Five notes from the Patriots 11th day of training camp:
Stallworth Sees Increase in Reps, Branch Down
You don't want to overreact to the number of practice reps that a veteran receiver such as Deion Branch receives, however, WEEI's Christopher Price notes that Deion Branch hardly saw the field today, and that Donte Stallworth saw a lot of his reps. While the team could be managing the number of practice reps that an oft-injured veteran such as Branch receives, the more reps that Stallworth receives, the better his chances of making the team. He's impressed thus far in training camp. And while he isn't the player he once was, he may have a more unique physical skillset to offer the Patriots than Branch, whose presence may be becoming a bit redundant with the reliable veteran receiver Jabar Gaffney also back in the mix.
Offensive Line Hurting
The Patriots suffered two more injuries along the offensive line during today's practice, with rookie tackle Darrion Weems and second year tackle Kyle Hix both leaving practice early with respective ailments. While neither of the two figure into the team's longterm plans along the offensive line, their absence makes the Patriots even thinner on the offensive line. Center/guard Jamey Richard was placed on injured reserve Friday, Guard/tackle Robert Gallery retired yesterday, whilst starters Logan Mankins (offseason ACL surgery), Brian Waters (reserve/did not report), and Sebastian Vollmer (back) also all remain out of action. Marcus Cannon and Nate Solder have had to play on both the first and second units, and over the long-term, the fatigue of those key players will be a situation to monitor if the Patriots can't bring more camp bodies into the fold.
There was a minor scare in practice when Patriots defensive tackle Kyle Love left for a bit after getting shaken up during one on ones. However, Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald has since reported that he was simply poked in the eye and will be fine. Fellow defensive tackle Ron Brace was also held out of practice, and was working with the trainers on the sideline. He's had a really strong camp, dominating one on one's, and it would be really unfortunate if he were to suffer a setback.
Ras-I Dowling Continues Strong Camp
At training camp on Wednesday, it was clear that Ras-I Dowling was making strides in his second season, after a down mini-camp performance. In fact, he looked as good as any other Patriots defender in the practice I attended, making several difficult pass break-ups. He came up with a big play in practice today, reportedly making a "tough leaping interception" on a Brian Hoyer pass intended for Aaron Hernandez. It's still early, but I wouldn't be surprised if Dowling is starting on the outside for the Patriots come September. At a minimum, he should play the majority of the outside snaps when the Patriots are in sub-packages, with Kyle Arrington projecting to the slot in that scenario. The key for Dowling going forward, as it's been repeatedly stated this offseason, will be staying healthy.
Tom Brady Shows Frustration
From all indications, today wasn't the best practice for Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. He overthrew receivers on multiple throws during preparation work for the Saints, and seemed to be angry with himself. ESPN Boston's Mike Reiss writes that Brady's "frustrations could be heard throughout the session." It's not really concerning at this point, but worth noting.