FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Offering a handful of practice observations from Thursday's organized team activity:
* Based on the alignments of the practice fields, the media was located adjacent to the field where the offense was primarily working. We were quickly reminded of the presence new offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels brings. He maximizes coaching opportunities with a hands-on approach to teaching.
* The player McDaniels will likely work most closely with is quarterback Tom Brady, who demonstrated his commitment to leadership by taking a vocal role on the offensive field. No opportunity to improve and compete is lost on Brady.
* Due to the sheer volume of players, the team was able to work through a number of drills that are less achievable during the regular season, when roughly 30 less players are involved.
* The team focused sharply on the passing game (on both sides of the football) throughout the practice session. This shouldn’t be construed as a sign that the offense will favor throwing the football next season, and that the defense expects to face pass-heavy offenses in 2012 (although both of those were largely true in 2011), but rather a contextual reality. Without pads, it’s more difficult to work on the running game.
* Another factor to consider with the passing game emphasis is the importance of repetitions and rapport between quarterbacks and receivers. When the regular season rolls around, coaches are likely to be less inclined to focus in on the details of basic routes. The footwork and timing involved with those routes can be developed in part during OTAs, as well as training camp. It would come as little surprise to see the Patriots continue to focus on the passing game in the forthcoming OTA sessions that the media will be able to attend.
* We knew coming into to today that wide receiver was a position worth noting, and seeing the group work together further confirmed that. There’s talent, experience, and a number of competitive players that should make this a fun position battle to watch.
* The same could be said for the defensive front seven, where the team appears to have more versatility than in recent seasons. Players like Dont'a Hightower, Rob Ninkovich, Chandler Jones and others all project to play with either a hand in the dirt or standing up.
* A couple of player evaluation notes, without trying to assert too much after only seeing the players for 90 minutes: Newcomer receiver Brandon Lloyd isn’t the biggest or fastest player, but has been a potent deep threat. Two factors that might contribute to that were on display Thursday: his efficient footwork (he didn’t take many false steps) and ability to catch the front portion of the football. Fellow newcomer Spencer Larsen (more on him to come later) seems to fit the mold of an all-around player, and was impressive in keeping his base beneath himself in route-running drills.