Postcard From Camp, Day 6: Happy Birthday, Brady
FOXBORO -- Every day from Patriots training camp, we bring you news and observations in our Postcard from Camp. Here's what we saw from Day 6 of camp practice on Wednesday, which also happened to be Tom Brady's 39th birthday.
* The Patriots receiver group was once again without a few veteran bodies. Chris Hogan missed practice for a second consecutive day of practice after injuring his shoulder on Sunday. Nate Washington, who has not practiced since the first day of camp, was present for the early part of the session, left the field during the warmup period and then returned. Keshawn Martin has not practiced since Saturday, and he was once again absent.
* Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman continue to be present for practices, but they did not participate.
* Offensive linemen Jonathan Cooper and Bryan Stork were not spotted. Both left during Saturday's practice after suffering injuries. Running back Donald Brown was also not spotted.
* Alan Branch (began camp on the non-football injury list) was present and in pads for the practice.
* Running back Dion Lewis (on the physically unable to perform list) was not present. He has not been spotted at any point since training camp began. Others on the PUP list -- Sebastian Vollmer, Clay Harbor and Tre' Jackson -- were spotted but did not participate. Linebacker Jonathan Freeny was on the field but did not participate.
* During half-line drills, the offensive line started strong, opening up a wide hole for LeGarrette Blount against the first-team defensive line. Two plays later, Marcus Cannon had a strong down block on Terrance Knighton to open a running lane.
* In that same period, Josh Kline saw some full-contact work for the first time during training camp. He saw reps at right guard on the first-team offensive line unit, in between Cannon and center David Andrews. Shaq Mason also participated in contact drills for the first time this summer. He played at right guard, primarily with the second-team offense next to center Ted Karras.
* Tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett lined up alongside each other during this run-heavy period. Edge defender Rufus Johnson didn't have much of a chance to pursue from the back side once Bennett sealed him off.
* On one of the final snaps of the period, DJ Foster found a hole on the right side that earned him a loud compliment and a high-five from running backs coach Ivan Fears. After a year of playing receiver at Arizona State, Foster hasn't seen much full contact work between the tackles recently.
* During a kickoff period, it seemed as though Stephen Gostkowski was lofting some of his kicks high and having them land near the goal line. Bill Belichick spoke earlier in the day about how the team has a plan for what it will do during kickoffs during the new touchback rules, and placing kicks on the goal line would seem to force returners to take it out of the end zone as opposed to taking a knee.
* Second-round rookie Cyrus Jones and undrafted rookie V'Angelo Bentley worked as kick returners. Jones and Bentley also worked as punt returners. Jones dropped one Ryan Allen punt that should have been caught.
* Devin Lucien dropped a pass during a drill where the offense was working on air. The rookie seventh-rounder may have lost the ball in the sun as he almost whiffed entirely on the football.
* On the defensive front, pieces continue to move. During one snap that caught our eye, the team had Jabaal Sheard and Chris Long on the edges, Ninkovich on the inside in a two-point stance, and Brown at defensive tackle in a three-point stance. With so many capable defensive ends on the team, it seems as though the Patriots are still committed to using them inside, particularly in obvious passing situations.
* About 90 minutes into the session, Patriots owner Robert Kraft arrived. He spoke to Jamie Collins briefly soon after he hit the field. Kraft also spoke to Brady at length during a special teams period.
* Early in the practice, the crowd sang happy birthday to Brady. He acknowledged the gesture with a wave.
* Some quick notes from the passing-game one-on-one period: Chris Harper made an impressive catch over Malcolm Butler that earned Harper a pat on the back from Butler; Malcolm Mitchell stopped on a dime to create separation from corner Justin Coleman on a stop-route; Brady had a tough four-throw stretch, missing Aaron Dobson, DeAndre Carter, Harper and Harper again on four consecutive attempts. The final attempt was picked off by Logan Ryan deep down the field.
