Patriots

Postcard from Training Camp: Bennett looks good in first practice with Patriots on Day 4

Postcard from Training Camp: Bennett looks good in first practice with Patriots on Day 4

FOXBORO — Day 4 of Patriots training camp practice featured players back in full pads and more work on the running game. One-on-ones between offensive linemen and defensive linemen were back in focus as a long-awaited edge rusher, Michael Bennett, practiced for the first time. Here’s what we saw . . . 

WHAT THEY WORE

Back in full pads on Sunday. All three quarterbacks were in their red non-contact jerseys, as was Patrick Chung. Bennett wore his miniature shoulder pads, for which he’s become well-known over the years. They’re tiny. 

ROLL CALL

Bennett, as we said, made his return. David Andrews was in the house for the second consecutive today but he wasn’t participating in team work. Sony Michel, Isaiah Wynn and Deatrich Wise were present but, like Andrews, not participating in team work.

Receiver Dontrelle Inman was a new absence so that bears watching as the receiver group isn’t the deepest. Players on the physically unable to perform list — Cole Croston, Demaryius Thomas, Nate Ebner, Ken Webster — were absent, as were the pair on the non-football injury list Yodny Cajuste and Julian Edelman. Byron Cowart was also missing from the session. 

OBSERVATIONS OF NOTE

Dan Skipper — who was signed to the Patriots practice squad late last season after two seasons on practice squads with the Lions, Cowboys and Broncos — got a look as the first-team left tackle today. That moved Joe Thuney, who had been playing left tackle with the first group, back to his usual spot at guard. With Andrews unavailable, Ted Karras snapped to Tom Brady while Shaq Mason and Marcus Cannon were at right guard and right tackle, respectively. Skipper is 6-foot-9, 325 pounds. He’s massive. But that size made it hard on him to keep up with smaller rushers. During the 1-on-1 period, both Derek Rivers and Shilique Calhoun used their speed to their advantage against him. 

In early 11-on-11 work, the Patriots went with Mike Pennel, Lawrence Guy and Adam Butler up front. They were flanked by outside linebackers Jamie Collins and Kyle Van Noy. Today Elandon Roberts was at the second level with Dont’a Hightower. On Saturday it was Ja’Whaun Bentley and Hightower. Early in camp, with a true front-seven on the field, these looks have been popular. 

QUARTERBACK PERFORMANCES

We saw a few more throws today than we did on Saturday, though all weekend has been very run-game focused. 

Tom Brady went 10-for-13 in competitive 11-on-11 work, hitting a long completion to Braxton Berrios on a deep over route with Jonathan Jones in coverage. It was a good day of work for Berrios, who often found himself out there with Brady, N’Keal Harry and Maurice Harris. Brady had another nice throw to the sideline that was reeled in by Harry, who got his feet down before heading out. One of his final throws of the day — a touchdown to Ben Watson in a two-minute period — was one of his most accurate. One throw he’d like to have back? An incompletion well behind Watson that he threw with his feet not set underneath him. 

Brian Hoyer went 9-for-13 in competitive 11-on-11 work. He would have been sacked by veteran pass-rusher Shilique Calhoun on one rep and he was picked on another by Obi Melifonwu when Hoyer tried to send one Watson’s way. Immediately after the pick, Hoyer fumbled a snap. Not a great stretch. His best work might’ve come in the two-minute drill, when he hit undrafted rookie receiver Gunner Olszewski on all three attempts sent Olszewski’s way. The former college defensive back (wearing No. 72) laid out for one grab over the middle with a safety bearing down on him. His final catch was a touchdown with Duke Dawson in tight coverage. Hoyer was jacked up, seeking out his target immediately for a high-five. There are a couple of undrafted rookie wideouts who’ve impressed at different points through four days: Olszewski, Jakobi Meyers and Ryan Davis.

Jarrett Stidham saw only few reps on the day, most of them hand-offs, and one of his only competitive throws of the day glanced off of Watson’s hands. He did make a very nice throw late in the practice to James White near the goal line. White had Bentley on his back in coverage, and Stidham threw it away from the defender while putting it right on White’s numbers. White was able to protect the reception and finish the play thanks in large part to the placement of the football. It was a quick, decisive strike from Stidham to a target who was covered. Not a huge gain, but an encouraging one for the young quarterback.

