New England Patriots Links 8/15/12 - Spikes Returns to Practice: "Be a Shark, It's Shark Week"

Brandon Spikes returns to practice "with a vengeance ... making deflections, picking off passes, calling out signals with Jerod Mayo and sniffing out running plays."

Mike Reiss notes the Patriots held their second straight full-pads practice on Tuesday, and offers his observations.

Defense plays big. Patriots fans are accustomed to strong outings from their offense, but it was the defense's day on Tuesday. The secondary forced a number of turnovers, getting their hands on the ball and making good on opportunties to intercept passes. Steve Gregory, Patrick Chung and Kyle Arrington were all able to corral picks, and the defense was especially strong overall during situational work.

Play of the day. The aforementioned Chung interception came on a beautiful play in the end zone, as he rose high to snare a Tom Brady pass with one hand. Chung's ball skills continue to impress this training camp, and he looks the part of a very good all-around safety.

Extensive card work. Perhaps as a sign that the team has begun to focus some attention on its upcoming opponent, the Philadelphia Eagles, the Patriots brought out scripted card plays, which allow one side of the football to practice plays that an opponent typically runs. In the case of the Eagles, squaring off against an athletic quarterback (Michael Vick) is typically a consideration coaches make as they draw up their cards and prepare for the week ahead.

One-on-one notes. For those who did participate in one-on-ones between the offensive and defensive lines, here are some highlights: Chandler Jones put on a neat countermove against offensive tackle Nate Solder, rushing inside after initial charging upfield. ... Jermaine Cunningham burst off the edge. He is arguably the quickest defensive linemen on the Patriots' roster. ... Tough to gauge Nick McDonald's ability to consistently anchor in the middle of the line, as he had struggles against Vince Wilfork followed by more success against Marcus Forston. Wilfork routinely defeats interior linemen on his own, and Forston is a developmental undrafted rookie. McDonald's versatility and athleticism are strong points. ... Ron Brace's power can be overwhelming. Impressive stuff from a guy who needs to have a good week.

Cannon's power. Offensive tackle Marcus Cannon has had an up-and-down training camp from this vantage point, but one trait of his that continues to catch the eye is his power in short areas. When Cannon is able to engage defenders and get his hands on them, he has excellent power and pop to knock them off their center of gravity. On two occasions today we saw Cannon use such force against defenders that it almost seemed to catch them by surprise.

Jeff Howe gives us some details from the Patriots' 15th practice of camp.

Tom Brady was very sharp with the exception of a late glitch. He completed 20 of 26 passes for two touchdowns and one interception during 11-on-11 work. Two incompletions were easy drops. Two completions, including a touchdown, would have been taken away with sacks.

Wide receiver Matthew Slater made an insanely nice diving one-handed reception in the right corner of the end zone on a throw from Brady in 1-on-1s against cornerback Devin McCourty.

Odd moment late in practice, as Justin Francis appeared to kick McDonald on the ground. On the next play, Francis steamrolled Cannon for a pressure.

Safety Nate Ebner had a nice leaping interception on quarterback Ryan Mallett. Two straight days Ebner picked off Mallett, though this one had a higher degree of difficulty than yesterday’s, which hit him in the gut.

Not sure if it’s due to the return of offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, but the Patriots have run a variation of trick plays in camp.

Cornerback Sterling Moore made a pair of nice pass breakups in 1-on-1s.

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