FOXBOROUGH, MA -- Following the induction of cornerback Ty Law into the New England Patriots' Hall of Fame, the Patriots held their annual in-stadium practice session. The session was held in front of Patriots' season ticket holders, and was a showcase for some of the team's bubble players to get a chance to prove their worth in a game-like atmosphere. The crowd was large tonight, with the lower tier of the stadium nearly being filled to capacity.
A few notes from the session:
- The Patriots' starters didn't participate in any of the team drills tonight, as it was a chance for the second and third team players to get game-like reps. Following position drills, players such as Tom Brady, Julian Edelman, and Darrelle Revis all watched from the sideline as many younger players got a chance to make an impression in front of coaches.
- Big focus on situational special teams tonight. The team worked on kick-offs, onsides kicks, punting from their own half, "coffin corner" punting, etc. At one point, Ryan Allen even practiced the post-safety free kick.
- Early on, the team ran some half-speed "hail mary" situational drills. Just goes to show that the team will practice just about every situation that could come up on game day at some point in camp. At one point, Rob Gronkowski caught a pass over "safety" Jamie Collins which had the crowd cheering.
- Undrafted rookie and Maine product Derrick Johnson had a few struggles in position drills. He had a drop and slipped running a route. He's a player with great athletic numbers on paper, but didn't positively stand out tonight.
- At the start of team work, Logan Ryan intercepted a Ryan Mallett throw on the first play on a throw down the left sideline. Two plays later, Mallett overthrew a wide open Derrick Johnson on a deep throw. The next play, Mallett and Jonas Gray then muffed a hand-off. Not a strong sequence from the fourth year quarterback.
- In a team running drill, Jon Halapio blew up Chris White on a block that really stood out. Halapio hasn't emerged into the immediate starter role that some unfairly expected, but this play was a reminder of why the Patriots like him.
- Defensive back Malcolm Butler had a nice break-up on a Jimmy Garroplo pass intended for Derrick Johnson. I charted Garropolo as going 2/4 during 7 vs. 7s, and on the particular play referenced, he didn't put enough zip on the ball on a deep route to the sideline. It would have been a tough throw to make with Butler's coverage, but Garropolo didn't put enough zip on it to give Johnson a chance.
- On the defensive side, one player who stood out to me was defensive lineman L.T. Tuipulotu. He flashed early on in individual and position drills, flashing some quickness and a good punch. In red zone work near the end of practice, he also came up big with a nice run stuff.
- Mallett seemed to settle down nicely during a down and distance drill, hitting a couple of short throws, and even scrambling for a first down. He also ran for a touchdown during red zone work, and generally looked more comfortable as the practice wore on.
- Stephen Houston had some nice work during team drills. He had one would-be long run in which he showed off nice vision and agility, and also got involved in the receiving game. He beat linebacker Chris White on a wheel route that should have been a long gain, had it not been for an overthrow by Garropolo.
- Justin Jones had a poor drop on a nicely thrown pass down the seam by Ryan Mallett. And I know you've heard it 1000 times already, but man is he massive. Following practice, he was practically leaning over the side wall of the field to sign autographs for fans.
Today's session was the last full practice session for the Patriots before heading to Washington for joint practices with the Redskins.