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Minicamp observations, Day 2

Posted by Greg A. Bedard  June 13, 2012 05:55 PM

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FOXBOROUGH – The Patriots didn’t let up today despite the rain. The practice was very much the same setup as the first day with a lot of situational work in 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 situations.

It was a little tougher to keep track of things with the rain for us in the media, but we managed a few thoughts.

The disclaimers:

  • It is VERY, VERY early, so don’t go flying off the handle about anything. Things will certainly change in time.
  • The media is limited in what we can report. Specifically, we can’t report “on offensive or defensive strategy. This includes describing formations, personnel groups or non-conventional plays.” We also can’t report comments made by coaches.

The observations:

  • After a strong start in 7-on-7, the passing offense slumped in 11-on-11 situations. The wet conditions didn’t help things. Tom Brady voiced his frustration – loudly – once.
  • Brady was 25 of 36 in competitive situations and hit on just two of his final six passes.
  • Brian Hoyer was picked off for the third time in minicamp when linebacker Dont’a Hightower made a leaping grab and returned it a short distance for a touchdown. Hoyer finished 7 of 19.
  • Ryan Mallett completed his final six passes. Prior to that, he was 5 of 18 and was just one of eight to start practice. He did have the prettiest ball of the day – a deep score down the left side to Donte' Stallworth -- that burned CBs Malcolm Williams and Ras-I Dowling.
  • The defense worked a lot on sorting out coverage in the red zone against flood concepts with three receivers/running backs working against four defenders. Offensive bunch formations were included.
  • The most significant personnel change – and, again, it’s early so it probably doesn’t mean anything – was that Sterling Moore took all of Dowling’s snaps in nickel defense. Guessing the Patriots continue to like Moore’s ball skills. Dowling hasn’t really made any plays. Also interesting to note, after playing left cornerback for the first time on Tuesday, Dowling received even more reps (if not more) on the left side. As a rookie, he was only a right cornerback. Could be preparation for Devin McCourty to do some safety work down the road if Dowling proves ready to take on more.
  • After practice, cornerbacks coach Josh Boyer confirmed our suspicions that Dowling is not 100 percent. Boyer said Dowling is “trying to push through and get back into game shape" after hip surgery. That’s evident on the field. But it seems that he’s making progress. It’s only June.
  • Both Moore, who did have one nice play on the ball, and Dowling struggled for most of the day.
  • Undrafted free agent DL Justin Francis continues to get a lot of playing time. Even saw him stand up today. He’s heading for a role as Mr. Versatility on the line if he keeps it up through camp. Francis would have had a sack in a real game.
  • DB Tavon Wilson again saw some snaps at linebacker in subpackages. Like we said, this is not a surprise. He did it at Illinois.
  • When Alfonzo Dennard went out with leg injury Williams received all his snaps. Remarkable how similar the two are physically.
  • Top catches: Brandon Lloyd (two of the sliding variety) and Wes Welker in traffic.
  • Deion Branch continues to make a living as Brady’s underneath receiver. Branch is still pretty good in about a 10-yard box.
  • WR Britt Davis has really shown up this offseason. He’s got some burst and does a good job catching the ball. Made a nice adjustment on a ball thrown behind by Mallett. He’s a candidate for one of those guys that really shines in the second half of preseason games. Maybe he’s the new Taylor Price.
  • Jabar Gaffney had an outstanding practice. A couple of sliding catches, a few touchdowns in the red zone.
  • Julian Edelman is by far Mallet’s favorite receiver.
  • Patrick Chung got more reps as a kickoff returner. With his injury history, not sure I’m crazy about that.
  • Chandler Jones had a sack against Mallett when he blew past LG Jamey Richard, who was promptly replaced.
  • S Steve Gregory made a nice play breaking up a pass from Brady to Welker when Gregory really drove on the out route.
  • S Nate Ebner had two pass breakups and then gave up a touchdown to an unknown WR (missed the number). Williams, Moore and Tavon Wilson also had pass breakups.
  • Donte' Stallworth and Danny Woodhead each had a drop.
News, analysis and commentary from Boston.com's staff writers and contributors, including Zuri Berry and Erik Frenz.

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