FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The Patriots held their second and final joint practice with the Saints on Wednesday, a dialed-back session with players in shells and shorts. Here are some observations:
Brady on point. A day after throwing a pair of uncharacteristic interceptions, quarterback Tom Brady bounced back with a razor sharp day. In the first period of joint work with the Saints, Brady fired nine completions in nine attempts during 7-on-7 work, darting accurate throws to a number of receivers. He stayed hot throughout much of practice.
Scaled back workload. As was to be expected, the teams trimmed their workload on Wednesday, practicing for just one hour and 40 minutes, and doing so in shells. The tempo fell in line with the scaled back scene as well; it wasn’t a walk-thru, but the amount of full speed work decreased from Tuesday.
Situational work continued. Situational football remained a point of emphasis, and it extended beyond just offense and defense and into special teams. Today’s focus was on the kickoff and kickoff return units for each squad, and included an opening segment for each team to work on its onsides kicks. There may not be a better option to serve as the “jumper” on the hands team (this is the player who lines up behind the front row of players and typically has the best shot to catch an onsides kick) than Jimmy Graham. His combination of size, reliable hands, and exceptional jumping ability fit the mold perfectly.
More opportunity work. Once again the two teams budgeted time for an opportunity period, which afforded younger players from each squad the chance to square off. These reps are invaluable for players trying to latch on to back-end-of-the-roster and practice-squad spots. Given the tempo and lack of full pads, it was difficult for players to really stick out, but Britt Davis made a handful of nice catches on throws served up from Brian Hoyer, who continues to progress throughout camp.
Play of the day. Hoyer was involved in the play of the day for the Patriots, as he bombed a throw down the middle of the field to receiver Jesse Holley off of play action. Holley split a pair of Saints defenders, adjusted back to the ball, and corralled it for a deep connection.
Play of the day for New Orleans. Sometimes there’s just nothing a defender can do to counter an offensive player, and that was the case on a seam-stretching throw from Drew Brees to Graham. Graham went over and above the outstretched arms of linebacker Dont'a Hightower, who did well to stride with him down the seam, for a score. Graham landed awkwardly and appeared to tweak his back, but Brees made mention after practice that he is fine. It’s easy to understand why Graham snared almost 100 catches last season.
Ebert catching on. Rookie receiver Jeremy Ebert is starting to earn some reps in practice, and so far his reliability is evident, snagging everything thrown his way.
Spot checker may have been in attendance. It looks as though an NFL league official may have been in town to attend and oversee the practice, a commonality around training camps this time of the year. This official, referred to as the “spot checker,” ensures that teams are compliant with practice regulations outlined by the league. A man wearing an NFL hat spent time chatting with Bill Belichick early in practice.
Attendance report. Offensive lineman Darrion Weems returned to action after missing two practices with a leg/knee injury. ... Players not spotted on the field: fullback Spencer Larsen (unknown); tight ends Visanthe Shiancoe (unknown) and Jake Ballard (ACL); offensive linemen Brian Waters (did not report), Kyle Hix (arm/shoulder), Dustin Waldron (unknown) and Matt Kopa (unknown); defensive linemen Gerard Warren (unknown) and Jonathan Fanene (unknown); and linebackers Tracy White (unknown) and Brandon Spikes (unknown) ... Players in T-shirts and shorts: defensive lineman Ron Brace (unknown); tight end Daniel Fells (leg); offensive linemen Logan Mankins (ACL), Sebastian Vollmer (back) and Markus Zusevics (pectoral); defensive lineman Myron Pryor (shoulder); and cornerback Alfonzo Dennard (hamstring).