The Patriots took the field under the lights of Gillette Stadium on Monday night in front of a crowd of over 17,000 season ticket holders and local residents. After two padded practices over the weekend, the session was held in “shorts and shells”. Here were some of the key observations.
Active PUP-list players and players nursing injuries who did not participate in Monday evening’s session:
- Matthew Slater
- Jonathan Jones
- Cyrus Jones
- Kenny Britt
- Nate Ebner
- Malcolm Mitchell
- Mike Gillislee
- Keion Krossen
- Jordan Matthews
- Shane Wimann
Emphasis on special teams
Per usual, a heavy focus was placed on special teams during Monday’s practice. The field goal unit received reps under the duress of a two-minute drill scenario. Kickoffs of various length were addressed, including a handful of onside looks. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the team’s special teams work were the new faces tasked with handling the football.
Rex Burkhead is among the Patriots players fielding punts tonight. That's new.— Zack Cox (@ZackCoxNESN) July 30, 2018
The versatile Rex Burkhead — an always sure-handed receiver who also caught two touchdown passes in 11-on-11 goal line drills — is no stranger to punt returning, even though he has yet to be called upon in the NFL to do so.
Rex Burkhead returned 11 punts for 117 yards at Nebraska.— Doug Kyed (@DougKyed) July 30, 2018
According to PFW’s Andy Hart, veteran cornerback Jason McCourty was among the group of players to tasked with fielding and returning kickoffs. Others in the group included Cordarrelle Patterson, James White, Braxton Berrios, Riley McCarron, and Patrick Chung.
Goal line work
Even though the squad was without pads and physicality was kept to a minimum, 11-on-11 reps took place at the goal line as the team continues its march through the Belichick Training Camp Situational Football syllabus. The most interesting item of the segment was the first-team personnel package that the defense rolled out. Reminiscent of the one utilized at the end of Super Bowl 49, Monday night’s unit stacked four of the team’s top interior defensive lineman — Danny Shelton, Lawrence Guy, Malcom Brown, and Vincent Valentine — at its core, with bigger-bodied edge rushers like Adrian Clayborn standing up.
According to The Athletic’s Jeff Howe, here were the QB stats for the evening:
Tom Brady: 19-22, INT
Brian Hoyer: 16-19, INT
Danny Etling: 4-8, INT
Ryan Lewis bucks his head
Second-year corner Ryan Lewis — a 2017 undrafted free agent out of Pittsburgh (profiled here by our very own Bernd Buchmasser) who is fighting for a depth role in the team’s secondary — stepped up with some splash plays in Monday night’s session.
One defensive highlight from Monday night's in-stadium practice: First-year CB Ryan Lewis hanging with WR Cordarrelle Patterson down the right sideline and intercepting a slightly under-thrown long ball by Tom Brady.— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) July 31, 2018
Lewis flashed again just plays later, making an impressive break on a Julian Edelman crossing pattern and batting down the pass.
Lewis, who spent most of last season on the Patriots’ practice squad, was reported to have had opportunities on other 53-man rosters last season, but chose to stay in New England. Bill Belichick, clearly seeing potential in the 6’0’’ 190-pound corner, and with hopes of enticing him to stay, immediately gave him a pay raise to $27,353 per week — the same per-week salary as a player on the 53-man roster.
After practicing for five straight days — the most allowed under current CBA rules — the Patriots will have Tuesday off, and will resume camp back on the outer practice fields on Wednesday at 9:30am. The session will once again be open to the public.