Pats Pulpit at Training Camp: 8/2 Notes

As announced previously in this space, XFINITY from Comcast has generously agreed to support the best NFL community around -- us!  As part of that effort, XFINITY will be sponsoring our Patriots’ training camp coverage as well as a variety of special editorial and interactive features on our site between now and the end of the 2011 NFL season.

Today through Sunday, I will be attending Patriots training camp, sponsored by Comcast.  Actually, I first arrived on Sunday night, only to find out that the Patriots' practice session was cancelled for Monday.  Oh well.  In addition, if you would like me to focus on any particular aspect of practice or player or if you want the "notes" in any particular format, just let me know in the comments section (although I can't reveal anything bout schemes / strategy). Here are my notes from today's practice:

  • Sitting in the corner of the bleacher's, I was close-up on mostly receiver and defensive back drills today, as well as team and special team scrimmages.
  • Off the bat, the two defensive backs that really stood out to me were Leigh Bodden and the freshly signed rookie second round draft choice Ras-I Dowling.  Dowling was big, and was strong in press coverage in position drills.  
  • The only time Dowling was beat was in team drills.  Dowling was in position, but Taylor Price came down with a beautiful toe-tapping sideline grab.  Speaking of Price, he had a decent day.  He certainly looks like one of the Patriots most physical receivers, and impressed me with his route running as well.
  • I mentioned that Leigh Bodden looked really good out there.  He was the one guy that no receiver could beat in press, he stayed with them every step of the way.  While Ty Warren, who missed all of 2010 like Bodden, and Tully Banta-Cain, who received a big contract like Bodden before 2010, have fallen by the wayside, it looks like Leigh has really shown up to play.
  • Chad Ochocinco, aside from Aaron Hernandez, is the best Patriots receiver when it comes to beating press coverage.  He can still burn down the sideline.
  • In a backs/tight ends/linebackers/safeties drill, Rob Gronkowski made a nice catch down the seam.  Shane Vereen looked solid in pass protection.  Meanwhile, Stevan Ridley struggled a bit in pass protection.  
  • In that same drill, tight end Lee Smith proved he could be more than just a blocking tight end.  On an out route, he used a double-fake that literally caused Gary Guyton to fall over.  Speaking of linebackers, the most solid in coverage on the day was certainly Rob Ninkovich.  No matter what defensive scheme the Patriots are in, Ninkovich will seemingly be up and on his feet.
  • The rookie running backs looked pretty solid today.  Ridley comes as advertised.  He's big, strong, and looks like he will be tough to bring down.  Shane Vereen, looks solid and bigger than I would have expected.  During team work, he made a ton of catches and considering this was his first practice, I'm certainly impressed.
  • Tight end Carson Butler looks like a solid receiving tight end, although he had one pretty bad drop in team work.
  • Chad Ochocinco looks like he's becoming more comfortable in the Patriots offense.  He had the play of the day, hauling in a long sideline catch from Tom Brady.  He jumped in the air, wrestled the ball from Brandon Meriweather who nearly had the interception, and fell to the ground while securing the catch.  A few plays later, Ochocinco had back-to-back catches with Devin McCourty in coverage.  The first was on an out, where Ochocinco made a nice toe-tap to secure the catch.  The next play was on a crossing route over the middle.  You can definitely feel the excitement with the Brady-Chad connection, with the crowd cheering each time he makes a grab.

More practice notes after the jump!

  • It wasn't a bad day for McCourty.  Even though Ochocinco beat him twice, he stuck stride-for-stride with him on a couple of deep throws, forcing the incompletion.
  • On one play, Darnell Jenkins made a nice sideline catch on a Ryan Mallett throw.  Mallett showcased his arm at times, but he was also erratic on some throws.
  • Aaron Hernandez is one of those guys that just stands out.  He is a great player, and is virtually uncoverable.  I love watching him run routes and beat safeties, linebackers, whoever.
  • While I got to see a fair amount of offensive drills, lets be clear on one thing: the offense isn't "there" yet.  Neither side is.  But from what I can see, the offense seems to be lagging a little bit with completions down the field very hard to come by.

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