The New England Patriots held their most intense practice of the summer on Sunday, as the team was in full pads for the second day in a row. While the physicality and the return of edge defender Michael Bennett were the biggest stories of the day, they were far from the only ones worth taking a closer look at. Let’s therefore clean out the notebook to see what also was noteworthy about the two-hour session.
Tom Brady spreads the wealth
After a mostly forgettable Saturday during which he went only 2-for-8 in team portions, Tom Brady and the Patriots’ entire passing game looked much more in sync yesterday: the future Hall of Famer completed 10 of 13 pass attempts during 11-on-11s and all four of his throws during 7-on-7 work. What stood out in particular was his willingness to spread the ball around and target most of the team’s receiving arsenal as 11 different players were targeted on Brady’s 14 combined completions.
Of the successful passes, three went to tight end Benjamin Watson and two to wide receiver Maurice Harris — both offseason acquisition that project to play notable roles in the offense this season. Furthermore, running backs Sony Michel, Damien Harris, Brandon Bolden and James White also got involved by making one catch each. The other passes were thrown to wide receivers N’Keal Harry and Phillip Dorsett as well as tight ends Matt LaCosse and Ryan Izzo.
Chase Winovich is progressing
While the aforementioned Michael Bennett got most of the headlines on Sunday, Chase Winovich also quietly produced his best practice to date. Running exclusively with the second unit, he set the edge well during 11-on-11 work and also registered a would-be sack of Brian Hoyer (he did not touch the backup quarterback because he wore a red non-contact jersey). On top of it all, the third-round rookie also forced a fumble during a ball-control drill versus fellow rookie Jakob Johnson.
While Winovich has not yet climbed the depth chart and still appears to be firmly behind Michael Bennett, Derek Rivers and John Simon — Deatrich Wise Jr. too, but he has yet to participate fully since coming off PUP — he is showing some progress. While his technique remains a work in progress, the 24-year-old has produced some encouraging results over the last four practice sessions.
A Lawrence Guy-Mike Pennel interior will be tough to handle
Free agency acquisition Mike Pennel made his presence felt on Sunday: during the first goal-line portion of practice, he and the rest of New England’s top-unit goal line defense held their ground on back-to-back running plays in impressive fashion. The second of the two stops saw Pennel burst through the line to bring down Brandon Bolden on what was supposed to be an outside run. Together with Lawrence Guy, Pennel should form one of the better run-stuffing duos in all of football.
Stephen Anderson is making a push as the number three tight end
While he did not record a catch from Brady on Sunday, Stephen Anderson is making a push for the third tight end spot behind the aforementioned LaCosse and Watson. The second-year Patriot is regularly involved in the passing game up to this point in camp, and moved well as a potential flex/receiving tight end. While he has yet to prove himself as a blocker, Anderson appears to be ahead of his competition as a receiving target.
What should help him make the team is of course Watson’s suspension to open the regular season. With the veteran unavailable for the first four weeks, the projected spot(s?) alongside LaCosse are open. The battle could, however, be decided simply based on roster composition and whether or not the Patriots want another blocker or rather a receiver?