Postcard from Camp, Day 2: Signs of progress
FOXBORO -- The second day of Patriots training camp practice marked the final day of on-the-field work before pads are introduced. That means the competitive aspects of practice will ramp up soon, but they're not quite there yet. Even Bill Belichick is willing to admit that.
"It'll start soon," Belichick said before Friday's practice. "We're all evaluated every day. But the competition starts soon."
Still, even from a padless workout, there were moments worth logging. Here's what we saw . . .
Malcolm Mitchell (pictured) was back on the field and in uniform Friday, indicating a step in the right direction as he attempts to return from a knee injury that ended his season last year and had him limited in the spring. He spent his time on the lower field, however. Brandon Bolden, who missed spring work and began camp on the non-football injury list, was also in uniform. He participated in practice.
Several players remain on the physically unable to perform list. They were in attendance but spent their time on a lower field, including Matthew Slater, Nate Ebner, Jonathan Jones, Cyrus Jones and Kenny Britt.
-- Tom Brady (pictured) hit Chris Hogan for a deep touchdown with Jomal Wiltz in coverage. Play-action to the right drew the entire defense. He followed that up with a crossing strike to Cordarrelle Patterson. Hogan caught another from Brady deep with Duke Dawson in coverage. (3-for-3)
-- Brian Hoyer hit Rex Burkhead on a screen to begin his 11-on-11 work. His next throw was smooth -- a wheel route to Julian Edelman that Edelman caught over the shoulder in the end zone. Hoyer finished up with a screen pass to James White. (3-for-3)
-- Danny Etling hit Devin Lucien on a nice throw to the back corner of the end zone. He hit Ryan Izzo on a second throw. A third to Riley McCarron missed wide. Shane Wimann appeared to drop Etling's fourth throw and his fifth fell incomplete to Wimann again. Etling's final pass, intended for Ralph Webb, was picked by Devin McCourty. He finished 2-for-6 with an interception.
11-ON-11 PERFORMANCES (con'd)
-- Later, with noise, Brady was incomplete to Edelman thanks to a pass breakup from Stephon Gilmore. He hit his next pass to Rob Gronkowski. His third throw hit outside receiver Jordan Matthews with Eric Rowe on him in man coverage. Brady then hit Burkhead on a quick toss. His second-to-last throw to Matthews was a misfire and then his final throw, to White with Kyle Van Noy on him fell incomplete. Good breakup by Van Noy. (3-for-6)
-- Hoyer stepped up with noise and threw incomplete to Hogan thanks to a strong pass breakup from Jason McCourty (pictured far left, who was wearing pads over his gloves on the field). James Develin, Troy Niklas, Edelman, Riley McCarron and Sony Michel (on a screen) all caught their throws from Hoyer to help the backup finish strong. (5-for-6)
11-ON-11 PERFORMANCES (con'd)
-- With noise on again, Brady had a pass dropped by Jacob Hollister. His next attempt was broken up by Van Noy. His first completion of the period went to Develin. Brady's back-shoulder fade to Patterson (pictured) was read well by the wideout and caught with Gilmore in tight coverage. Catch of the day. Brady's next throw was to no one. He misfired again to Niklas to finish his stretch. (2-for-6)
-- Hoyer almost hit Patterson on another bomb, but it was broken up by Jason McCourty. Hoyer completed his next throw toHollister and the one after that to McCarron. Hoyer was picked easily by JC Jackson to finish the period. Jackson read the throw the whole way and stepped in front of Lucien for the pick. (2-for-4 with an interception)
-- Brady completed passes to Dwayne Allen and Hollister in the first semi-competitive team drill Friday. Later in the same period, he hit Allen again and then Troy Niklas. Those reps indicated there might be a focus on the tight ends in the passing game throughout the session. (4-for-4)
-- Hoyer followed Brady and hit Will Tye (pictured) and White on passes. He was incomplete to Izzo and then had another attempt to Izzo broken up by Devin McCourty. (2-for-4)
-- Brady went incomplete to Hogan when Ryan Lewis broke up a pass. Brady followed up with an overthrow to Phillip Dorsett. Another attempt to Dorsett was broken up by Demarius Travis. Brady missed on a throw to Izzo and hit on passes to Hogan and Matthews. (2-for-6)
-- Hoyer hit passes to Patterson, McCarron and Jeremy Hill. He missed on throws to Hollister and Lucien. He had another pass broken up by Keion Crossen. (3-for-6)
-- Marcus Cannon (pictured) spent time with trainer Jim Whalen just before the start of 11-on-11 work. He was replaced on the field by LaAdrian Waddle and later left the field. After finishing last season on IR, it's worth keeping an eye on the availability of the former Second-Team All-Pro tackle.
-- Matthews later went down with what appeared to be a lower-body issue. It may have been a cramping issue, as hr later popped up off the ground and seemed to be moving without issue.
NOTEWORTHY OBSERVATIONS (con'd)
-- Who had Tiquan Underwood (pictured during his playing days) as the first VIP sighting of camp? No one? The former Patriots receiver, known for his high-top fade (and for being released just before the Super Bowl in 2012) is now the receivers coach at Lafayette. A Rutgers product, he was met with a big hug from fellow Scarlet Knight Kenny Britt. Underwood also spoke at length with Belichick and Nick Caserio.
-- Edelman spent time returning punts on Friday. He seems to be moving well. Braxton Berrios, McCarron and Patrick Chung were also working in as returners.
-- In the Brady side-session circle of trust Friday were Gronkowski, Hogan, Dorsett and White. All three quarterbacks worked with that group during a special teams period.
NOTEWORTHY OBSERVATIONS (con'd)
-- For the second straight day, Dont'a Hightower (pictured) worked with pass-rush consultant Joe Kim on hand-fighting techniques. Kim is a martial-arts specialist who has spent years working with NFL teams, including the Browns in the 1990s under then-coach Bill Belichick.
-- Rookie punter Corey Bojorquez continues to take reps alongside Ryan Allen. He booted one early in the session off the side of his foot that nearly plunked Stephen Gostkowski, who rode a stationary bike on the sideline.
-- Isaish Wynn screwed up a snap during a hurry-up period and was quickly sent on a lap by Dante Scarnecchia.