Postcard from Patriots camp: Day 7

Postcard from Patriots camp: Day 7
August 2, 2013, 7:30 pm
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(USA Today Sports Images)

Training camp turned a week old today! Tomorrow is Tom Brady’s birthday! Milestones out the wazoo! With a day off on Wednesday and another coming on Sunday, the Patriots figure to put a lot of emphasis on today’s practice and the one Saturday morning.

WEATHER
Perfect. A beautiful August day with white puffies and blue, sky, the temperature about 83, a light wind.
 
WHAT THEY WORE
Full pads. Tim Tebow, Ryan Mallett and Tom Brady were turned out nicely in red “don’t hit me” jerseys and Devin McCourty continues to wear the red as well.
 
WHO WASN’T THERE
Ras-I(R) Dowling, Jermaine Cunningham and Marcus Cannon all missed. Alfonzo Dennard and Michael Jenkins were limited somewhat with Jenkins appearing to come up with a hammy issue.
 
 
WHAT THEY DID
Practice began at about 2:20 with a walkthrough speed 11-on-11 until 2:40. There was some half-speed situational work mixed in as well, a precursor to the team doing full-speed hurryup at the end of practice.
 
Once they got the blood pumping, the entire team did dynamic stretching and jogging from sideline-to-sideline.
 
That led into positional stretching and fundamental drills at 2:50.
 
Defensively, safeties and corners worked on checking seam routes out of the backfield for a while as the offensive skill position players worked on timing routes inside the 20 against air.
 
There was a significant amount of red zone work done both in 7-on-7 and 11-on-11. Special teams worked on punt returns (Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman being the lead returners) and also worked on getting kicks away from the end zone for several minutes.
 
Offensive players worked on ball protection as a pair of teammates tried to slap and/or tear it loose.
 
There was a 1-on-1 drill with tight ends and running backs in which a short checkdown pass was caught, the receiver was hammered with pads from both sides as he turned and a defender, coming up from a lying position, would attempt the tackle. LeGarrette Blount made the move of the drill, a spin move that left Marcus Benard embracing air.

Practice closed with hurryup, situational offense from inside the 40 and the field goal unit coming onto the field with the clock ticking down.
 
WHO'S HOT
Tom Brady. During a 1-on-1 red zone drill, quarterbacks were throwing 15-yard outs inside the 5-yard line, fades, slants or crosses across the back of the end zone. During that drill – with a defender on his receivers – Brady went 8 for 9.
 
Ryan Mallett. He’s had some scattershot days in camp but Friday, he was outstanding down the field, hitting Aaron Dobson, Matt Slater and Kenbrell Thompkins on long gainers.
 
Zoltan Mesko. The Patriots punter hit it well throughout practice on Friday, with outstanding hang time on most of his punts. He also had a few downed in tight on plus-50 punts.
 
WHO’S NOT
Julian Edelman. With a long way to go to make up for lost time, Edelman muffed a punt on Friday.
 
Ras-I Dowling. After winning an offseason award for workout diligence, the Patriots third-year corner missed practice with an injury on Friday. He gets hurt with great regularity.

WHAT WE SAW
While the players stretched, Brian Daboll, Josh McDaniels and Nick Caserio huddled up and had what was obviously a fun talk. In 2001, all three were lowly assistants for the Patriots. A lot’s happened between then and now and it’s interesting to see the two 37-year-olds (McDaniels and Caserio) back together with Daboll (38) who rejoined the team this season.
 
Harry Kraft, Jonathan’s son, was throwing during some of the early-practice receiver drills. He’s no slouch in terms of velocity or accuracy and his throws were on-point in the two drills he threw.  
 
The most impressive throw Brady had during his timing routes was one thrown to rookie Josh Boyce, who turned toward the right sideline at about the 5-yard line and stuck his hands out to find the ball hitting them almost immediately.
 
BC’s hockey coach Jerry York was on hand to observe practice.
 
Rob Gronkowski wandered out to practice at about 3:30 p.m. to observe.
 
The red zone 11-on-11 started slowly with Leon Washington dropping a Brady throw and Jake Ballard miscommunicating with Mallett, but it got better, particularly on a short, over-the-middle throw from Mallett to Shane Vereen in heavy traffic.
 
Aaron Dobson, Josh Boyce and Danny Amendola continue to be the three top receivers in terms of reps and looks, to my eye.
 
Julian Edelman muffed a punt.
 
Aqib Talib made the defensive play of practice, a pick of Tom Brady in the flat where he got one hand on the pass intended for Josh Boyce, tipped it to himself and was on his way.
 
The practice DJ ordered up 80s music. Bruce Springsteen, Genesis, Tom Petty, The Clash and Elvis Costello were all in the mix.
 
Jake Ballard’s speed is a significant downgrade from Rob Gronkowski.
 
 
WHAT THEY SAID
“Practice at nine o’clock tomorrow morning.” – Tom Brady when asked if he had any special plans for his birthday on Saturday.