* Some quick notes from the one-on-one period focused on pass-rush and pass-blocking: Josh Kline, in his first day of full contact, walled off Joe Vellano; David Andrews lost his helmet, but he kept himself in front of Markus Kuhn; Joe Thuney locked on to Malcom Brown and held his ground; Sheard was sent for a lap for jumping early against Nate Solder; Ninkovich was sent for a lap for jumping early against Marcus Cannon; Cameron Fleming blocked Chris Long; Shaq Mason stopped Anthony Johnson; Ted Karras and Terrance Knighton battled to a draw; Barker, who shares a birthday with Brady (Barker turned 26), stopped Rufus Johnson; Geneo Grissom got around LaAdrian Waddle with quickness; Trey Flowers bent around Keavon Milton; Andrews and Vincent Valentine seemed to get their feet tangled, leading to a draw; Frank Kearse and Kyler Kerbyson (both of whom wear No. 72) fought to a draw; Solder beat Sheard by walking him up the field and well past where the quarterback would be; Ninkovich lost his feet on a spin move, and Cannon smothered him; Grissom showed some flexibility to bend around Thuney; Hightower, working in with the ends and tackles, earned a win over Waddle.
* Some quick notes from the one-on-one period focused on run-blocking: Gronkowski sealed off Ninkovich; Bennett and McClellin locked horns for a competitive rep; Collins ate up Derby; Sheard beat Solder; Kuhn beat Kline to make a tackle; Brown shed Karras, but not in time to make the stop; Anthony Johnson shed Mason; Thuney latched onto Knighton to keep the ball-carrier clean; Waddle had a strong rep against Rufus Johnson; Ninkovich avenged his earlier loss to Gronkowski by getting by the tight end to make a tackle.
* Tom Brady went 2-for-5 in the 7-on-7 period. He hit on check-downs to James White and Brandon Bolden but missed on throws to White down the sidelines, Malcolm Mitchell and DeAndre Carter on a cross.
* Jimmy Garoppolo was 3-for-5 in the 7-on-7 period. He over-shot Aaron Dobson with Cyrus Jones in coverage, then hit Chris Harper for a difficult catch with EJ Biggers in coverage. Martellus Bennett had one attempt slip through his hands. Garoppolo's final attempt was a completion to Rob Gronkowski with Vinnie Sunseri on him.
* In the first 11-on-11 team period of the day, Brady went 2-for-4 with completions to Dobson and Mitchell. The catch by Mitchell stood out as the rookie third-rounder had to leave his feet to make the grab. Garoppolo took the field after Brady and went 1-for-3 on his attempts, completing a pass to Brandon Bolden. It looked as though Garoppolo might have completed another pass to DeAndre Carter but Cyrus Jones committed pass interference on the rep. Both quarterbacks saw six snaps during this period. Jacoby Brissett also received six snaps and went 3-for-4 on his attempts, completing two his fellow rookie Mitchell.
* In red-zone 11-on-11 work, Garoppolo was the first on the field. He made one of the more impressive throws of the day during this period, hitting Aaron Dobson in the back corner of the end zone with Malcolm Butler close in coverage. Garoppolo went 3-for-4 in the period, completing two of his attempts to Dobson and one to Carter with Logan Ryan in coverage.
* Brady went 3-for-6 in his red-zone attempts, hitting Carter, Dobson and Gronkowski for scores. The defense played well during Brady's snaps, forcing the quarterback to hold onto the football and leading to plays that might have resulted in sacks had Brady not been wearing a red non-contact jersey.
* The defense was the winner during 11-on-11 goal-line snaps, stuffing the offense on two of three snaps: Dont'a Hightower hit LeGarrette Blount before the goal line on the first snap; Blount scored thanks to blocks from Andrews and Thuney on the second snap; on the third snap, Tyler Gaffney was stuffed in the backfield by Darryl Roberts after the right side of the offensive line caved in soon after the snap.