Patriots practice 20: Observations

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Student assistant Mike Rodak and ESPNBoston.com’s Mike Reiss combine to share their observations from this morning’s joint practice between the Patriots and Saints:

Welker a full participant. In Wes Welker’s second week back on the practice fields, this practice could be considered a checkpoint in his recovery. The wide receiver was a full participant in the session, which had the highest tempo and most contact of a practice to date. It is perhaps the best sign yet that Welker is well on his way to being fully ready to play by the start of the regular season. The next “checkpoint” will come in Thursday’s preseason game against the Saints. At one point, Welker attempted to catch a low pass and a Saints defender came crashing into him on the ground in 11 -on-11 work.

Moss continues to shine. Wide receiver Randy Moss continues to have a solid camp, appearing to be in mid-season form. At one point in 11-on-11 work, Moss beat double coverage by Saints defensive backs Jabari Greer and Usama Young to effortless make the catch on a deep post pattern. Quarterback Tom Brady delivered the throw as the crowd roared.

Gostkowski, Mesko struggle. Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski and punter Zoltan Mesko both had a rough morning session against the Saints. Mesko was inconsistent in his punting, although there were indications that he was working on his directional punting. One of his punts traveled less than 30 yards and was caught by Saints head coach Sean Payton in the area between the practice fields. Meanwhile, kicker Stephen Gostkowski missed two field goals from short range late in practice. Part of Gostkowski’s struggles could have been tied to a new operation, as backup snapper Rob Ninkovich worked in place of Jake Ingram.

Different look for Pats OL. For the first time in training camp, the Patriots offensive line had an opportunity to work against the 4-man, one-gap defensive front that the Saints use. This allowed the lineman to get used to the different line calls and blocking assignments that are required when facing a 4-3 defense. So far in practice, the offensive line has only worked against a 3-man, two-gap defensive front, which involves an entirely different set of assignments for the linemen.

Offenses give defensive backfields fits. This was a practice in which both offenses made life difficult for the opposing defensive backfield. For the Patriots, some of the early strides that the secondary made in camp weren’t showing on the field. Second-year cornerback Darius Butler, who is consistently in good position, had some struggles making plays on the ball. Part of this, however, has to be tied to defenders pulling up on the pass rush because quarterbacks were off limits. On the flip side, the Patriots' pass offense had success against the Saints top defense.

Attendance report. The following players did not practice and were not spotted anywhere on the field: Offensive lineman Nick Kaczur, defensive lineman Ty Warren, linebacker Gary Guyton, cornerback Leigh Bodden, safety Bret Lockett, receiver Matthew Slater and safety Josh Barrett. Meanwhile, receiver Torry Holt, defensive lineman Ron Brace and cornerback Terrence Johnson were in shorts and worked out on the side.