Patriots training camp notes: Day 4


Patriots training camp notes: Day 4

Last day of practice before the Patriots get a day off. You can get your fill of the action right here.
No Tracy White (undisclosed injury) and no Alfonzo Dennard (hamstring) for Sunday's session.
Pepper Johnson kept a close eye on Brandon Spikes yet again.
OL Jamey Richard left practice with a concussion, as confirmed by Curran. Richard took a wobbly walk over to the sideline and conferred with a trainer before leaving the field.
Blitz pickup (1-on-1's between LB's and RBFB) got a little heated. Stevan Ridley tried to get tough with Jerod Mayo on one rep, but the veteran took exception and shoved Ridley. On the same drill, Bobby Carpenter dispatched Spencer Larsen, Dan Fletcher just wrecked Ridley, and Danny Woodhead handled Tony Fiammetta. Shane Vereen stood strong on more than one run through.
Ivan Fears might have gotten the worst of it on that drill whenDont'a Hightower bullrushed Eric Kettani, hooked his facemask and launched him into the running backs coach. Fears went toppling to the ground. Words were exchanged.
More laps: Today Trevor Scott, Jermaine Cunningham, Ryan Mallett, and Robert Gallery had to take half-hearted punishment runs.
Sebastian Vollmer made a cameo, walking in a cutoff tee-shirt to auxiliary field for rehab work. He was seen for all of the time it takes an offensive lineman with a wonky back to cover about 130 yards.
Rob Gronkowski missed three passes today. It goes without saying this is unusual. On one play, a Tom Brady ball traveled right down the pipe but bobbled between Gronkowski's hands. Patrick Chung came up with the bouncing interception.
Noticed rookie defensive end Justin Francis having a long conversation on the sideline with Gerard Warren. Both were miming different D-line technique during the chat. Considering Warren is entering his 12th NFL season, Francis is probably thrilled to have such a resource.
Brady flashed his sense of humor during 11-on-11s. The quarterback led a reverse on one play and when he ran into the open field, he beckoned safety Patrick Chung with his index finger to come at him. Brady is lucky Chung knew he was kidding; that fight would not be an even matchup.
Patriots special teams coach Scott O'Brien was sentenced to speak with the media on Sunday. "I think any time youre a ball handler, one of the hardest things to do is to catch punts. Its not only a great drill for any receiver, as well as punt returners, to focus in on trying to catch a ball that normally is tougher to catch than a quarterback throwing you a ball."
O'Brien also addressed the work of Jeff Tarpinian, and undrafted rookie in 2011 who made the team based in large part on his special teams work. "Jeff came in from the University of Iowa (and) had a little bit of experience for some of the things we did. For example, like punt protection where we got to watch him play the left tackle at Iowa; similar footwork and rules and that kind of stuff that we use. Had the mentality we were looking for, had the physical skills that gave him a chance that we were looking for. He came in and worked hard and showed improvement and got better and it worked out where were able to keep him and then eventually got him an opportunity to play." Tarpinian has competed well throughout the camp when I've focused on him both on special teams and in some of the linebacker drills.
When Patrick Chung went down last season, Danny Woodhead stepped in as the personal protector right in front of Zoltan Mesko on punts. The reason? "Hes had some experience doing it before," said O'Brien. "You always like the threat of any type of skill guy to handle the ball. You like the speed element he brings out of the middle of the field in coverage. I can tell you this you never have enough of them. You try to train as many guys as you can because we all know from week to week, some guys you have, some guys you dont. Thats one position, you have to have enough guys and Danny stepped up and did a really good job."
There's no practice Monday and no public access to Gillette so you can scratch that off the "keep kids entertained tomorrow" list.

Not a lot of talk about Cannon this season, and that's a good thing for Patriots


Not a lot of talk about Cannon this season, and that's a good thing for Patriots

Marcus Cannon has had his run as a piñata. The Patriots offensive lineman is a frequent target when things go wrong up front and, usually, he’s deserved it.

A bit of anecdotal evidence? 

Sunday, I tweeted that every time I watched Cannon, he was making another good play.

On cue, about 10 tweets came back at me with variations of “Keep watching him!”

I asked Bill Belichick if he agreed with the layman’s assessment that Cannon’s playing well.

“I think Marcus [Cannon] has done a good job for us for quite a while,” Belichick began. “I mean he’s stepped in for Sebastian [Vollmer] and then last year when Nate [Solder] was out [and he substituted] for Nate. He has played a lot of good football for us.

“We extended our agreement with him off of his rookie contract which I think speaks to the fact that we want him on the team and we like what he’s doing and so forth and he’s continued to I’d say show with his performance [that he has] validated the confidence that we have in him.”

Cannon’s ending to 2015 – a poor performance (along with the rest of the line) against the Broncos in the AFC Championship Game was followed by a performance against the Cardinals that was marred by late-game holding calls.

But with Sebastian Vollmer injured (and still injured) it was sink or swim with Cannon which had plenty of people rolling their eyes.

But – as I said – every time I see Cannon, he’s either holding off a defensive end in pass protection, steamrolling downfield in the running game or making really athletic second-level or cut blocks in the screen game.

“Like every player, as they gain more experience they do get better,” said Belichick. “I think our offensive line’s certainly improved over the course of the year and playing with more consistency than we did last year. But there’s always room for improvement and the continuity that we’ve had there since (right guard) Shaq [Mason] has gotten in the last few weeks – we had Shaq over on the right side a little bit at the end of the season last year and then this year most all of the year except when Shaq was out for a few weeks there at the end of training camp and the start of the season – but our overall consistency and communication on the offensive line has been better because we’ve had more continuity there so that helps everybody.”

It can’t hurt that the lineman whisperer, Dante Scranecchia, has returned to coach the group. Cannon’s conditioning and physique looks better. He just appears more athletic and explosive. And he’s seemed more relaxed in the limited time the media’s in the locker room.

All off that added up equals nobody really talking about Marcus Cannon.
“Like any lineman, the less you call his name probably the better he’s doing,” said Belichick. “It’s probably a good thing when you guys don’t talk about him. Then that probably means they’re not doing something too noticeably wrong, right?”