Tom Brady, left, stretches during rookie mini camp in Foxboro in April, 2000, when he was just another late-round draft pick trying to make the team.
Hope is in the air. Shiny new rookies ready to be broken in and put on the field so we fans can check out this year's models and project out to September all the way through the playoffs. Well, hope was in the air last May too, with the freshly drafted Patriots - now veterans - attending their rookie mini-camp in Foxboro.
So, what was the buzz following mini-camp on last year's rookie class of 2008?
It was easy to see why the Patriots drafted wide receiver Matthew Slater, the son of Hall of Fame offensive lineman Jackie Slater. The younger Slater's versatility was on display. He went through positional drills with the wide receivers, flashed his All-Pacific-10 skills as a kick returner, and lined up as a safety in seven-on-seven drills, making a one-handed interception of a deflected pass in the morning session.
First-round pick Jerod Mayo, who played both inside linebacker spots during the practices, acknowledged the Patriots' defensive scheme is more complex than what he's used to.
Shawn Crable revealed the linebackers - who included Mayo, sixth-round pick Bo Ruud, and undrafted free agents Gary Guyton and Vince Redd - spent Thursday night in the hotel cramming with the playbook. Crable said the group had to call the coaches because they didn't understand what they were trying to learn.
Bill Belichick said that's fine by him. "That's what we get paid to do," he said. "We get paid to coach the players. We don't have the alumni functions and recruiting, and golf tournaments and all that. We coach the players, that's what we are here for."
Linebacker Jerod Mayo, the Pats’ first-round pick, leads his fellow defenders in a drill in May 2008.
The first day picks impressed in their first two days on the field as Dom Capers liked what he saw with Wheatley and Mayo played well, although he got out of position in coverage a time or two. Wilhite made some plays, but also seemed to get nicked up at the end of practice. O'Connell was inconsistent, showing flashes of brilliance while making rookie mistakes a minute later. A lot was made of Shawn Crable's "Moss-like" skinny legs, hopefully they help him run even half as fast. Matt Slater played on defense as well as returning kicks, which Terrence Wheatley did as well.
If Vince Redd makes the team, we at NE Patriots Draft would like to make a rule that he can't hit anyone during practice as he is one big (6-6/260), scary, dude. Redd is a longshot to make the team as he has two pro-bowlers (Vrabel and Thomas) starting at OLB. Pierre Woods is a solid backup and special teams standout, and a 3rd round pick in Shawn Crable ahead of him as well. Two things that Redd does have going for him is that he has experience in a 3-4 both with Virginia (Al Groh) and Liberty, and he loves hitting people.
Mike Dragosavich brought the rain indoors as he hit the roof repeatedly with his punts. Here's hoping that he never has to kick the ball once this year -- even when the Patriots are up by 40.
Draft picks Shawn Crable and Jerod Mayo participate in mini-camp drills.
-- Erik Scalavino was a little too positive in his coverage of his boy Kevin O’Connell. (Notice I said his boy.) I though O’Connell really struggled throwing the ball throughout a good portion of the morning work. He threw a lot of balls with the nose seeming to dive toward the ground after it left his hand, a flight path that reminds me of how Ken Dorsey threw the ball. O’Connell also struggled in his accuracy.
-- Terrence Wheatley was the most impressive player on the field. He clearly has legit 4.3 speed and is very athletic. I know he was just covering undrafted free agent and tryout guys, but just walking him move around he clearly looks the part of an athletic if undersized cornerback. I like him. It’s also interesting that both he and Bill Belichick are totally shooting down all questions about his wrist (he plays with a stainless steel rod in his right forearm.) They don’t think it’s a problem. He played with it all last season. Good enough for me.
-- Matthew Slater didn’t exactly stand out for the better in the morning work. He had to do bag drills twice, fell down in his routes a few times and didn’t look great in his route running. He did have a pick-six as covering a slot receiver on defense. Belichick said in his presser that Slater will be used on both sides of the ball, at least through spring work, and we’ll see how he responds. He might be fast and athletic, but today wasn’t his best work.
-- Dante Scarnecchia had just two linemen to work with — undrafted free agents Josh Coffman and Ryan Wendell. Coffman is a 6-7, 292-pound OT from East Carolina. He seems to have really slow feet, questionable athleticism and his strength wasn’t all that impressive when working with a weighted sled. I don’t like saying bad things about guys (I really don’t!) but he struggled in the morning drills. Wendell is a 6-2, 275-pound center from Pat Hill’s Fresno State team. He looked to be a decent athlete, but he clearly would need to add weight to even be a practice squad prospect.
So which 2008 rookies still still remain on the roster one year later?
- Titus Adams (DT) *
- Shawn Crable (LB)
- Angelo Craig (LB) *
- Tyson DeVree (TE)
- BenJarvus Green-Ellis (RB)
- Gary Guyton (LB)
- Tom Malone (P) *
- Kevin O'Connell (QB)
- Vince Redd (LB)
- Matthew Slater (WR)
- Ryan Wendell (G) *
- Jonathan Wilhite (CB)
- Terrence Wheatley (CB)
* 2008 Practice squad