The Patriots were finally in pads, but there wasn’t a lot of physicality in the practice. Joe Cardona, Danny Amendola, and Malcolm Mitchell returned to practice, although the latter worked on conditioning in the lower fields while the team was doing drills. Practice was fairly short, wrapping up at 11:15 today instead of 11:30 because of Raymond Clayborn’s Patriots Hall of Fame induction, one that was truly deserved. Here are some of my observations for Day 3.
Receivers owned the CBs in 1 on 1 drills: The Patriots receivers won the 1-on-1 drills in practice, drawing ire from Matt Patricia. Julian Edelman shook some of the corners with his quickness, with Jonathan Jones learning how quick Edelman is. Brandin Cooks had a strong day, although Gilmore was in tight coverage in both match-ups between the high-priced acquisitions. The corners ended up having to do push-ups for losing the competition.
Jordan Richards excelled: In what is arguably the most critical camp in Jordan Richards’ career, it’s gotten off to a solid start. The third year safety had a big day at camp with 2 monster plays. The first was when he was matched up on UDFA TE Jacob Hollister, he perfectly read an out route and made the Catch of the Day with a toe-dragging interception along the sideline. Richards was the first player to intercept Tom Brady in camp. Later on, when matched up against Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski, it was Richards who won that match-up. Gronk outmuscled Richards to the catchpoint and Brady threw a perfect pass, but Richards didn’t give up and jarred the ball out of Gronk’s hands before the All Universe TE could secure the catch. With his NFL future on the line, this type of practice is a welcomed sign.
Brandin Cooks continues to shine: Cooks has looked absolutely amazing so far in camp, albeit not a lot of contact so far. Matched up twice on Stephon Gilmore, Cooks beat the $65M corner on a comeback route and a slant route despite Gilmore being glued to his hip pocket in both cases. The first route was an example of excellent timing and chemistry between Brady and Cooks to beat Gilmore despite excellent coverage. In another 11 on 11 drill, Cooks got behind both Harmon and Ebner for an easy TD.
Stephon Gilmore was good too: Gilmore was able to stick stride for stride against the Patriots top receiver. Chris Hogan on the other hand, a different story as Chris Hogan beat him deep again. The good news for Gilmore is Hogan can’t score on him during regular season games. Gilmore’s ability to press and play man-to-man will be an asset on this defense. It could be possible that Gilmore and Butler could rival the best CB duo in Patriots history: Raymond Clayborn and Mike Haynes from 1977-1982.
Kenny Moore continues to stand out: The UDFA CB out of a Division II school continues to make plays on the field. After Richards intercepted Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo came in and tried to hit a pass down the middle that was tipped and intercepted by Moore. Moore isn’t very big at 5’9” 179 and will likely have to win a job as a special teamer and slot corner, but if he continues to make plays, he may find himself on a roster. One person is already comparing his camp to Malcolm Butler’s 3 years ago.
Ryan Allen struggled with punts: The windy conditions and inconsistent punts from Ryan Allen was the main special teams highlight of the day. The punts were traveling far and had some really funky spin on it. It wasn’t the kind of wind you see in Foxborough in January, so Allen can’t use that as an excuse. He got off a couple booming punts, but also shanked quite a few with one of them going into the bleacher area and into a crowd of fans.
Mike Gillislee crushes goal line drill: The Patriots gave up a 5th round pick to sign the restricted free agent from Buffalo and he looked impressive today. Gillislee is built like my ideal RB, short and low the ground with a strong lower half. With the pads on, the Patriots could finally do realistic goal line drills. Gillislee got the first two touches and showed off his power on the first carry to bounce off a big hit and on the second run the OL created a large seam for him to cut back on a zone run and he took advantage of it. Gillislee has the makings to be the lead back in this rotation, getting possibly 200-225 carries this season and be the primary option on early downs and short-yardage situations.