New England Patriots Training Camp Observations, 8/8

Erik Frenz@ErikFrenzSenior Writer IAugust 8, 2012

Aug 7, 2012; Foxborough, MA, USA; The New Orleans Saints practice with the New England Patriots during a joint practice at the Patriots practice facility. Mandatory Credit: Stew Milne-US PRESSWIRE

Today's practice, a 10:00 a.m. walk-through at Gillette Stadium, was the second joint practice between the Patriots and the Saints as the two teams gear up for a preseason showdown on Thursday night.

After a Tuesday afternoon practice in full pads, the teams were in shells for Wednesday's walk-through. There was 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 work as well as kickoff drills.

Here are some of the key observations. 

  • Tom Brady played with a purpose. He went 8-for-8 in the opening 7-on-7 drills, and followed that up by going 9-for-10 in 11-on-11 work. A few touchdown passes for Brady, no picks.
  • Brady hooked up with Aaron Hernandez on a long ball on Tuesday and built a good rhythm on Wednesday. I counted four connections in the first 11-on-11 work, including a touchdown catch.
  • Sergio Brown is getting more reps on special teams than he is in the defense. His roster spot is in jeopardy.
  • The secondary struggled yesterday, and after early signs of continued struggles, Bill Belichick had already seen enough. He was attached to that group today and was seen coaching up safety Tavon Wilson, who continues to see time with the top unit on defense.
  • Drew Brees had his way with the Patriots secondary in 11-on-11 work—9-for-10 by my count. Some touchdowns for Brees, no picks.
  • Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower got beat by Jimmy Graham, again, who celebrated, again, and drew a flag, unlike yesterday when he dunked on the goalpost.
  • The following players did not participate in practice: guard Logan Mankins; tackles Sebastian Vollmer, Matt Kopa, Kyle Hix and Markus Zusevics; tight ends Daniel Fells, Visanthe Shiancoe and Jake Ballard; defensive tackles Ron Brace, Jonathan Fanene and Myron Pryor; cornerback Alfonzo Dennard; linebackers Tracy White and Brandon Spikes; and fullback Spencer Larsen.

Also, the Patriots handed out a paper copy of their depth chart during the practice. It's not yet listed on the website.

Preseason depth charts are always to be taken lightly. Some teams use them to sort out where their roster stands, others use them to give certain players a chance to show what they can do and others use them as a smokescreen.

The interesting things about the Patriots depth chart are as follows:

  • Deion Branch listed as the starting wide receiver opposite Wes Welker.
  • Jonathan Fanene and Brandon Deaderick listed as defensive ends, even though both have lined up inside at practice.
  • Steve Gregory and Patrick Chung are your starting safeties, which is accurate based on what we've seen in practice.
  • Ryan Wendell as the starting left guard, backed up by Donald Thomas, even though Thomas has been taking some first-team reps in practice.
  • Dan Koppen listed as the starting center.
  • Dont'a Hightower is listed as the third-string middle linebacker. I'm not sure I've seen him line up there at all in practice.

Depth charts are always to be taken with a grain of salt, but this is especially true of a preseason depth chart, where the first-string units will only see a series or two on the field.

Much more coming in the next couple of hours.


Erik Frenz is the AFC East lead blogger for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates. Unless specified otherwise, all quotes obtained first-hand.