Another year, another awesome night time training camp session at Gilette. These 95 man rosters are murder on the eyes especially with so many new pieces, but here’s my best attempt at taking it all in. All the photos here are mine. Feel free to use them. It’d be nice to get a photo credit, but in full disclosure I probably can’t stop you.
– Aaron Dobson looks to be everything I saw on tape: fast, quick in and out of his transitions, a total headache for corners to handle 1 on 1… and a bad tendency to drop a catchable ball. He and Talib were giving eachother some pretty outstanding back and forth battles. But his hands just weren’t consistent and dropped too many passes after shaking the DB.
– If I had to make one crazy prediction right now it would be that rookie Josh Boyce will lead the Patriots WRs in yardage by the end of the 2013 season. The former TCU star is quickly developing a rapport with Brady. He’s clicking on screens, finding the ball deep, and working everything in between. If I took away the roster from you and told you to point out the guy who is there for his 4th practice ever as an NFL player you wouldn’t have picked out Boyce.
Dobson leaves a DB in the dust.
– I don’t want to get ahead of myself but Amendola looked great. Most people refuse to believe it but he’s taller than Welker, 2 inches taller in fact. He looks a lot bigger on the field though to the point where I was actually confused who this mysterious #80 was that was catching everything that came his way. Nu-Welker looked like a professional out there, in fact much more so than some of the other veterans.
– #85, 25 year old UDFA Kenbrell Thompkins, has got to be the most frustrating player on this roster right now. He looks absolutely phenomenal… maybe 60% of the time. The rest of the time he’s lining up wrong, not knowing his routes, or dropping a ball on a 5 yard crossing pattern that hits him in the chest. At one point he lined up with the 1’s, and seconds before the snap put him arms up to let Brady know he didn’t know his assignment. Too late. Thompkins took off on the snap, ran an in-cut and almost crashed into TE Zach Sudfeld. I kind of doubt it was written up like that. But you can’t even cross him off your list because 5 minutes later he’ll make a great play. I heard reports of 3rd year WR Kamar Aiken getting a big chunk of the 1st team reps. Tonight it was Thompkins who still has a shot if he gets it together. What the hell is it about that number 85? Someone is going to have to break out from the pack of unknowns.
Thompkins getting reps in with Brady while trying to figure things out.
– Camp looked like another day at the office for vet Leon Washington. He spent a lot of time taking handoffs and running between the tackles. If he has to play positional RB this year he’ll be ready.
– Marcus Cannon looked more athletic than I remember him. I think this year we’ll get to see the player he was meant to be. People greatly underestimate what it takes to fully recover from lymphoma.
– Earlier in camp I heard reports that Michael Jenkins was working as the #1 WR. That was not at all the case last night. He looked like junk early on in practice and steadily disappeared to make room for Dobson, Boyce, Amendola and Thompkins. At times you could have told me he was an UDFA rookie and I would have believed it. Other veteran FA signing Lavelle Hawkins looked considerably better but didn’t blow anyone away.
– It may have just been a coincidence but the beginning of practice seemed to feature a lot of Michael Hoomanawanui, and after a few missed connections with Brady it didn’t so much. The second half was almost all Daniel Fells and Zach Sudfeld and for what it’s worth the ball seemed to hit the ground less often.
– Again, not to say it didn’t happen but I didn’t personally see LeGarrett Blount take a single run to the outside the whole night. If he was touching the ball it was almost always going up the gut. They may be trying to force him to be more of a grinder. The massive back also caught a couple of passes. They weren’t the prettiest catches but they happened. He looked big and quick, and I’m definitely rooting for him to make this team.
– The only high five I saw Belichick dish out was to UDFA receiver Quentin Sims of UT-Martin, who I thought made the most of his reps.
– I’m beyond impressed so I’ll mention him first: Steve Beauharnis is going to make this roster. The Rutgers rookie was playing Mike backer with the 2’s and calling the plays. His coverage skills looked good, and he was moving around in space very fluidly. Everywhere that I expected veteran Dane Fletcher to shine Beauharnis quietly stole the show.
– Chandler Jones, as reported, looked beastly. He and Solder has some great battles going all night. He looks bigger and thicker through his arms and lower body. I’m hoping that cuts down on his injury potential. The lanky skinny (relative term) young man who showed up for camp last season wasn’t there last night. The 95 I saw looked downright scary at times.
– Talib and Dennard were driving receivers nuts all night. They were physical, they were tough to shake, and they were in the right place at the right time. In short these two were game ready last night.
Boyce finds a hole on a screen but can’t allude Dennard.
– Logan Ryan looked pretty good last night. He wasn’t entirely consistent but he had a few pass breakups and looks to be getting the hang of things. Arrington got most of the reps as the inside corner, but Ryan made his count. It’ll be very interesting to see where he’s at by the end of camp.
– #30 Duron Harmon had a relatively quiet night, at least from where I was, but he did pick off a Ryan Mallet pass that was going to absolutely no one. Harmon was in position for a pick 6 had it been a live game. Had it been a live game Mallet wouldn’t have been on the field, so touche’.
– Justin Francis was playing the role of veteran last night. I saw him several times showing the ropes to the new guys including Brockton’s Jason Vega who I was disappointed to see minimal work from last night.
– At one point in 7 on 7’s Talib intercepted a Brady pass intended for Kenbrell Thompkins (who, to everyone’s surprise, was in the wrong spot). The defense celebrated on the field but none louder or more obnoxiously than #93 Tommy Kelly who was seen flapping his arms in the air like he had just won Olympic gold. I think I’m going to like this guy.
– As promised from earlier camp reports there was a 3 downed lineman defensive set featuring Wilfork in the middle set up on the 1 gap, flanked by Tommy Kelly and Chandler Jones.
From left to right Kelly – Wilfork – Jones. Kiss your lunch money goodbye.
– As soon as I found 7th round pick Michael Buchanan he was hard to stop watching. The rookie DE is large and fast… and loud. He barked something at the line of scrimmage and it echoed through the whole stadium. If his technique develops he’ll bounce about half the DE ranks right off the depth chart.
– ESPN Boston and I are going to have to agree to disagree on his observations of Ras-I Dowling from last night. Truthfully I didn’t see anything special about Dowling last night, or anything to indicate to me that this was his 3rd camp and he was ready to make the leap. He wasn’t playing very composed, wasn’t getting his head back to the ball, and was having issues keeping receivers contained. I’ve been one of the biggest Dowling supporters since he was drafted but I felt let down last night.
– The second tier DTs aren’t just getting the camp-body treatment. They’re getting a ton of work as the coaches are trying to figure out who’ll possibly contribute to this position of need. From what I saw last night everyone came to work including 320 lb space eater UDFA Anthony Rashad-White who got a lot of one-on-one time with coaches.