Postcards from Patriots Camp: Day 12

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Postcards from Patriots Camp: Day 12

So, before we start, you may notice that I put Day 12 in the headline. The last entry was Day 8. Time warp, right? Noooo. See, the Patriots reported July 25. Theyve had nine practices as of Sunday. But theyve been in camp almost two weeks. So calling Sunday Day 9 of camp isnt terribly accurate. Fascinating, no? I cant wait for a game so I can have more stuff to write about.

WEATHER

Tropical. Hot, humid and in the high 80s. No rain.

WHAT THEY WORE

Full pads. And Brandon Spikes appeared to be wearing a brace on his right knee. Not sure if thats a new addition or standard fare.

WHAT THEY DID

1:45-2:30: The same walkthrough, stretching, positional stretching, positional drills that they always do.

2:30: 11-on-11 Drills with a lot of situational stuff mixed in

2:45: Special teams (directional kickoffs and coverage)

2:55: 7 on-7

3:05: 1-on-1 tackling drill

3:10: Special teams, pass-blocking drills, quarterback fundamental drills

3:20:3:45: 11-on-11 situational work

WHAT WE SAW

A heckuva pick by Ras-I Dowling down the left sideline on a pass intended for Aaron Hernandez. The ball was thrown by Brian Hoyer.

Jerod Mayo with a stout tackle on Aaron Hernandez in 1-on-1 tackling. Also, Shane Vereen accelerating around Bobby Carpenter and Julian Edelman juking Josh Barrett to the ground.

Converted defensive player Alex Silvestro making a catch in 11-on-11s.

A nice catch by Jessie Holley, followed by my saying, Hes not bad. And my friend Mary Paoletti saying, Liar. Thats the first good play hes made.

Kyle Love down for a stretch and then being helped to the sidelines after what appeared to be an eye injury.

Tom Brady going 14-for-21 in 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills.

Tackle Darrion Weems leaving practice after an apparent leg injury.

A too-many-men-on-the-field penalty on a field-goal attempt by Stephen Gostkowski at the end of a hurry-up drive.
Several trick plays (were not allowed to divulge the nature of said plays. Sorry).

Gronk getting yelled at to get on the field for a kickoff drill.

Chandler Jones pursuit of a scrambling Brian Hoyer on a slow-developing screen.

Brandon Lloyd and Jabar Gaffney standing in the end zone catching deep balls from all three quarterbacks. And Lloyd giving a little surreptitious wave to some kids who kept yelling his name.

Brady getting agitated at Donald Thomas during 11-on-11s.

James Ihedigbo and Matt Slater out of their red jerseys.

WHOS HOT

Shane Vereen. He appears to be coming around after a slow start to camp.

Devin McCourty. Hes been very good in press coverage when asked to do that a weak point in 2011.

Aaron Hernandez. Generally catching everything thrown to him.

WHOS NOT

Brandon Deaderick seems to take a lap every practice for some infraction.

WHAT THEY SAID

Weve got a long way to go. Weve got a long way to go. Weve got a lot of practices, a lot of meetings; weve got four preseason games. Weve got a lot of work ahead of us and were nowhere where we need to be here, but thats why were coming out and practicing every day. Like I said, were not taking anything for granted, were trying to come out and string practices together. We had a good one today and weve got to come out and have a good one tomorrow. Tom Brady on meshing with the offensive line.

David Harris gets Jerod Mayo's old No. 51 with Patriots

David Harris gets Jerod Mayo's old No. 51 with Patriots

If you're hoping to help lead the Patriots defense from the middle of the field, No. 51 wouldn't be a bad jersey to wear in that pursuit.

Those are the digits that were worn by longtime Patriots captain (and Quick Slants co-host) Jerod Mayo during his run with the team from 2008-15. Taking the torch from linebackers like Tedy Bruschi, Junior Seau and Mike Vrabel, Mayo was the defensive signal-caller and quarterback of the Patriots defense for the better part of a decade, eventually handing the reins to his understudy Dont'a Hightower. 

With Harris now in the mix, the defense will still be led by Hightower, who was a captain for the first time in 2016. But Harris figures to serve as a leader in his own right for the Patriots. The 33-year-old 'backer has been one of the game's most durable players at his position while with the Jets, and over time he established himself as a savvy communicator at the second level. 

Comparing Harris to Mayo comes easily because of their reputations as coach-on-the-field types. Back in 2014 when Darrelle Revis called New England home, he explained that what Mayo did for the Patriots defense reminded him of what Harris did in New York.

Now Harris has Mayo's old number, and in training camp he'll make a play for some of the duties Mayo held later in his career. How Harris will handle his new role, and how he may help his teammates take their games to new heights, is something we touched upon in this space earlier today

Harris wore No. 52 during his 10 years with the Jets. That number has belonged to Patriots linebacker Elandon Roberts since he came into the league last season as a rookie, and it looks like Roberts will hold onto it for the foreseeable future.

No. 51 has bounced around to a couple of different Patriots since Mayo's retirement. Last year it was claimed by Barkevious Mingo, who has since moved on to Indianapolis as a free agent. Through this year's spring workouts No. 51 was worn by undrafted rookie linebacker Brooks Ellis, who now shares No. 47 with fullback Glenn Gronkowski.

Will the Harris signing mean more time on the edge for Hightower?

Will the Harris signing mean more time on the edge for Hightower?

David Harris is expected to be a savvy middle linebacker who will line up his teammates when they help. He's expected to provide some level of leadership, even in his first year in New England, as an accomplished-but-hungry 33-year-old who has not yet reached a Super Bowl. 

What Harris is not expected to do is improve the Patriots pass rush. He was in on one sack in 900 snaps last season.  

But in a roundabout way he might. 

MORE: How does Derek Carr's new deal impact Jimmy Garoppolo?

There are dominos to fall now that Harris has been added to Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia's defense. How much will Harris play, and whose playing time will he cut into? Those questions don't yet have answers, but one of the more intriguing elements of the Harris acquisition is how he will benefit Dont'a Hightower's game.

If Harris can pick up the Patriots defense quickly -- and all indications are that there should be few issues there -- he could take some of the all-important communication responsibilities off of Hightower's shoulders. 

Ever since taking the reins from Jerod Mayo as the team's signal-caller, Hightower has had to be on top of all requisite pre-snap checks and last-second alignment changes. It's a critical role, and one that Hightower performs well, but those duties place some added stress on the player wearing the green dot. Perhaps if part of that load can be heaped onto Harris' plate, that might allow Hightower to feel as though he's been freed up to focus on his individual assignments.

Harris' presence might also impact where on the field Hightower is used. Hightower may be the most versatile piece on a Patriots defense loaded with them, but with Harris in the middle, Hightower could end up playing more on the edge, where he's proven he can make a major impact (see: Super Bowl LI).

For Belichick and his staff, having the ability to use one of their best pass-rushers -- and one of the most efficient rushers league-wide, per Pro Football Focus -- on the edge more frequently has to be an enticing byproduct of the move to sign Harris. Especially since there are some question marks among the team's end-of-the-line defenders behind Trey Flowers and Rob Ninkovich. 

We'll have to wait for training camp before we have an idea of how exactly Harris fits in with the Patriots defense. But the effect he'll have on his new teammates, and Hightower in particular, will be fascinating to track.