What to watch for at Patriots OTA Thursday

What to watch for at Patriots OTA Thursday
June 4, 2014, 6:30 pm
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The Patriots will open Thursday's OTA session to reporters -- the second session available to the media this offseason -- so let's quickly take a look at some of the key story lines that will garner attention.

Garoppolo watch
The Patriots' second-round draft pick was not present last week with the media in attendance for Friday's OTA. Instead he was at the NFLPA's Rookie Premiere out in Los Angeles with rookie tight end Asa Watson. That means Thursday will be our first opportunity to watch Garoppolo throw to teammates and interact with veteran signal-callers Tom Brady and Ryan Mallett. Garoppolo, like any rookie, clearly has a lot of work to do to get up to speed. But Thursday will provide a brief look into how well he's acclimating to his new job.

Roll call
Aside from Garoppolo and Watson, those not present at last Friday's OTA included Alfonzo Dennard, Aaron Dobson, Dominique Easley, Brandon LaFell, Logan Mankins and Matthew Slater. Dobson and Easley figure to be recovering from injuries (foot and knee, respectively) but any number of the others could be on the field when things get underway on Thursday. We'll keep an eye out and do our best to take attendance despite the fact that -- if Friday's workout was any indication -- the Patriots will likely not be wearing names or numbers on their practice jerseys.

Limited progress?
Vince Wilfork and Rob Gronkowski highlighted a crew of Patriots who were limited in their work last week. Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer (who's coming back from a broken leg) weren't involved in every drill last week and defensive linemen Armond Armstead and Will Smith were also a part of that limited group. If any of those player see an uptick in their workload on Thursday, we'll let you know.

New guy in town
The Patriots announced the signing of linebacker James Anderson on Wednesday afternoon. Anderson later tweeted a photo of himself at the Patriots facilities signing his paper work so it seems as though he could be ready to take the practice field on Thursday. If he does play, it will be interesting to see how he's coached and how many reps he gets. Does the team try to get him to hit the ground running, or will he spend Thursday as a spectator?

Versatile Ninkovich
In an interview with Sirius XM's 'Movin' the Chains' show with Jim Miller and Pat Kirwin this week, Ninkovich explained that he's still used as both a defensive end and a SAM linebacker, as he has been in the past. We think of Ninkovich as mostly an end because of where and how (often with his hand on the ground) he's lined up in recent years, but we'll see if there are any signs of him being used differently during the OTA. So little can be observed during these sessions that it may be hard to get a grasp right now, but Ninkovich's role in the defense -- especially since the defense lost contributing linebackers via free agency this offseason -- is worth watching.