Patriots training camp notes: Day 2

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Patriots training camp notes: Day 2

By Tom E. Curran, Mary Paoletti and Danny Picard
CSNNE.com

FOXBORO -- Notes from Day 2 of camp:

Alfonzo Dennard appeared to suffer a hamstring injury. He left practice early and didn't return.

Matthew Slater had some kind of black brace, strapped over his shoulder and around his chest, hidden under his jersey. That's as specific a cause as I can find for that red 'No contact' jersey.

James Ihedigbo still had that 'Don't touch me' jersey on, too.

The offensive line did some mixing and matching today. Robert Gallery came in at RG and Dan Connolly went to LG. Same as Thursday, Koppen lined up at C, Solder at LT, and Cannon at RT.

Brady got picked off today. Wes Welker had space in the slot, but the pass was flat and Bobby Carpenter got his hands on it. The quarterback went 25-for-28 overall with one exceptionally pretty pass to Brandon Lloyd.

Probably not a coincidence: Carpenter continues to get reps as the starting Sam linebacker.

Receivers and cornerbacks went one-on-one at the start of camp. Good news for the defense: Malcolm Williams got good jam on Welker on one play. Good news for the offense: Julian Edelman burned Ras-I Dowling badly with a little jab in, and another out.

Rookie safety Tavon Wilson mixed in with the 1's during some of the 7-on-7 drills against the Nickel (5-defensive back) defense. Wilson was stepping in for Steve Gregory. Bobby Carpenter and Dane Fletcher both worked next to Mayo at inside linebacker in the Nickel.

The corners on the outside for the Nickel were Ras-I Dowling and Devin McCourty. Kyle Arrington kicked inside to play the "Star" position in the slot.

The week of the Super Bowl, the team's offensive staff emphasized the need to throw high over the outstretched arms of the Giants defensive line. On Friday, coaches stood with practice dummies raised above their heads -- probably reaching up to about 9 feet -- as the quarterbacks threw in 7-on-7 and 5-on-5.

With Daniel Fells still not practicing, second-year defensive end Alex Silvestro continues to take tight end reps. He isn't going to be Gronk 2.0 but he will at least give the Patriots depth at the spot given how many reps he's taken.

It was a good day for Julian Edelman. He got receiver work both inside and out, as well as plenty of return duty. Edelman looked sharp all around.

Not a good day for Marquice Cole, who struggled in coverage.

Brandon Bolden looks really, really fast. He threaded almost the entire length of the field on one return -- unscathed.

A fleet of receivers took reps fielding punts. Among them, two surprise entrants: Deion Branch and Aaron Hernandez. It's unlikely that either one is a plausible option on the depth chart at that spot. The concentration during the drill was on coverage more than returns and it seemed a mish-mash of guys were being run through the spot.

Marcus Cannon looks like he's lost a good amount of weight. Ryan Mallett looks like he's firmed up. And Gerard Warren shaved his head because Big Money said he was getting too gray.

Ryan Mallett finished Friday's session 13 for 17 in combined 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills.

In 7-on-7, Mallett went 8 for 10. The two incompletions came in a Will Allen break-up over the middle, and a Mike Rivera drop on a ball that was thrown behind him. Out of the eight completions, three of those went to newly-signed tight end Visanthe Shiancoe. But the biggest play Mallett made all day came on a deep completion down the left sideline, right into the hands of Donte' Stallworth.

The Patriots will practice in pads tomorrow.

Brady-Ryan marks rare case of NFL's top two quarterbacks meeting in Super Bowl

Brady-Ryan marks rare case of NFL's top two quarterbacks meeting in Super Bowl

For all the flack that Matt Ryan got heading into this season, he’s been a damn good quarterback. Is his career on the same level as Tom Brady’s? Of course not, but this regular season saw him stand as Brady’s peer, making him an MVP favorite.

One of Ryan’s biggest challengers for that hardware is the same man who stands in the way of him winning his first Super Bowl. Though he missed the first four games of the season due to suspension, Brady finished second in the league in passing yards per game and threw just two picks in 12 games while tossing 28 touchdowns.  

So Super Bowl LI will pin the quarterback with the best numbers overall (Ryan finished two touchdowns behind Aaron Rodgers for the league lead but threw for 516 more yards and had a higher completion percentage) against the quarterback with the best touchdown/interception ratio ever for a single season. 

In other words, this is a Super Bowl that puts what one could argue are the season’s two best quarterbacks each other. That’s pretty rare. 

Going back the last 25 years, there are four candidates for such meetings: Manning vs. Brees in Super Bowl XLIV, Favre and Elway in Super Bowl XXXII (this one is a stretch), Favre and Bledsoe in Super Bowl XXXI and Kelly and Rypien in Super Bowl XXVI.. 

