Postcards from Pats Camp: Day 21

833523.jpg

Postcards from Pats Camp: Day 21

FOXBORO -- Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, and Brandon Lloyd returned to practice Wednesday.
Breathing again? Good.
You'll probably also appreciate hearing Logan Mankins had his first day in full pads. But the good feelings on Day 21 were tempered -- Jabar Gaffney suffered an injury to his right quad just into the second hour and missed the rest of practice.
He giveth and He taketh away.
WEATHERThe sun was blazing. Weather.com tells me it was 83 degrees, but with almost 90 humidity, the heat index must have read higher. Mary Paoletti: Amateur meteorologist.
WHAT THEY WOREFull pads.
WHAT THEY DID1:30-2:00: Walkthrough.
2:01-2:12: Running, dynamic running and stretching.
2:13: Drills. Over on the left field it looked like deconstructed special teams work. In one group, Zoltan Mesko helped some guys with punt blocking; in another, the long snapper helped with punt coverage. Elsewhere, some receivers worked on routes, and quarterbacks practiced rollouts and drops. Members of the secondary practiced basic coverages.
2:35: 1-on-1s. This is when Gaffney got hurt. A ball was thrown long out toward the sideline and the receiver put on an extra burst to get there. The pass went incomplete and Gaffney walked gingerly up the sideline. After he met with a trainer, Gaffney took off his jersey and parked it on a big orange cooler for the rest of practice. It could be taken as a positive that he wasn't taken into the locker room.
2:39: 11-on-11. Tom Brady's offensive line looked a little like this: Nate Solder at LT, Nick McDonald at LG, Dan Koppen at C, Donald Thomas at RG, and Marcus Cannon at RT. There was one beautiful play worth noting in this set. Brady looked play-action and the defense bought it. Aaron Hernandz broke away and made it into the end zone with about 10-yards of separation.
2:57: Punt! The barrel also came out but went unused. What a tease.
3:04: 7-on-7. At the back of the field the offensive and defensive lines did tandem 1-on-1s. Over around on goal post Chris Koepplin was stuck shagging for Stephen Gostkowski. He actually tried to kick a ball back to Gostkowski at one point but drilled the top of the goal post instead. The task didn't appear entertaining. The next time Koepplin hit the post he actually looked excited about it. Ah, the life of a back-up kicker.
3:26: More special teams work.
3:35: More 11-on-11.
3:49: Field goals and beat-the-clock field goals. Mesko loves waving that towel around.
WHAT WE SAWWe already talked about the big three being back (Lloyd, Gronkowski, Hernandez). For absences we're left with: Eric Kettani, Alfonzo Dennard, James Ihedigbo (off again after coming back Tuesday), Spencer Larsen, Tracy White, Malcolm Williams, Markus Zusevics, Matt Kopa, Kyle Hix, Sebastian Vollmer, Visanthe Shiancoe, Daniel Fells, Myron Pryor, Jonathan Fanene. Larsen and White made their first appearances on the field, though in shorts and t-shirts.
Gronkowski missed a ball he's caught dozens of times before. During 11-on-11, Brady threw to the tight end right over the middle. The pass was a little high, but it hit off of both Gronkowski's hands. He should have had it.
Safe to say the defense had a better day overall and loved every second of it.
Jeremy Ebert got some work on punt today. He's returned plenty of kickoffs, but punt is a different animal. Ebert probably found that out when he muffed his first attempt.
A little shoving broke out during 7-on-7 and I do believe it was between Logan Mankins and Justin Francis. Tempers fizzled out as soon as they flared perhaps luckily for Francis.
Stevan Ridley continues to get rocked. Derek Martin lowered his shoulder on the running back and sent Ridley right to the ground. Kid always seems to take an extra hit.
During the second round of 11-on-11, Brady executed a pretty little trick play. Wish I could report it.
Shane Vereen caught a ball on the end of a crossing route, much to the frustration of Brandon Spikes. The linebacker went back to the line and immediately dropped down to do some pushups.
Hoyer made a beautiful lofted throw over a defender to Julian Edelman on the sidelines.
Mallett... Oh, Mallett. He was in on two bad plays in a row before getting yanked. The first was intended for Hernandez who was crossing the middle. Pass was thrown to 81's ankles -- incomplete. Next ball bounced off Edelman's hands.
Hoyer couldn't connect with Jeremy Ebert in the corner of the end zone. Probably because Francis would have sacked the stuff out of him before the throw if that was allowed.
WHO'S HOTI'm going to give a nod to Jeremy Ebert. Muffed punts and kicks aside, he's doing better than imagined at receiver. Ebert has good hands and it making a case for himself. It would help if he was consistent on special teams, but it's early yet.
WHO'S NOTThe offense struggled. Again. More dropped passes and poor throws.
WHAT THEY SAID"That's what practice is for: Push it. I think if you don't push it to that point, you don't know how far it can go.'' -- Bill Belichick

Green has big game as Bengals dominate Dolphins 22-7

a-j-green.jpg

Green has big game as Bengals dominate Dolphins 22-7

CINCINNATI -- For most of the game, A.J. Green piled up more yards than the entire Miami Dolphins offense in a virtuoso performance. As an encore, he thrilled the crowd by juggling some Florida citrus.

