Camp Quick Hits 8/1

Although the news of the day was dominated by the injury to Randy Moss, plenty of other action occured during practice, including the slight embarrasment of one veteran defender.

[Editor's note: Technical issues prevented earlier publication of yesterday's notes. Our apologies for the delay]

Wednesday's Training Camp Notes 8/01

Missing
Garrett Mills, Rashad Baker, Kyle Brady and Asante Samuel. Mel Mitchell was activated off the PUP list.

The weather was a little better today, but supposedly it's going to be warmer on Thursday.

Players wore full pads. They wore full pads on Tuesday evening's practice, so it is the second time in a row for players to be in full uniform.

No Getting Past Them
Sammy Morris has some solid blocking skills, as evidenced by his stonewalling of Tedy Bruschi and Larry Izzo during the team's pass protection drill. It's a drill using bags and three players; quarterback, running back/tight end and a linebacker. Morris was by far the best at stopping the defender, hitting Bruschi hard enough the first time to knock him back off his feet. By the time he recovered, Morris had position. Bruschi got back on track later in the drill, but Morris' tenacity in the drill showed an obvious ability for protecting the quarterback.

Heath Evans also showed solid blocking ability in the drill. Defenders used a variety of moves on the backs that sometimes met with success, but other times achieved little pressure on quarterback Matt Gutierrez – their intended target.

Two players who struggled in the protection were tight end Matt Kranchick and running back Quadtrine Hill. Both players fell for moves by the veteran linebackers. Being young players, they'll need to work on their technique as camp progresses if they're going to improve their chances to land a roster spot.


Building Chemistry
Randy Moss has had a certain chemistry with Tom Brady in camp so far, but after watching the afternoon practice, they have moved to a new level. That is, until Moss injured his hamstring a little over midway through the practice. Up to that point Moss had caught nearly everything thrown his direction. The one he didn't – aside from the play in which he was injured – the crowd cheered him anyway.

Not The Smart Play
Roster hopeful, linebacker Kyle Bissinger, has been going through the paces in the drills hoping to win a roster spot. In one 11-on-11 drills Rogers was overeager to get to the quarterback on his blitz assignment. He crashed to the inside, rolling over Kenny Smith who was engaged with an offensive lineman. Smith went down in a heap once Bissinger hit the two players. Fortunately Smith wasn't injured, but that could have been the type of rookie mistake by Bissinger, which bites a veteran who's trying to make the final cut.

Speaking of Smith, he's HUGE, as in built. His is so built up that his Under Armor shirt is nearly splitting at the seams. Smith may not have the best shot to make the final roster, but it won't be because of a strength issue.

Cracks In The Cassel Wall
Quarterback Matt Cassel has shown some success during the first part of camp. Unfortunately, the pile of goodwill he had built up to this point came crashing back to earth with this one practice session. Cassel, had major consistency issues showing why he still has a long way to go before he's ready to be a starting quarterback in the NFL. Chalk it up to one bad practice if you will, but he'll have to shake it off with a solid performance his next practice.

In one series of the two-minute drill, Cassel threw two straight passes that were batted back at the line. The defender knew just where Cassel was trying to throw the ball, and just slapped it back like a Ben Wallace block when he was with the Pistons.

The next two plays resulted in incompletions with one a poorly thrown ball overshooting a wide open Sammy Morris in the flats. The series was so unsuccessful, head coach Bill Belichick gave the team a new series of downs and a minute to try to get it to down field. Unfortunately that series ended poorly as well.

During his multiple opportunities in 11-on-11 drills, Cassel had two passes batted down, a sure sack, a long overthrow picked off by James Sanders, a bevy of incompletions and few positive plays to cheer about.

Where Are The Youngsters
In team drills, much of the work was done by the first team, including seasoned veteran substitutes like Junior Seau, but where are the younger players who are expected to step in when the injury bug bites? With over 75% of the linebacker unit near, or well past, the age of 30 it is the young core of linebackers who have to step up.

One player who has had a solid camp thus far is young linebacker Pierre Woods. Although Woods has been stonewalled at times by the first team. In the blitz drill, Woods made it look effortless when he blew past the running back and the tight end to get to Gutierrez. Other times in team drills Woods has found little success trying to get past Ben Watson or Matt Light. Woods has had success getting past the blockers on the right side.

Coverage Concerns
While Asante Samuel remains away from training camp, the Patriots have had to reshuffle their defensive secondary to put the best players in team drills. Chad Scott was the primary backup until he went down with a knee injury. Both Randall gay and Tory James have spent the most time at Samuel's spot while Ellis Hobbs holds down the other. The depth behind those three are where things get interesting. Gemara Williams spent a fair amount of time playing left corner with Mike Richardson and Larry Anam on the right. Willie Andrews has also seen action at corner.

During team drills, Andrews, Williams and Anam switched between corner and safety. Mike Richardson seems to be spending his time at only the corner spot, while Brandon Meriweather has moved from safety back to mostly the corner covering the slot.
Cadwell Gets The Call
Once Randy Moss left practice, wide receiver Reche Caldwell moved into the lineup. The three receivers were Caldwell, Welker and Gaffney.

With Donte Stallworth, Troy Brown and Moss all out, both starting receivers from last year return to their spots in camp.


Mitchell Back
Safety Mel Mitchell was back at practice today. While he has a long way to go to catch up to the rest of the team, he looks like he has the physical tools to get the job done. Mitchell spoke with us after practice, but had little to say about missing camp last year. He did talk about trying to get back into shape and that he was around Foxboro throughout the offseason as he rehabbed.

Mitchell said it "feels good, feels good" about getting back on the field. Mitchell continued, "It's frustrating, but you have to move on."

 

The Patriots have two sessions scheduled for Thursday: 8:45am-10:45am and 5:30pm-7:30pm

Read more of Jon's updates in the Insider Lounge where Insiders report on camp directly from Foxboro

Jon Scott has covered the NFL since 1995. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long time contributor to the Scout.com network. A New England native, Scott has followed the Patriots for over two decades and covered the team since 2001. He can be reached in the Insider's Lounge under the handle JSinCT.


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