Why haven’t the two best quarterbacks squared off in the Super Bowl more often? Because Brady and Peyton Manning played their entire careers in the same conference, silly. It’s taken other players entering their echelon to even set up such a scenario, and that’s why Brees’ Saints beating Manning’s Colts serves as the only example during Manning or Brady’s career. 

The strong performances of those who dominated the regular season have often carried over into their Super Bowl meetings, but not always. Drew Bledsoe and Jim Kelly (both throwing two touchdowns and four picks in Super Bowl losses) are examples of the wheels falling off in the final game. 

Here’s a breakdown of past occurrences. Note that all four of them saw the winning team score at least 30 points, something the Pats have done just once in Brady's four Super Bowl wins: 

Super Bowl XLIV: Brees vs. Manning

Brees led NFL with 34 touchdowns in regular season; Manning finished tied for second with 33

Final score: Saints 31, Colts 17

Brees: 32/39, 288 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Manning: 31/45, 333 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT

Brees completed a postseason in which he had no turnovers and did so in a nearly exactly average game for him that season, as e averaged 292.5 yards, 2.26 touchdowns and less than one interception per game in the regular season. The two quarterbacks also combined for just one sack. 
 
Super Bowl XXXII: Favre vs. Elway

Favre led NFL with 35 TDs in regular season, Elway finished second in TD/interception ratio

Final score: Broncos 31, Packers 24

Favre: 25/42, 256 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT, fumble lost 
Elway: 12/22, 123 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT

Again, this is the forced one because Jeff George (3,917 passing yards, 29 touchdowns, nine interceptions) had the better regular season than Elway (3,635 passing yards, 27 touchdowns, 11 picks). Elway may have been the winning quarterback, but he didn’t have anything to do with the win. Terrell Davis carried the Broncos, playing through a migraine and rushing for 157 yards with three touchdowns en route to Super Bowl MVP honors. 

Super Bowl XXXI: Favre vs. Bledsoe

Favre led NFL with 39 TDs, Bledsoe third with 27

Final Score: Packers 35, Patriots 21

Favre: 14/27, 246 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Bledsoe: 25/48, 253 yards, 2 TD, 4 INT

Both quarterbacks took five sacks in this game. For Bledsoe, it was the most he took all season. The game was the third four-pick performance of his NFL career. 

Super Bowl XXVI: Kelly vs. Rypien

Kelly led NFL with 33 TDs, Rypien second with 28

Final score: Redskins 37, Bills 24

Rypien: 18/33, 292 yards, 2 TD, INT
Kelly: 28/58, 275 yards, 2 TD, 4 INT, fumble lost

Turns out five turnovers (and being sacked four times) is not a recipe for winning the Super Bowl. Kelly’s 58 passes thrown set a Super Bowl record.
 

Dimitroff, Pioli the first Belichick defectors to lead new team to Super Bowl

Dimitroff, Pioli the first Belichick defectors to lead new team to Super Bowl

Working for the Patriots makes you attractive to other teams. Many have left, but Thomas Dimitroff and Scott Pioli are finally showing that major success can be attained in the process. 

Dimitroff and Pioli have built a team in Atlanta that will play for the franchise’s first Super Bowl title on Feb. 5. While many have been hired away from Bill Belichick's Patriots to lead other organizations, Dimitroff is the first of the defectors to get to the Super Bowl on his own. Adding an old friend in Pioli has played a part in that. 

Dimitroff served as New England’s director of college scouting from 2003 through 2007 before becoming Atlanta’s general manager in 2008. He hired Pioli in 2014 as an assistant GM after the longtime Patriots director and vice president of player personnel had a messy stint as the Chiefs’ GM. 

Executives and coaches (even Field Yates; yes, the fair-haired boy from the television) leaving the Patriots for better positions with other organizations has been common, but with the new positions have often come diminished success compared to New England. 

Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini, Bill O’Brien, Charlie Weis (in his brief return to the NFL in 2010) and Josh McDaniels make up the list of coordinators who have left winning with the Patriots to experience a dropoff without Brady and Belichick. John Robinson (Titans), Jason Licht (Buccaneers) and Bob Quinn (Lions) currently serve as GMs elsewhere, while former Pats secondary coach Joe Collier works with Dimitroff and Pioli as the Falcons’ director of pro personnel. 

It’s only fitting that Dimitroff and Pioli will have to go through Belichick in order to secure a title on their own. Winning without Belichick has proven hard enough for his former colleagues; winning against him will be even harder.