Patriots

Postcard from Camp: Patriots defense up to challenge vs. Stafford, Lions

Patriots

ALLEN PARK, Michigan — The Patriots went back to work on Monday, squaring off with the Lions for a joint session that I would characterize as somewhat laid-back. As far as joint sessions go. The hitting didn't stand out as overly loud. The intensity was, I would say, a six out of 10. They've got two more of these practices planned so Tuesday may be an opportunity for players to ramp up their levels. 

Here's what we saw from practice No. 1 . . . 

ROLL CALL

Rex Burkhead and Patrick Chung were present at the session, but neither participated in practice. Chung has been wearing a red non-contact jersey through the majority of camp and perhaps he'll be held out in order to avoid the harm that might come along with finding himself locking horns with a Lions player on the roster bubble. Burkhead's rest day is worth keeping an eye on. 

David Andrews and Isaiah Wynn were on the field with their teammates and in pads, but both can be classified as limited. Dan Skipper got the work at left tackle in team periods. Late in the session, Ted Karras and James Ferentz were spotted at center.

Receivers who'd been held out of practice previously — Demaryius Thomas (PUP) and Julian Edelman (NFI) — were present but not participating. Others who've been out — Ken Webster (PUP), Nate Ebner (PUP), Yodny Cajuste (NFI) — did not make the trip. Recently-acquired wideout Cam Meredith, who is on PUP, didn't make it to Michigan. Ditto for tight end Lance Kendricks, who had to leave Wednesday's practice early last week.

 

Kyle Van Noy was also limited in Monday's work, apparently. Shilique Calhoun (more on him later) and John Simon saw plenty of reps at outside linebacker with Van Noy seemingly sitting a little more than normal. 

QUARTERBACKS IN FOCUS

Tom Brady went 12-for-20 in competitive 11-on-11 work against the Lions. Two of his most impressive completions came to his two most impressive rookie wideouts: Jakobi Meyers and N'Keal Harry. Meyers made a diving catch along the sideline and got his feet down in bounds while the catch was secured for what might've been the catch of the day. (Officials were at Monday's practice to rule on completions/incompletions, penalties, etc.) Harry followed that up later with a laid-out grab up the right sideline. He got up without being touched and had the awareness to take off for more yardage. Not bad for a rookie coming from the college game where the rule is "when you're down, you're down." Brady's best stretch might've been when he went 4-for-5 in a hurry-up period (1:45 on the clock, down three) at the end of practice. The first-team offense stalled at the 7-yard line, though, settling for three points. Brady was 6-for-7 in a 7-on-7 period.

Brian Hoyer went 3-for-6 in the 11-on-11 periods and 3-for-4 in 7-on-7. He narrowly avoided a red-zone pick when he targeted Harry on a slant. It appeared as though Harry stopped short on the route or there was some kind of miscommunication there. The receiver wasn't really all that close to having a chance at it.

Jarrett Stidham looked like a rookie Monday. He was intercepted on his first 11-on-11 attempt by someone named Andrew Adams. Later in the practice he had two 11-on-11 reps where he held the football for an unusual length of time, completing both passes, but can't give him credit for those. There are "scramble drills" and then there's whatever those two snaps were. In 7-on-7 work he was much better, going 10-for-12, including a stretch at the end of practice where he completed seven passes in a row.

ONE-ON-ONE NOTES

* This might've been Braxton Berrios' best day of training camp thus far. It began with the one-on-one period where he caught three of the four targets sent his way. He created separation and secured the football well. His lone target that wasn't completed saw him make a diving attempt — there are a lot of those with him, which may come as little surprise since quarterbacks don't have much of a strike zone to target when throwing to the diminutive wideout — that appeared to go off his fingertips. He caught two more passes from Brady in the hurry-up period at the end of the session. If he can continue to string together productive days, he'll work his way back into the roster conversation.

* Meyers continued to impress in this period. He ran one out route — selling an inside-breaking route first — that saw him create more than five yards of separation. The defensive back gave up well before Meyers even caught the ball. He later high-pointed a pass from Brady while in tight coverage, landing hard on his back, losing his helmet when he hit the ground, but securing the catch.

 

* Jamie Collins got his hands on one Lions pass for a pass-breakup in one-on-ones. He also had a pass-breakup in both the 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 periods. He looks like he'll have the potential to be a difference-maker in the passing game.

* Other notes: Harry made a nice contested catch with rookie corner Amani Oruwariye on him; Danny Etling drew an illegal contact flag; Ryan Davis would've been called for an offensive pass-interference penalty after pushing off on a defender for some separation.

OBSERVATIONS OF NOTE

* The Patriots defense had a gaggle of impressive moments strewn throughout the day. In the 7-on-7 period, their coverage shined. Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford had to hold onto the football and scramble around on three of his six dropbacks. The Patriots had three pass breakups in all in early 7-on-7 work: One each from Collins, Joejuan Williams and Jonathan Jones. Williams also had a breakup in 11-on-11 work. Keion Crossen made a pick, D'Angelo Ross had a PBU and Malik Gant had a PBU in a late 7-on-7 session.

* More work for Sony Michel as a receiver on Monday. He caught four of the five passes thrown to him in team sessions (7-on-7 and 11-on-11). With Rex Burkhead missing time, both Michel and Brandon Bolden seemed to receive more work as pass-catchers. 

* Some special-teams notes: Jake Bailey kicked well on Monday, booting four out of his five attempts high and deep (one was shanked); Meyers and Harry returned punts early in the practice; Meyers looked uncomfortable, muffing one and fielding another short one with a little bobble; Harry caught the ball smoothly and would be an interesting choice as a return man since he's hard to tackle but not a traditional shifty type; the Patriots (unless a Lions player was lined up offsides) seemed to get a formation penalty on their first punt rep.

* Calhoun was in on two "sacks," one of which he shared with Chase Winovich, and he recorded another pressure. Pretty good day for the pass-rushing standup edge defender. He wasn't guaranteed much in his new deal with the Patriots, but he looks like he gives that outside linebacker room some solid depth. Winovich was in the backfield on three plays for quarterback pressures as well. Strong overall day for two pass-rushers who played their college ball in Michigan. (Winovich was a third-round pick out of Michigan this year; Calhoun was a third-round pick out of Michigan State in 2016.)

* John Simon, Michael Bennett, Elandon Roberts and Byron Cowart (two) all found themselves in the middle of things for run stuffs. Simon also drove his blocker back into Stafford at one point, forcing a fumble and then scooping it himself. 

 

* Duke Dawson appeared to be targeted in coverage four times, allowing three catches in 11-on-11 work. 

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