Patriots practice 12 observations

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Student assistant Mike Rodak files some of his observations from Tuesday afternoon’s practice, the Patriots’ 12th of training camp, which was held in full pads and in seasonable conditions:

Absentees still abundant; Patrick Chung joins those sidelined. Not participating in the session but rehabbing on the field were defensive linemen Myron Pryor, Ron Brace, and Mike Wright, as well as defensive backs Terrence Johnson, Jonathan Wilhite, and Patrick Chung. It was Chung’s first missed practice of training camp. Not on the practice fields were offensive lineman Nick Kaczur, wide receiver Matthew Slater, defensive lineman Ty warren, linebacker Gary Guyton and safety Bret Lockett. Meanwhile, running back Thomas Clayton returned to action for the first time since Thursday’s evening practice.

Shift in practice focus. With 10 practices in the book by Tuesday, there was a clear shift in focus of the Patriots’ practice objectives beginning with Tuesday afternoon’s practice. The team spent less time in individual position drills teaching fundamentals and spent more time in 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills. The team continued its focus on two-minute and red zone situations, while also digging deeper in their playbook with more blitzing and sub packages on defense.

Passing game not crisp. As had been the case in earlier practices during camp, the team’s quarterbacks and receivers had trouble connecting at times on Tuesday afternoon. There were numerous overthrown and underthrown passes, and many of the passes that were on target were bobbled or dropped by receivers. Even Tom Brady had a rougher day than usual, overthrowing Randy Moss on multiple occasions. The problems were accentuated by a Zac Robinson pass late in practice, intended for Taylor Price but intercepted by safety Ross Ventrone five yards away.

Spikes gets nod over McKenzie. With Gary Guyton missing his second full day of practice, one thing that has stood out is rookie Brandon Spikes getting the nod with the top unit over second-year Tyrone McKenzie at inside linebacker. This would not appear to be an indictment of McKenzie, but rather the poise and development of Spikes shining through. He continued to be the most aggressive member of the defense, working through blocks on his blitzes and batting down a pass in full-team work. In one-on-one pass rush drills, Spikes steamrolled guard Rich Ohrnberger, knocking Ohrnberger on his backside.

Kyle Love impressive. Undrafted rookie defensive lineman Kyle Love has had an impressive camp so far. He is typically lined up at nose tackle, and is able to penetrate into the backfield on passes while generally holding his ground against the run. Surprisingly, he has seen more reps than the two defensive linemen the team drafted in the late rounds, Kade Weston and Brandon Deaderick. With a number of injuries along the defensive line, Love should be able see significant playing time in the preseason, but he still has an uphill climb in order to make the final roster.