Patriots

Observations from Patriots OTA practice No. 2

Observations from Patriots OTA practice No. 2

FOXBORO -- The Patriots are officially one fifth of the way through their OTA practices for the spring of 2018, meaning it's early. Very early. So if there's plenty to clean up, and of course there is, that's to be expected. 

Here are some of the observations we came away with from Tuesday's session . . . 

* Maybe it was a subtle nod to the fact that two captains, Rob Gronkowski and Tom Brady, were still missing from workouts. Maybe it wasn't. But the face that Bill Belichick went out of his way to laud the leadership the team's received during spring work -- from players both young and (relatively) old -- seemed notable. Belichick is famously meticulous in his preparation, even when it comes to public relations. To bring up leadership in an opening statement at a press conference, at a time when two of his leaders have dominated headlines for their absence, didn't seem like a coincidence. 

* The workout seemed to be lacking a certain level of crispness with Brady missing. Again, it's early. Whether Brady and Gronkowski were on the field or not, there was going to be plenty to iron out for the Patriots offense. But the number of footballs rolling around on the ground after passing plays seemed to be unusual -- even for a spring workout. Having a future Hall of Fame quarterback to run the show in OTAs demands a certain level of focus, and provides a measure of intensity, that might've been lacking Tuesday. 

* Julian Edelman was not a full participant in the practice -- he didn't take part in 7-on-7 or 11-on-11 work and did rehab work on a lower field -- but he looked confident in the reps he received. His cuts seemed aggressive, and he showed real enthusiasm on what happened to be his 32nd birthday. Edelman was often one of the first in line, if not the first, for different periods . . . including special-teams periods when he fielded punts. If a patient's faith in his surgically-repaired knee is one of the last hurdles in the rehab process, it looked Edelman had already met and cleared the bar in that regard. He tore his ACL in a preseason game against the Lions last August and missed the 2017 season. 

* Speaking of punt returners: Riley McCarron, Braxton Berrios, Chris Hogan and Patrick Chung all lined up for a shot at a return at some point during the afternoon. Hogan muffed one. 

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* Malcolm Mitchell (who practiced on Monday), Dont'a Hightower, Trey Flowers, Joe Thuney, Jonathan Jones, Brandon Bolden and Cody Hollister were not spotted Tuesday. Flowers' availability bears watching. Derek Rivers and Adrian Clayborn saw a good deal of edge work with Flowers out. Marcus Cannon, Trent Brown, Isaiah Wynn, Nate Ebner, Marcus Cannon and Lawrence Guy all did some rehab work on a lower field. With three tackles among those still not 100 percent, Cole Croston and LaAdrian Waddle got plenty of work there. 

* The Patriots had visitors from the football programs at Mississippi State, LSU, Miami and Iowa at Gillette Stadium. Belichick has welcomed college programs in for a behind-the-scenes look at what goes on during OTAs before -- last year it was the Vanderbilt staff that got a peek -- but to have so many schools represented at one session was not something we've seen from Belichick (at least during OTAs open to the media) in recent years. Josh McDaniels' brother Ben, an offensive analyst at Michigan, according to MLive.com, was also keeping an eye on the practice. The Patriots have two rookies from Miami in Berrios and undrafted defensive lineman Trent Harris. Miami coach Mark Richt, whose last job was as head coach at Georgia, also recruited all five Georgia products who now happen to be Patriots. Iowa is the only other school on the Patriots roster that features five players.

* Former Arkansas coach Brett Bielema, whose staff got an OTA behind-the-scenes look at the Patriots in 2014, was in full Patriots gear and doing some coaching Tuesday. One of the areas he was involved with was on punt and punt-return plays. The Patriots have not yet announced a role for Bielema this season. He coached Arkansas products Trey Flowers, Deatrich Wise and Cody Hollister. Bielema also coached James White during his time at Wisconsin.

* Keion Crossen made what might've been the play of the day when he attacked a Brian Hoyer pass in the end zone for an interception. The seventh-round pick out of Western Carolina was in coverage on White on the play. Crossen's speed is what helped him get noticed at the Wake Forest pro day before this year's draft. But on a short field, his ball skills stood out. 

* Brian Flores wore the head set for the defense during team periods, an expected development for the linebackers coach who is presumed to be taking on defensive coordinator duties this season. The entire defensive staff did not let up on their linemen Tuesday as laps were handed out as punishment for anyone committing penalties. Danny Shelton, Geneo Grissom, Marquis Flowers and Adam Butler were all sent running at one point. 

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* A couple of notes from the receiver position, which might be the deepest on the roster at the moment: Cordarrelle Patterson's size and athleticism stand out, which he put on display when he boxed out a defender and easily plucked a pass out of the air in the end zone; Patterson's understanding of where to be and when still needs some refining, from what we saw Tuesday; Jordan Matthews got work as a gunner opposite Matthew Slater.

* Jerry Schuplinski continues to be the young quarterback whisperer. First it was Jimmy Garoppolo, then Jacoby Brissett. Now it's Danny Etling. Schuplinski, assistant quarterbacks coach, works closely with young quarterbacks in order to bring them along. Sometimes, as was the case Tuesday, that work includes going through mental exercises without a football in between periods of actually having to throw. 

* The team finished up its work with runs up the hills -- or the new Mount Belichick? -- to get in some extra conditioning. The Patriots will practice again on Thursday. The next session open to reporters will be the team's fifth practice on May 31. 