OBSERVATIONS OF NOTE

Despite getting to the area on a flight this morning — traveling from his home in Hawaii — Bennett looked pretty sharp. He re-iterated that his three-day absence to start camp was to take care of a family issue, and he expressed his appreciation that Bill Belichick allowed him to take the time he needed. The veteran pass-rusher was strong in 1-on-1s, testing Marcus Cannon and Shaq Mason, and he helped the second defense make a run-stuff in 11-on-11 work by penetrating through the middle of the offensive line from the three-technique spot.

Harry made a nice downfield block on Stephon Gilmore during a long run from Brandon Bolden. Good effort there from the rookie wideout. He could be a force as a blocker given his size and strength (27 bench reps of 225 pounds at the combine). 

Terrence Brooks saw first-team reps at safety once again Sunday. The same was true Saturday, and could be the result of Patrick Chung donning a red non-contact jersey. There were snaps, however, where Brooks, Chung and Devin McCourty were all on the field simultaneously in a “big nickel” sub package. Brooks may end up more than just a special-teamer here in New England after spending the early portion of his career primarily in that role with the Jets. 

Newly-acquired defensive tackle David Parry saw some time with the first defensive group and he made a strong play at the point of attack late in the practice. Getting a good push on James Ferentz, he helped to stuff a run in 11-on-11 work. He could end up pushing for work on the defensive interior along with Pennel, Guy, Butler and Danny Shelton. 

When the Patriots bumped the volume to go 11-on-11 and to work on their communication, they used Phillip Dorsett and Maurice Harris as their first two wideouts with Watson, James Develin and Brandon Bolden also in the huddle. 

GOAL LINE

Four reps of goal-line work for the offense and defense. This is about as close as things get to full-speed since it’s hard to “thud” — simulate a tackle with some shoulder contact — in such close quarters. 

The defense won three of four reps, with Pennel and Elandon Roberts helping to stop one play. Bentley appeared to stop Develin — the lead-blocker — in his tracks on another rep that was stopped short. Christian Sam, the second-year linebacker who has made a couple of nice plays in camp thus far, was leading the charge on the third stop. 

The offense got into the end zone with a good push from the left side of the offensive line that Damien Harris plowed through. 

ONE-ON-ONE RESULTS

Bennett put to use a strong bull-rush on Cannon and then ducked to the inside on Mason. He was quick off the ball, and how he was used in 1-on-1s should be an indication of how he’ll be used by the Patriots this year: both on the edge (against tackles) and the interior (against guards and perhaps centers). Part of his strength lies in his versatility. 

Another versatile player, Kyle Van Noy, got by Cannon to the inside during their matchup. Ferentz stopped Pennel cold on one rep, earning a pat on the helmet from the big defensive tackle.

Mason had a strong rep to stop Guy in his tracks, and Thuney appeared to win his two reps. Karras and Shelton had a good battle that looked like a win for the offense. Pennel then took on Karras and found some space after an initial stalemate. 

Calhoun seemed to draw a hold on Tyree St. Louis in addition to his win over Skipper. As we mentioned above, Skipper also dropped a rep to Rivers. St. Louis appeared to hold again when Chase Winovich got into his pads. Trent Harris used his flexibility and speed to bend around 6-foot-7 tackle Cedrick Lang. From our angle on the media hill, Keionta Davis won his rep against rookie Hjalte Froholdt.

New offensive lineman JJ Dielman got the better of Nick Thurman on one rep, but then when they matched up again, Thurman got by him and Dielman was forced to run a lap. Tyler Gauthier also had to run a lap for a false start. (Cannon ran a lap earlier in the practice for an apparent penalty.)

Postcard from Camp, Day 3: Patriots break out the pads>>>

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Matt Cassel: Why you shouldn't worry about Patriots' offensive line injuries

Matt Cassel: Why you shouldn't worry about Patriots' offensive line injuries

Any time you have rotating parts on the offensive line -- Korey Cunningham and Marshall Newhouse have had to step in for Isaiah Wynn and Marcus Cannon, and obviously the center position has changed with David Andrews being out -- it's going to be a major question mark.

But I think the wild card in this whole situation is Dante Scarnecchia.

I’ve said this time and time again: Dante Scarnecchia is the best offensive line coach in the NFL. He's been doing it for so long, and his ability to coach these guys and have them ready to play is second to none.

Scar is so detail-oriented. He does a great job in the run game, and he also understands protection schemes and blitz pickup identification.

When I was in New England, we would do 9-on-7, which is a run-oriented drill. He'd do a great job of making sure I identified the appropriate linebacker for the offensive line so they knew who to block. He also has a great balance of pushing those guys: pushing to get the best out of them, but also knowing when to pull back.