The Bengals receiver followed his disappointing game with a dominating one - 173 yards and a touchdown - and a Cincinnati defense that was inspired by Vontaze Burfict's return clamped down on the Dolphins for a 22-7 victory Thursday night.

The Bengals (2-2) rebounded from a 29-17 home loss to Denver on Sunday with a solid all-around game against a depleted team.

Green led the way, beating the Dolphins (1-3) on every type of route . He was upset with himself after he dropped a pivotal third-down pass and failed to make an impact against the Broncos.

"I hold myself to a very high standard," said Green, who had 10 catches. "I know what I'm capable of. Last week I didn't perform to that level. I had to refocus on a short week."

During the first three quarters, Green had 166 yards on catches while Miami had 152 total yards. The Bengals' season-long problem of stalling out near the goal line forced them to settle for Mike Nugent's season-high five field goals.

Afterward, Green and Andy Dalton appeared on the postgame show, and the receiver entertained the dozens of Bengals fans who stayed around by smoothly juggling three oranges at the interview desk.

"Any time he was one-on-one, he was able to make the play," Dalton said.

The Dolphins were missing four starting offensive linemen, two linebackers, running back Arian Foster and tight end Jordan Cameron. They had one big play - Ryan Tannehill threw a 74-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Stills - but couldn't do anything else on offense.

"We've got to get it fixed and quick, and by that I mean Monday," Tannehill said. "We're kind of in a dark spot right now. It's squarely on our shoulders."

The Bengals' defense expected to get a lift from Burfict's return. The volatile linebacker was suspended by the NFL for the first three games because of his illegal hits. He got a loud ovation when he ran onto the field during introductions wearing a baseball cap. Burfict knocked down a pass and had three tackles.

"He's amazing," end Carlos Dunlap said. "Did you see the plays he made? Those aren't plays you can coach. He came off his couch and played great. It's good to have him back."

Mostly, it was Green's show. He caught a 51-yard pass off Dalton's scramble in the first half, and had a 43-yard catch that set up another field goal in the third quarter for a 19-7 lead.

REMEMBERING FERNANDEZ

A large fan banner in the upper deck at Paul Brown Stadium honored Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez, who died with two friends in a boat crash early Sunday near Miami Beach. The banner read: "Jose 16 Heaven's Bright."

STILL CAN'T RUN

The Bengals rushed for 77 yards and only a 2.1-yard average against the second-worst run defense in the league, one missing two starting linebackers.

SLOPPY DOLPHINS

Miami had seven penalties for 68 yards. The most egregious was by Terrence Fede, who pushed Kevin Huber to the ground after he punted in the third quarter. The penalty gave Cincinnati the ball, and the Bengals got a field goal out of it.

INJURIES

Dolphins: LT Branden Albert and C Anthony Steen were inactive with sprained ankles. Also missing were LBs Koa Misi (neck) and Jelani Jenkins (groin). C Mike Pouncey has missed all four games with a hip injury.

Bengals: TE Tyler Eifert was inactive again, contributing to the Bengals' trouble close to the goal line. He's recovering from offseason ankle surgery and returned to practice on a limited basis last week. CB Dre Kirkpatrick was inactive with a hamstring injury suffered Sunday. G Clint Boling sat out most of the fourth quarter with an injured left shoulder.

ANTHEM STATEMENTS

Stills and Dolphins safety Michael Thomas knelt with their hands over their hearts during the anthem.

FANTASY IMPACT

Tannehill was 15 of 25 for 189 yards with a touchdown, an interception, a fumble and five sacks. Dalton was 22 of 31 for 296 yards with a touchdown and a sack.

UP NEXT

The Dolphins begin a stretch of four straight home games against Tennessee, Pittsburgh, Buffalo and the New York Jets.

The Bengals have a tough two-game stretch, playing Dallas and New England on the road. They're 1-5 in Dallas, dropping their last three. They've dropped their last six at New England, last winning in 1986.