New England Patriots rookie linebacker Dont'a Hightower during the Patriots opening day of training camp at the team practice facility.
Five notes from the second day of New England Patriots training camp:
1. Alfonzo Dennard Suffers Apparent Hamstring Injury
The Patriots may have suffered a hit to their defensive backfield depth, as rookie cornerback Alfonzo Dennard went down with an apparent hamstring injury during practice, and did not return to the field. Dennard, despite being a seventh round pick, should have a good chance to make the final roster. Getting back on the field as quickly as possible will be key for him.
2. "Up and Down" Day for Brady
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady wasn't at the top of his game today, after what appeared to be a strong showing yesterday. Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald wrote that there were a "couple instances of miscommunication," including a play where Brady underthrew Wes Welker on a throw that was ultimately intercepted by linebacker Bobby Carpenter. Apparently, however, Brady would recover. Christopher Price of WEEI wrote that Brady ended practice with several great throws, including a nice deep throw to Brandon Lloyd.
3. Cornerback Rotation Taking Shape?
Today, the Patriots defense reportedly "looked comfortable" when using a cornerback duo of Devin McCourty and Ras-I Dowling, with Kyle Arrington playing in the slot. Through the first two days of camp, Dowling has been the first defensive back on the field in sub-packages. While Dowling had some struggles in mini-camp, he appears to be coming on relatively strong in training camp. Earlier in the day, Belichick said that Dowling had a "good spring." It's still very early, but if Dowling were to come on strong in 2012, he could provide a real boost to the Patriots defensive backfield.
4. Another Shake-up on offensive line
Yesterday, news out of Foxboro was how the Patriots ran a starting interior line of Ryan Wendell, Dan Koppen, and Dan Connolly. Today, they shook things up a little bit, with Robert Gallery taking the snaps with the first unit at right guard, and Dan Connolly switching over to left guard. Again, it's early. The Patriots are likely going to keep switching up personnel along the interior line until they find something that they like, or until Brian Waters and/or Logan Mankins return(s).
5. Hernandez Gets a Try at Punt Returner
The Patriots introduced a new wrinkle to their punt return unit this afternoon, having tight end Aaron Hernandez field a few punts. Hernandez was joined by Deion Branch, Julian Edelman, and Wes Welker as the primary punt returners. I doubt Hernandez will actually end up returning any punts come the regular season, but this is certainly an interesting experiment, as Hernandez is the type of player that can make any defender miss in the open field. Regardless of whether or not this works out, it adds yet another dimension to Heranandez' already heralded versatility.