They’re so detail-oriented in that offensive line room that you feel good as a quarterback -- going into any game or any situation, with whoever’s playing -- that he’ll have those guys prepared to understand their blocking and protection schemes.

In 2005, our starting center, Dan Koppen, went down with a season-ending injury. Russ Hochstein was always our interior "swing guy" -- he played guard and center -- and I remember Russ stepping in and playing beautifully.

Your leader on the offensive line is your center, because the communication really takes place between him and quarterback. And I thought we didn’t miss a beat when Russ came in, because Scar had him prepared at that position.

That said, the best example I can think of is Stephen Neal. This is a guy who never played high school football, college football or anything like that. He was an All-American wrestler in college.

But we picked him up, and Coach Scarnecchia and the rest of the staff developed Steve into dominant force for us at guard for years to come. I think a lot of his development as a player had to do with the coaching and expertise that took place within that room.

You’ve got to have trust in your guys up front. And a lot of that comes from you having a tremendous amount of faith in the coaching staff to prepare those guys every week. 

Every coaching staff has a feel for it. But based on my experience, the Patriots' coaching staff was the best I’ve been around during my NFL career.

If certain pass rushers that were giving us problems on the edge -- we called them "game-wreckers" -- Scar and the coaching staff would always come up with a great scheme to help, whether it was chipping the edge with the running backs or showing tight end presence so the pass-rusher couldn’t get clean run at the quarterback coming off the ball.

So, when we played the Colts and guys like Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, who were one of the most dominant pass-rushing tandems in the league, we’d always have a plan. We wouldn’t let those guys ruin the game. 

I think that’s the genius part of what the Patriots do: They go above and beyond in identifying the issue and doing whatever they can to make sure it doesn’t wreck the offensive plan. 

That's what I expect Scarnecchia and the coaching staff will continue to do, regardless of who's out there.

Editor's note: Matt Cassel had a 14-year NFL career that four seasons with the New England Patriots (2005-2008). He's joining the NBC Sports Boston team for this season. You can find him on game days as part of our Pregame Live and Postgame Live coverage, as well as every week on Tom E. Curran’s Patriots Talk podcast and NBCSportsBoston.com.

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Patriots QB Tom Brady listed on Week 3 injury report with calf issue

Patriots QB Tom Brady listed on Week 3 injury report with calf issue

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has made his first appearance on the team's injury report this season.

The Patriots and New York Jets have released their first injury reports ahead of Sunday's Week 3 matchup at Gillette Stadium, and the most notable name listed is Brady, who was limited in Wednesday's practice with a calf injury.

Brady has enjoyed a fantastic start to the season, throwing for 605 yards with five touchdowns and zero interceptions through the first two games. His inclusion on this injury report shouldn't sound any alarms, but it's certainly a situation worth monitoring throughout the week. Patriots right tackle Marcus Cannon also was limited Wednesday. He suffered a shoulder injury in New England's Week 1 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers and didn't play in Sunday's victory versus the Miami Dolphins.

The Jets roster has been ravaged by injuries of late, and their latest report reflects that. New York had 11 players who either didn't participate or were limited in Wednesday's practice. Starting quarterback Sam Darnold was among the Jets players who didn't practice. He is recovering from mono and won't play Sunday.

Here are the Wednesday injury reports for both teams.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (2-0)

DID NOT PARTICIPATE
Shilique Calhoun, LB Not Injury Related
James Develin, FB, Neck

LIMITED PARTICIPATION
Caleb Benenoch, OL, Calf
Tom Brady, QB, Calf
Marcus Cannon, OT, Shoulder
Matt LaCosse, TE, Ankle

FULL PARTICIPATION
Brandon Bolden, RB, Hamstring

NEW YORK JETS (0-2)

DID NOT PARTICIPATE
Josh Belamy, WR, Shoulder
Trenton Cannon RB, Ankle
Sam Darnold, QB, Illness
Jordan Jenkins, LB, Calf
C.J. Mosley, LB, Groin
Demaryius Thomas, WR, Hamstring/Knee
Quinnen Williams, DL, Ankle

LIMITED PARTICIPATION
Kelvin Beachum, OL, Ankle
Steve McLendon, DL, Hip
Rontez Miles, S, Hip
Brian Winters, OL, Shoulder

FULL PARTICIPATION
Braxton Berrios, WR, Hamstring
John Franklin-Myers, LB/DL, Foot
Harvey Langi, LB, Knee
Alex Lewis, OL, Shoulder
Frankie Luvu, LB, Hand
Marcus Maye, S, Calf

Jets coach has high praise for Patriots CB Stephon Gilmore>>>

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