Thursday marked the start of training camp for the New England Patriots. While immersed in the record-setting crowd of more than 12,000 fans (as reported by Mike Reiss and Mike Rodak of ESPNBoston), I sat under the blazing sun with my frozen lemonade and jotted down some positive and negative observations from practice.
- The "Play of the Day" belongs to Jabar Gaffney and his deep sideline catch in double coverage. It was a nicely thrown ball from Tom Brady, but Gaffney finished the job and went up there and caught it. This was a nice display of his good hands and athleticism.
- "Impressive" is the best word to describe Brandon Lloyd's first training camp practice. Catching every ball thrown his way and showcasing his speed and deception on the outside, Lloyd had a great day.
- By all accounts, Rob Gronkowski appears to have returned to form after having ankle surgery this offseason. Gronk showed nice burst and his cuts seemed as crisp as ever. After the "Summer of Gronk" it was nice to see him catching footballs instead of catching flack for his many television appearances.
- After making the game-saving pass breakup in the AFC Championship Game last January, Sterling Moore looks like he's continuing to improve. Moore broke up a deep pass intended for Britt Davis that really impressed me because of the size difference between the two. Davis (6'3'', 215 lbs) would appear to be a match-up problem for Moore (5'10'', 200 lbs), but Moore handled Davis nicely and denied him the ball on that particular play.
- While Ryan Mallett showcased his arm strength on a deep completion to Julian Edelman at one point in practice, there weren't many more positives for the second-year quarterback. Mallett appeared to struggle with his accuracy throughout the day with too many over-thrown balls.
- Rookie cornerback Alfonzo Dennard lined up at outside corner quite a bit with the second unit and got beat deep a few times. While it's extremely early in the process, the Patriots may eventually move Dennard to the slot, where his skill set may be better utilized.
- Right guard Brian Waters did not report to training camp after missing both organized team activities and minicamp. With Logan Mankins and Sebastian Vollmer not ready to practice yet, this is bad news for the Patriots.
- After missing eight games last year, linebacker Brandon Spikes was limited during the first practice of the season. When Spikes is healthy, he is a game-changer for this defense, so he needs to stay healthy. Here's to hoping he has no setbacks in his recovery from knee surgery this offseason.
- Will Allen, who has played mostly at cornerback throughout his 10-year career, lined up primarily at safety during practice.
- Brandon Deaderick played a lot of defensive tackle in a four-man front in practice after playing the 2011 season exclusively at defensive end.
- The defense appeared to play mostly with a four-man front, perhaps suggesting that the Patriots plan on sticking to more of a 4-3 base defense in 2012 (much like they did in the 2011 season).
James will be attending various Patriots Training Camp practices in the coming weeks. Keep an eye out for his posts on Bleacher Report for more updates from camp!
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