookie tight end Steven Scheu to the ground.
* During a kickoff period, Brady and Garoppolo worked a side session with Rob Gronknowski, Martellus Bennett and Aaron Dobson. Nate Washington and Julian Edelman watched closely.
BRADY UNHAPPY AGAIN
* During a half-field period, Keshawn Martin had a perfectly-placed deep ball from Jimmy Garoppolo slip through his hands with Justin Coleman in coverage. Martin, who beat Coleman in a one-on-one drill earlier in the day, had a step on his defender but couldn't convert.
* Joe Thuney stood out as one of the top performers in one-on-ones between offensive linemen and defensive linemen. He appeared to win matchups with Malcom Brown, Frank Kearse and Trey Flowers. Fellow rookie lineman Ted Karras also held his own in that period.
* Rob Ninkovich looked quick in one-on-ones. Now in his 11th season, he ripped by Marcus Cannon twice relatively easily.
* During a non-competitive 7-on-7 hurry-up period, Brady had a pass deflected by a paddle. It was the second straight day Brady had a pass blocked by a ball boy, and he was audibly displeased. Fans may want to pull out the earmuffs next time that happens.
* Jacoby Brissett was picked off by Vinnie Sunseri later in that non-competitive 7-on-7 drill.
* During 11-on-11s, James Develin put a sound block on Dont'a Hightower to clear a hole for LeGarrette Blount.
* Garoppolo (who took the first reps), made a high throw to Chris Hogan that was dropped. Hogan said later that it was a pass he should have caught, and one that he probably didn't need to jump for. On that rep, Jabaal Sheard got around Marcus Cannon and would have put a hit on Garoppolo.
* Terrance Knighton showed good mobility down the line of scrimmage to put a thud on James White for no gain. He's more than just a space-eating tackle, he said following the session.
* Chris Harper, who had a good day catching the football on Friday, showed up as a blocker at one point Saturday. He sealed off Jordan Richards to open a running lane for Blount. Harper later beat Cyrus Jones over the middle for a diving catch on a Brady throw. Jones made what may be considered a rookie mistake, running by Harper without touching him down while Harper was on the turf. Harper alertly got up and ran for extra yardage. That may be a teaching point for the rookie second-round pick later in meetings.
* Cre'von LeBlanc came up with a nice pass breakup on a Jacoby Brissett pass to Harper.
* During the 11-on-11 period, Blount fumbled, and the ball was recovered by Ninkovich. Hard to tell who forced the fumble, but Blount was sent for a lap after his turnover.
* Perhaps the play of the day came on a well-thrown corner route from Brady to Gronkowski. The big tight end reached in the back corner of the end zone, reeled in the pass, and fell to the turf. Patrick Chung, perhaps the team's top defender of tight ends, was in coverage. Brady went out of his way to give Gronkowski an attaboy after the play, which had fans roaring.
* Malcolm Butler couldn't believe it when Hogan caught a touchdown in the back of the end zone. It looked like Butler had a hand on the ball as Hogan brought it in, but the Pro Bowl corner couldn't knock it out.
* Call it a draw between the offense and the defense during goal line work at the end of practice. Blount got in the end zone twice for offensive wins. Shea McLellin showed up with a run stuff on the goal line, and Long was held by tight end Bryce Williams on the final rep, giving the defense the win there, in my opinion.
* Jabaal Sheard beat Nate Solder around the edge.
* Joe Thuney appeared to hold up Malcom Brown for a narrow win.
* Markus Kuhn swam past David Andrews.
* Ted Karras stuffed Joe Vellano.
* Rob Ninkovich beat Marcus Cannon with quickness.
* Shea McClellin and LaAdrian Waddle matched up evenly.
* Chris Barker blocked Rufus Johnson on the interior.
* Terrance Knighton got the best of Kyler Kerbyson.
* Chris Long got by Cameron Fleming with relative ease.
* Trey Flowers used a quick change-of-direction move to get by Solder.
* Joe Thuney blocked Frank Kearse.
* Andrews got the best of Woodrow Hamilton.
* Karras stopped Johnson in his tracks.
* Ninkovich got by Cannon a second time.
* Solder ate up McClellin.
* Thuney walled off Flowers on the interior.
* Sheard got around Jon Halapio.
* Fleming appeared to get beat by Long, then held him.
* Johnson gets by Waddle.
* Karras blocked Grissom decisively.