FOXBORO -- Before we move on from Thursday's OTA, here are a few leftover tidbits we took away from the session:
Numbers at tight end
The Patriots tight end group was a little more robust than it had been in previous sessions open to the media. Although Rob Gronkowski and DJ Williams made their way into the Dana Farber Field House after the warmup period, Michael Hoomanawanui, Asa Watson, Justin Jones, Kyle Auffray and fullback James Develin gave the position group decent numbers.
Michael Hoomanawanui made a couple of catches -- one leaping, one-handed grab in particular -- that reminded anyone watching just how reliable his hands are. His touchdown catch during a Week 15 loss in Miami last season comes to mind as just one of the many times he's flashed good mitts. He may not be separating from defenders the way Gronkowski can, but if he gets his hands on a pass, odds are he's holding on.
Getting a handle on Jones
One of the most intriguing undrafted free agent signings this offseason was that of 6-foot-8 tight end out of East Carolina, Justin Jones. One of three players on the team listed at that height (Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer are the others), Jones is a huge target in the passing game. From what we've seen over the last few weeks, he's had up-and-down moments like any rookie. Early in Thursday's session he took to the air as if he were going for a rebound, and came down with a ball that was floated high by a member of the Patriots coaching staff. He looked fluid and coordinated throughout the catch, which makes it easy to see why he's been given a shot to make the team. A few minutes later in a 7-on-7 drill, Jones dropped an easy one on a crossing route that Jimmy Garoppolo put right in his hands. We won't know how Jones moves with pads on until later, but if he can find some consistency during this preseason, he has the size and he seems to have enough athletic ability to garner a good long look.
It's hard to read into just how well players are moving during OTAs -- especially players coming off of injuries. That said, Vince Wilfork appeared to look like he's continued in the right direction. He was seen out on the field during some 11-on-11 work. Though players aren't wearing pads, there is some light contact at the line of scrimmage in those portions of practice, and Wilfork was in there mixing it up with everyone else. After about an hour on the field, Wilfork made his way into the bubble with fellow defensive lineman Will Smith.
Everything's a competition
One moment at Thursday's OTA that briefly captured the competitive nature of two players renowned for theirs. During a drill between receivers and defensive backs -- coaches were throwing passes, not quarterbacks -- Julian Edelman made an incredibly difficult grab along the sideline. He was fully laid out, juggled the ball for a split second, and tapped his toes on the ground as he corralled the pass and fell to the turf. While one might expect a teammate's reaction to be to give Edelman a pat on the back for his effort, Darrelle Revis went the other way. Ever the competitor, he stood nearby on the sidelines signalling an incompletion with his arms. "Uh-uh-uh!" he said to Edelman, pointing at the sideline as if to say Edelman didn't get his feet in bounds. The effort (Edelman) and the desire for his side to win a seemingly meaningless OTA drill (Revis) provided a little window into the makeup of both players.
Most of Thurday's special teams periods seemed to be focused on the kickoff team, with an emphasis on how to take on opposing blocks. A few rookies we noticed taking on the pads of the scout return team included sixth-round pick out of Concordia State Zach Moore, undrafted rookie linebacker out of Michigan Cameron Gordon and undrafted safety out of Oklahoma State Shamiel Gary. For many rookies, becoming serviceable on special teams may be their ticket to making the 53-man roster down the line. Gary also caught our eye in some of the 7-on-7 work for his size alone. At 6-feet, 210 pounds, he's no Brandon Browner (6-4, 220), but he's one of the sturdier defensive backs on the team.
Next on the schedule
Our next chance to watch the Patriots practice will be June 17-19 during mandatory minicamp.