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No joint training camp for Patriots takes away scouting opportunities

No joint training camp for Patriots takes away scouting opportunities

When the Patriots announced their training camp dates last week, it carried all the standard information you'd expect: Camp kicks off on July 26 on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium; it's the 16th consecutive training camp at the Patriots facilities in Foxboro; practice sessions remain free and open to the public. 

What was not part of the announcement was when the Patriots might be getting together with another club for joint practice sessions. 

The Patriots have held joint practices with other teams every year since 2012 (in 2011 there were no joint sessions following the lockout), but it looks like that streak will be broken this year barring any unforeseen late changes to the schedule. Typically Bill Belichick's club has worked out with clubs it will take on in preseason contests No. 1 or 2. Sometimes, as they did last season, the Patriots will square off with both of their first two preseason opponents. 

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This year those two first Patriots opponents, both of which are traveling to Foxboro for the exhibition games, are the Redskins and Eagles. Washington has a unique partnership with the city of Richmond during training camp, which may have made a multi-day trip to New England difficult. Philadelphia, meanwhile, announced recently via coach Doug Pederson that it would not be participating in joint work this summer. 

"I don’t think it’s an every-year thing. Last year it was great for us. It was a great change up to go against Miami,” Pederson said. “Sometimes it just doesn’t work out. Teams are already booked, teams are already full or doing other things. For us, it’s just let’s get better as a team.”

For the Patriots, if there are no joint practices, that will mean a few things. 

First of all, it will mean the most competitive reps they take will likely have to come during preseason action. One of the reasons Belichick has been so in favor of joint sessions is because it gives players a chance to work against an unfamiliar opponent competitively, but in a relatively controlled environment. That's not the case during preseason action. The Patriots could hold competitive inter-squad scrimmages to help make up for the lack of joint-practice reps, but there's a reason the Patriots have gone out of their way to host an opponent or visit one in years past.

Second, no joint practices means the Patriots will lose a valuable scouting opportunity. Without a few days to work with another club, Belichick and his staff are down a few days of up-close-and-personal evaluation. 

Every time the Patriots have met another team in camp since 2010, they've later taken a chance on an opposing player they saw during those practices. That includes last year when the Patriots worked against the Texans and later brought both Eric Lee (via the Bills practice squad) and Riley McCarron into their locker room. (There's still time for the Patriots to add someone they saw while practicing against the Jaguars last year.)

If there's one tangible impact the lack of joint practice sessions could have on the Patriots, it could be to their roster. Those workouts aren't the be-all-end-all when it comes to scouting, but they clearly have value. 

Here's a full rundown of the Patriots joint-practice opponents who were eventually acquired by New England . . .

2017 vs. Texans: DE Eric Lee, signed off of Buffalo practice squad in 2017; WR Riley McCarron, signed to practice squad in 2017. 

2016 vs. Saints: WR Brandin Cooks, acquired in a trade in 2016.

2016 vs. Bears: TE Rob Housler, signed to a future contract in 2016.

2015 vs. Saints: DL Akiem Hicks, acquired in a trade in 2015; LB Ramon Humber, signed as a free agent in 2016; Cooks.

2014 vs. Redskins: DL Frank Kearse, signed as a free agent in 2016; CB EJ Biggers, signed as a free agent in 2016.

2014 vs. Eagles: CB Bradley Fletcher, signed as a free agent in 2015.

2013 vs. Buccaneers: LB Jonathan Casillas, acquired in a trade in 2014; TE Tim Wright, acquired in a trade in 2014.

2013 vs. Eagles: S Patrick Chung, signed as a free agent in 2014; WR Damaris Johnson, claimed on waivers from Houston in 2015; CB Bradley Fletcher, signed as a free agent in 2015.

2012 vs. Saints: RB Travaris Cadet, signed as a free agent in 2015; Casillas; LB Ramon Humber, signed as a free agent in 2016;  DL Akiem Hicks, acquired in a trade in 2015.

2012 vs. Buccaneers: RB LeGarrette Blount, acquired in a trade in 2013; CB Aqib Talib, acquired in a trade in 2012; Biggers; LB Dekoda Watson, signed as a free agent in 2015.

2011: No joint sessions following NFL lockout.

2010 vs. Saints: Humber; DE Will Smith, signed as a free agent in 2014.

2010 vs. Falcons: WR Michael Jenkins, signed as a free agent in 2013.

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Tom Brady throws to Julian Edelman in latest Instagram video

Tom Brady throws to Julian Edelman in latest Instagram video

Tom Brady posted a dual-purpose Instagram video on Sunday morning.

The one-minute video, laid over a track by Dorchester rapper Cousin Stizz, served as both an ad for TB12 Sports Therapy and confirmation (if there was any doubt) that Brady is putting in the time.

The video opens with Brady lying flat on his back in his Chestnut Hill home getting a rubdown on his right shoulder from body coach and TB12 partner Alex Guerrero.

Brady extols the importance of pliability – no man has ever done more for one word than Brady’s done for the word “pliable” – then the piece cuts to a field where Brady – in helmet and shoulder pads – is throwing to Julian Edelman.

It looks like the thing was shot at Pine Manor College. It may have been Thursday.

Beyond the Brady angle is the fact that Julian Edelman is also featured in the video.

Edelman, who also trains with Guerrero, is appealing a four-game suspension PED suspension. Guerrero released a statement reiterating TB12’s “natural, holistic, appropriate and, above all, legal approach to training and recovery for all of our clients” on the same day news of Edelman’s positive test came down.

Despite that and the fact Edelman’s positive test fostered speculation that whatever he tested positive for must have come from TB12, the video is proof Edelman isn’t being shunned by Brady or Guerrero despite the fact the positive test the negative pub it generated.

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