Patriots practice report
Greg A. Bedard’s rundown of Patriots practice Wednesday:
Reserve/did not report: RG Brian Waters.
Exempt/left team: FB Tony Fiammetta.
Physically unable to perform: RT Sebastian Vollmer (back), OT Markus Zusevics (unknown), TE Daniel Fells (shoulder), TE Jake Ballard (knee), DT Myron Pryor (shoulder).
Still out: CB Alfonzo Dennard (hamstring), LB Tracy White (unknown), TE Visanthe Shiancoe (unknown), DT Jonathan Fanene (unknown), FB Spencer Larsen (unknown), OT Matt Kopa (leg), OT Kyle Hix (right shoulder), FB Eric Kettani (unknown), DT Gerard Warren (unknown).
New absences: S James Ihedigbo, CB Malcolm Williams.
Limited in practice: LG Logan Mankins (right knee/no team drills), RG Dan Connolly (unknown).
Returned to practice: TE Rob Gronkowski, TE Aaron Hernandez, WR Brandon Lloyd.
Injured during practice: WR Jabar Gaffney (right quad); DL Marcus Harrison (left leg). Both did not return.
■ On a third-and-10 situational play, Brandon Lloyd had a very nice snag of a Tom Brady pass that set up a field goal.
■ During two-on-two line drills, RT Marcus Cannon and RG Donald Thomas perfectly handed off Vince Wilfork and Rob Ninkovich to stifle the rush. We’d consider that a fairly big upset.
Ah, the refreshing sight of blue jerseys being tossed with ease left and right and then seeing a white No. 70 jersey responsible. Yes, Mankins was back in contact drills, and he looked surprisingly good for a player who had right ACL surgery six months ago. Mankins obviously hasn’t missed many weight-room sessions, because most of his effectiveness came from brute strength. He strong-armed Marcus Harrison in one-on-ones, and then was tossing reserve linemen in three two-on-two reps. Mankins is far from season-ready — his feet looked heavy and he showed no alertness to stunts — but his return was a welcome sight.
This was the third straight practice in which receivers dropped at least four passes. Enough of the sloppiness already. Clean it up or it could become a habit.
Dropped passes: Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, Hernandez, Wes Welker.
Nice catch: Matthew Slater, Brandon Lloyd.
Fumbled: Jeremy Ebert (punt).
One man’s opinion on how the offensive and defensive lines matched up in one-on-one drills (our favorite part of camp). Records shown indicate wins-losses-draws.
Standouts: Offense: Nate Solder (2-0-0). Defense: Marcus Forston (2-0-0), Jake Bequette (1-0-0).
Struggled: Offense: Kyle Hill (0-1-0). Defense: None.
Decided victories: Bequette (vs. Hill).
He has been really scuffling of late in drills and game situations, so it must have been nice for the Patriots to see Solder post his first two-win day since the first day of one-on-ones July 28 (2-2-1). Solder got the better of Chandler Jones on first rep when Solder did a nice job staying balanced as he rode Jones well to the outside. Solder then bested Justin Francis and received some well-deserved kudos from line coach Dante Scarnecchia for keeping his feet even though Francis initially knocked him off-balance.
Two of the offensive linemen the Patriots brought in late to camp, T Kyle Hill and G Dustin Waldron, have had a really tough time. Bequette and Forston used straight bull rushes to overpower their opponent.
Jermaine Cunningham hasn’t shown many moves since the first week.
Trevor Scott had little problem getting to the edge against Cannon, who looks really lost at this point. He’s had trouble against strength, and now he seems to be oversetting to prepare for that, and as a result is also susceptible to speed rushes.
ODDS AND ENDS
■ Probably the most competitive practice, in terms of drills, in a while.
■ Shane Vereen saw a dramatic uptick in overall reps and also those with the first team and seemed to capitalize on the opportunity with some nice runs. Stevan Ridley took a back seat to Vereen, likely because of Ridley’s fumble Tuesday.
■ Speaking of errors cutting back on playing time, WR Donte’ Stallworth was basically in the witness protection program after his three drops from the previous practice.
■ With Gronkowski, Hernandez, and Lloyd back, Brady seemed more comfortable — especially after a sloppy seven-on-seven period. He went 14 for 19 with two drops and two sacks during 11-on-11 periods. Brady capped his first drive with a touchdown to Hernandez against Dont’a Hightower. Later Brady hooked up with old reliable Deion Branch for a score.
■ Brady and Welker failed to complete a crossing pattern, and we’re going to put it on Welker. The pass was a little high but his hands were flipped the wrong way so he dropped it.
■ Brandon Spikes, who looks much more active, had a sack after blowing up C Dan Koppen (who split reps with Ryan Wendell). The other was a coverage sack on Brady.
■ The coverage continues to be much improved in the secondary, where Sterling Moore split time with Ras-I Dowling as the nickel cornerback. We thought Tavon Wilson might be headed for a tight end-killer role, and he’s delivering on that. He’s providing excellent coverage, including a pass breakup when Brady tried to find Gronkowski in the end zone.
■ The Patriots moved Donald Thomas to right guard and Nick McDonald to left guard.
■ Saw Chandler Jones line up at left end a few times. That hasn’t happened in a while. We also saw him deep down the field in coverage in what was likely a zone exchange coverage where a lineman replaces a rushing linebacker or defensive back in coverage.
■ Jeremy Ebert muffed another punt. He’s never fielded them before, and he won’t be doing it in the future if he keeps it up.
■ One thing we noticed watching the Saints game was that Gronkowski didn’t seem to have the same explosion getting down the field. That was reinforced when Nate Ebner stuck to Gronkowski like glue in seven-on-seven. Gronkowski is still working his way back from ankle surgery. Nothing to worry about for a while.
■ Brandon Bolden drew the ire of coaches for picking the wrong running lane.
■ Ryan Mallett threw a terrible pass to the feet of Hernandez at a distance of about 7 yards.
■ Hightower had a tackle for a loss as Solder was overwhelmed. That happened again later when Solder completely whiffed on blocking Jones at the point of attack. And again later against Bobby Carpenter.
■ During two-on-twos, Solder continued his habit of getting his pads out in front of his feet. That leaves him in trouble with balance. He hasn’t developed a good position after his kick slide. He should look like he’s sitting in a chair. Instead, Solder looks like he’s falling out of one.
■ Fairly sure we saw the Patriots work on some 3-4 stuff. They’re always ready to be a multiple defense.
■ Mike Rivera, Marquice Cole, and Tavon Wilson had pass breakups during team periods.
■ Scott had two sacks in team period against inferior competition.
Thursday: 1:30-4 p.m.
Friday: 1:30-4 p.m. (final open practice)
Shalise Manza Young contributed to this report.