FOXBORO — The Patriots just wrapped up their minicamp workouts with a session on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium. It ran for roughly two hours on an occasionally overcast day in Foxboro that was pretty windy. Players were in shorts, shells and helmets.
In addition to tight end Rob Gronkowski — who was not on the field for all three workouts this week — the following players were not spotted seen on the field on Thursday: wide receiver Julian Edelman, cornerback Logan Ryan, running back LeGarrette Blount, running back Dion Lewis, defensive back Duron Harmon, defensive back Nate Ebner, linebacker C.J. Johnson, offensive lineman Shaq Mason, offensive lineman Tre’ Jackson, offensive lineman Josh Kline, offensive lineman Sebastian Vollmer, offensive lineman Nate Solder, wide receiver Danny Amendola and tight end Michael Williams. (Reports now indicate that Williams suffered a torn ACL in Wednesday’s workout, and will be lost for the year.)
The quarterback snaps were pretty much divided up the same way they were over the course of the first two days of minicamp, with Tom Brady getting the bulk of the work, followed by Jimmy Garoppolo and then rookie Jacoby Brissett. One interesting thing worth passing along was the fact that Garoppolo got some work with Martellus Bennett, Aaron Dobson, Nate Washington and Malcolm Mitchell as part of a side session while Brady worked on the other field. But other than that, it was clearly Brady’s show.
As was the case the previous two days, the lack of high-level playmakers on the field (Gronkowski, Edelman, Lewis, etc.) allowed some of the guys in the middle and back end of the depth chart to get a serious chance at quality reps. To that end, Chris Harper made a great one-handed catch in the corner of the end zone in coverage against V’Angelo Bentley, one that caused a celebration with Dobson. Dobson caught a tipped ball from Brady in 11-on-11 work over Justin Coleman, and added a nice catch at the high point on another ball from Brady later in the workout. If there’s one guy who did well with the opportunities he’s been given these last three days, it was Dobson.
Of course, Chris Hogan continued to catch just abut everything thrown in his direction all day. Brady underthrew Malcolm Mitchell on a deep ball down the sidelines, but the rookie out of Georgia then followed that up with a pair of nifty catches in traffic on balls from Garoppolo and Brady. The offensive play of the day might have come on a Brissett-to-Mitchell pass play where the rookie quarterback showed a nice touch lofting a ball for the end zone that the receiver did well to go up to get with a defender on him. Good play by the quarterback and the receiver. They added a nice pass play later in the workout.
One of the nicer defensive plays of the day came just after the initial Brissett-to-Mitchell pass play when rookie linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill batted away a Brissett pass meant for Steven Scheu. Grugier-Hill also got Brissett later in practice with another pick. (The best defensive play of the day came when Dont’a Hightower picked off Garoppolo.)
Grugier-Hill was again pulled out of some defensive drills to get work with core special teamers like Brandon King, a good sign for his roster chances. From this viewpoint, if the Patriots didn’t think so highly of him and his special teams value at this stage of his career, he’d be working with the rest of the backup linebackers. At one point, both he and King were working as punt protectors. That’s the sort of job that would be filled by the likes of Nate Ebner if he was in Foxboro, but to give him that level of special teams responsibility at this stage of his career is saying something.
Brissett remains a really intriguing prospect. One thing that has stood out about him over the last few days is the fact that his passes tend to sail a little bit. Not sure if that’s because he’s jacked up and overthrowing or if its a pure accuracy thing. At the same time, he’s managed to make some impressive throws. If he takes a single significant snap for the franchise this season, it’ll be a colossal surprise, but he’s certainly shown himself to be someone who warrants attention as a developmental prospect down the road.
One note about rookie offensive lineman Joe Thuney. Traditionally, the guys who are working as centers have towels tucked into the back of their pants. Bryan Stork and David Andrews were sporting that look, along with what can best be described as form-fitting shorts. Thuney also had the tight pants and towel in the back as well, and took some snaps at the position late in practice.
More shuffling for the front seven, with Rob Ninkovich and Shea McClellin seeing action at multiple spots. It’s only June, but it’s becoming increasingly evident that the Patriots are going to present a variety of different looks up front.
Punt returning work was tough on a windy day, and it occasionally showed up with a drop. Cyrus Jones had one bounce off his chest. For what it’s worth, Jones again got plenty of time working alongside veterans like Devin McCourty and Malcolm Butler on defense, and looked polished.
Rookie offensive lineman Ted Karras had to run a lap for an unspecified infraction. And the wide receivers all dropped to the ground to do pushups following a drill early in practice.
Guns ’N Roses (“Sympathy for the Devil” and “Welcome to the Jungle”) and Tag Team (“Whoomp There It Is”) were among the groups on Thursday’s playlist.
Robert Kraft made an appearance on the field near the end of the workout.